I don’t like Them.
“It’s a time for choosing sides,” a wise person said to me recently. Not for staying neutral but for taking action. I agree. I’m going to get rid of Them.
How do I plan to remove Them from society, silence their voices and abolish their very existence? Non-violently. My goal is to exterminate the concept of Them.
Them are the Others. Could be Them are big business. Bad government. Men. Women. The Management. Some other group identified culturally, spiritually, by physical features, or an attitude or life choices or just about anything, like having big dogs, a certain model of car or coat.
Them are a group we build an imaginary fence around to distinguish them from Us. Them are often unsavoury because they have an agenda that’s different from ours, hard to understand, out of our control, oppressive, and we feel powerless to act against it. What’s not to fear and loathe?
That is definitely the Them I want to eliminate. No one needs Them.
We all have our ‘Them’s – groups we don’t understand who say or do things we disagree with. It is human nature to seek out those we connect with easily. Those who are Us. How do we get rid of our Thems?
The trick is to accept there is no Them. They are a group of people, like Us, but the differences stand out, rather than the similarities. Probably to both them and us. The fundamental premise for eradicating Them is that people are mostly the same. The key is seeing them as individuals that you have something in common with. Maybe it’s raising young children, an illness, a fear of flying, or love of Renaissance paintings. We’re all connected somehow.
How to see the connection?
This is a triskele, a symbol used by various cultures and groups over thousands of years. This version is celtic and said to represent unity of three disparate things: land, sea, and sky. As different and incompatible as these elements are, together they create the richness of the earth, flowers and trees and food for all of us.
For me, the triskele reflects what I do, bringing together groups or individuals that suspect they are different from each other but need each other. In my professional life, I’ve united investment bankers and scientists,1 academics and administrators, lawyers and inventors, investors and entrepreneurs, capitalists and socialists, scientists and the general public.
You’ll notice these are groups of two. But the triskele has three arms. What does the third arm represent? Someone who understands both sides of the situation and can explain it to the others in terms that make sense to them. There’s no Them when you realize what you share with the other people.
Any two people, or groups of people, regardless of how they want to group themselves, can find common ground if they understand each other’s motives and interests. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to agree on everything, or buy into all that everyone else thinks. If our lives intersect, there’s a way we can work together. The third arm, the connection, is key.
Join me. Help stomp out Them. Be a connector for two groups to understand each other. Make it personal. It won’t always end happily ever after, some times there will be agreement to disagree. But understanding where people are coming from is different from disliking a faceless group with incomprehensible ideas2.
If we’re all connected, there’s no Them.
I’ve chosen a side. I choose to side with Everyone. I’m living for the fundamental interconnectedness of Us.
1 A simplified, hypothetical example: when the investment bankers see that an abstract invention, like say an internal combustion engine, has value because it can create a whole new, oat-free means of transportation that people will love for the convenience, scientists love it because their invention is useful, appreciated, and makes them some money so they can go on inventing new things, like self-driving cars.
2 Sort of like the difference between disagreeing with your sister over home schooling vs. disliking government policy on grade 3 curriculum. While you probably understand your sister, They definitely make the rules about public schools. But there are people who have made and institute the rules, people who are trying to deliver an educational system that balances costs, modern theories of education, keeping their jobs, and get the best for everyone’s kids. Disagree with the outcome if you must, not the people who are involved.