There’s a lot of stupid people in the world. We don’t think of ourselves as dumb, so life is always a bit of a battle against the confirmation bias of encounters with stupidity teaching us to see everyone as stupid; which is wrong, even if the odds against intelligence are high. Push back against confirmation bias – even if it looks like legitimate pattern matching – because individuals exist; as you do, and individuality needs tolerance, nurture and care.
The world is full of distinct nationalities, tribes, ethnicities, traditions, subcultures, etc. It’s impossible to know them all. It’s inevitable we need to generalize, to get through the day and make decisions. It’s also inevitable we’re attached to the familiar – typically it’s also local – identified to ourselves by key characteristics; often shared characteristics. Thus community, homeland, home.
Community and identity converge on the visceral attachment to “my own people”. At a fundamental homo sapiens level we’re evolved to be part of a community, mostly synonymous with being part of our tribe. To an extent the tribalism instinct doesn’t have to equate to prejudice. In a vacuum it’s simply preference for the known, for the manageable, for a permanent social group of a size between two and Dunbar’s number.
Unfortunately, another of our inherited traits is ingrained mistrust of anyone (and anything) outside the community – strangers, foreigners, aliens – and this mistrust gets parsed through fear, aggression, imagination and desire – varying degrees of each depending on the individual and his/her experiences – to drive a number of powerful human phenotypical behaviours.
- At the benign loving side, fear is prudence and it manifests protective, defensive, home safeguarding ingenuity.
- Add imagination to the benign side and there’s foresight in prudence, safeguarding extends from self to family to community ringfencing. Physically, geographically.
- Add aggression to fear and imagination, channeled away from expression by violence, and the behaviour manifests in thrilling extrovert curiosity, driving exploration, discovery, flirtation, mate-courtship and moving beyond the narrow confines of the home tribe.
- Add lust to aggression, fear and imagination and the extroversion pushes into violent self-expression, the safeguarding instinct becomes possessive; a natural but insistent pressure for preference to become prejudice. What was an unequivocal sense of “my own people” is negatively contrasted to “not my people” with dangerous consequences. Love for the former, but Untermensch categories for the latter. The protective walls rise, doors and gates get locked and suspicion poisons the well of encounters outside the homeland community.
- Finally, add anger and avarice to the aggression, fear and imagination. Untermensch becomes energy. Safeguarding defence shifts into violent extroversion: hunting, punishing, invading, subjugating, plundering. When the Untermensch is personified e.g. as a rival tribe, a foreign ethnicity, an identifiable subgroup within the community homeland – what was once benign preference transitions to prejudice; and then pro-active hate. At this point, the behaviour of the individual and usually the like-minded community, is a hair’s breadth from violent persecution. Untermensch becomes enemy, to be extirpated or exterminated. Genocide that way lies.