Παρασκευή, 4 Ιουνίου 2010

Thoughts on Gaza

The whole world shook up by the latest tragic incident in Gaza strip a few days ago. Israel showed its ugly face one more time, resulting in 19 deaths (there is still some ambiguity regarding this number), adding to uncountable lives brutally taken in the area. Some might say it takes two to tango and i'm not going to disagree. Yes, conflict takes at least two. But i'm not going to address the issues regarding the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land (i'm afraid i'm not well-informed anyway), nor am in the position to say who's wrong or right. All i know is that i have a tendency to support minorities and besides that, i have a gutt feeling that leads me to support Palestine. However, i place myself against those people who support genocidal practices of the past against the other side...
Anyway. What i wanted to share are some thoughts on conflict, deriving mostly from social psychological insights. Basically research shows that when you have two different groups of people (or even 'representatives' of such groups), you have conflict. It's easy, it's direct, it's happening. And by conflict i don't always mean bloodshed! Conflict is also expressed through words, through negative stereotypes and prejudice, through competition, but also through non-verbal communication (such as body language).
So, meeting someone from a different group usually puts you in a position of social comparison. When the 'other' is a member of a disliked outgroup, you'll probably favor your own group in the comparison (actually, you'll probably do that anyway). When they belong to a group with conflicting interests with your own group, well, they're basically screwed... If you're a big Chelsea fan, think about the times you've come across a big Manchester United's fan. And now think of the times you've met them before an extremely important game. Maybe now you know what i mean.
The status of the groups we belong to, contributes to our own self-image. So, the more i feel that being a Chelsea fan is a fundamental part of who i am and the better Chelsea scores on the league tables, the better i'm going to feel about myself.

These are some of the basic processes we go through when we strongly identify with the groups we belong to (ethnic, religious, political, sport). Violence actually derives from these basic processes, but needs some intervening factors in order to emerge. All of these factors have essentially one and only purpose: to protect our fragile self-esteems. And they do that by allowing us to justify ourselves. So, when we hurt people from opposing groups, here are some thoughts that might cross our minds: these people are kinda useless, they 're not really good, they're not actually as humans as we, they're more like animals, they deserve what they get, they're evil and they have to be extinct. This might ring some bells.

I'm not trying in any way to justify violence. All i'm trying to communicate is my belief that people are essentially all the same. Those who kill and those who get killed. They could change positions in a sec. Especially in a place like Gaza. So maybe next time you could keep these parameters in mind before arguing that Jews should have been done with 70 years ago.

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