Us vs. We… a plea for a new way of thinking…
In my short time on this planet, I have rarely seen so much awfulness going on between people. In the cradle of civilization, the home of some of the world’s most beautiful and lasting religions, some people have been shooting missiles randomly into populated areas, and others blowing up places where they know children are possibly being held; in another ancient area, tensions are so high that it appears some people shot a commercial airliner out of the sky because they thought that it might be a plane holding the people they hate; all over the world, dictators and armies are ordering killings, beheadings, live burials – it’s all too shocking for a dog to take. And closer to my home, voices of hatred are screaming at hungry children for trying to better their lives, police are using military weapons against protesters…
We dogs want to look up to you humans, but right now, that’s pretty hard to do.
Now let me explain about where I’m coming from. We dogs don’t have a good understanding of history. We live very much in the present. You guys are much better at understanding how something that happened six years ago, or sixty years ago, or six hundred years ago, or six thousand years ago (!), applies to what is going on now.
And don’t get me wrong – I understand well that everyone wants, and deserves, to protect themselves. I’m a very good fighter, and if anybody – squirrel, cat, dog, or human – tries to come into my yard or mess with me or my guy, they are going to face some very sharp teeth that stem from a very muscular jaw! I would never tell anyone that they didn’t have the same right I have for self-protection.
But the way some humans are behaving shows me that their bigger brains, and they way they’re thinking, aren’t working very well right now, are they? Well, I have a thought. It might get you a bit angry, but I’d like you to try to think about it.
You all look alike to me. You’re all taller than I am, and taller than you are wide, most of you walk upright, you wear fabrics over your bodies, even your skin colors are far more similar to each other’s than those we have (have you ever seen any person with skin the bright red-orange color of an Irish Setter? Of a jet black Labrador Retriever? Of a purely white Maltese? No, you guys are all variations of dark brown to pinkish beige). And while I know certain individuals well (I can recognize Handsome a block away), I usually can’t tell you guys apart. She’s a poor Hindu; he’s a rich Shiite; that one’s British and the other is French; over there is a liberal and next to them are a bunch of staunch conservatives, he’s Goth she’s a Hippie… Do you think I can tell any of that?!
At the same time, although we dogs are all shapes and sizes and colors and such, we can always tell the difference between a dog and another species. Similarly, you can very easily tell a human from a fish or an ape or a reptile.
So what if people, all of you people, started to think of yourselves, not as a member of a nation, or a follower of a religion… but as what I see: PEOPLE.
I don’t mean for anyone to give up your nationality, or certainly your religion. But to acknowledge that, besides what else you are, you’re also people.
And if you do that, then (and here’s the hard part, I know), can you start to look at yourself as one member of a seven-billion-member club? You’re still part of your family, your school, your town, your group of friends… but you’re also part of a group called The Human Race.
And then, here’s my crazy idea: If you do, then suddenly, maybe you can lose all this “Us versus Them” mindset, that gets everyone so hot-headed. And instead, you realize, It’s All… Us.
It’s so easy for viewers of a sports event to say “We won” or “We lost,” even though they never so much as touched the field or the ball. Now, what if, after cheering like crazy for your team, you walked away from the game and were able to say, “We played well. Both sides. We humans came out of this looking very noble.”
And what if, when a tragedy occurs where an unarmed young person is shot by a police officer, you were able to say “We need to look into this more, and see what we were doing wrong, so that we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. We don’t want to take a chance on our kids getting into trouble, or certainly on wrongly killing any of our kids.” You see where I’m going? It’s not that one side is right and another is wrong, it’s a mindset saying that We need to change, because something awful happened.
And I won’t just point the finger at you guys. I’ll join into this myself. I am a dog. We dogs have done some of the most amazing acts ever. We have sniffed out disaster sites and saved buried victims, we’ve located bombs and mines, we’ve protected our families endlessly, and we’re the cutest and funniest beings ever. We also have unfairly bitten strangers, we’ve been very mean to cats, we’ve peed all over very nice carpets, and… yes, we’ve even killed innocent people. We have done all these things, and can easily do them again.
Now if I can admit that I’m part of a group that did all those things, then can’t you admit that your group created every great work of art, has built cities and invented airplanes, has fed the world through agriculture… and also that your group has polluted the atmosphere, killed far more beings than anyone else could come close to, and is the only species to ever call someone lying names on social media.
As these battles rage, we’ll hear people argue about how one side deserves to live more, because they invented lots of medicines, or wrote the greatest novels ever. No, All Of You cured Polio, All Of You created “War and Peace,” and “Mockingjay!” No one else could have done those things, just you humans. The good and the bad. You guys wrote “Happy” and you built concentration camps. Both are part of you. All of you.
But now I’ll spread my view even a bit wider. What if I say that both you and I are Mammals! And therefore I’m acknowledging that I am a member of a group that not only bit a nice old lady, but also fired random missiles into civilized areas on a regular basis. And I am a member of a group that retaliated by firing back, including at places where OUR children were. Yes, we mammals have been killing our own children, far too much and for far too long.
And we shot down an airliner. And we sent our army to attack and arrest little kids who were looking for a new home. And we have been decimating our fellow citizens all over Syria and Iraq and Nigeria and…
We need to change. We need to stop this. And maybe, if we can start to think of ourselves as “We,” we can.
Please note, I’m not suggesting we stop battling. There are so many legitimate “Them”s that we need to fight against! Starvation, Drought, Global Warming, Ebola, AIDS, Mental Illness, Human Trafficking, just to name a few… and FLEAS! Rotten nasty disease-ridden biters! Let’s all get together against THEM!
But we can’t, as long as we keep wasting our time looking at each other as Us and Them.
I know that this idea of mine doesn’t, in itself, solve one single issue. It doesn’t give anyone freedom, it doesn’t block up a tunnel where murderous weapons are transferred, it doesn’t make anyone safe in their home.
But it’s a start. And I know my doggy brain isn’t the best, but as far as I can tell, it’s a start in the only direction that makes any sense.
You see, if someone in your family was treating you, in your opinion, unfairly, I don’t think you’d send a missile to kill them. You’d find another way to get your point across. And if someone in your family did do something violent at you, and was then keeping weapons in a room with one of your children, I don’t think you’d blow that room up. You’d find another way.
And that’s all I’m asking for. Thinking of other ways.
Not for anyone in the world to allow themselves to be oppressed or attacked; no good comes from giving up. But if more of us could just stop looking at our problems as Us versus Them, and instead ask what We can do… maybe we could get a start at finding those “other ways” to solve our problems. Again, our problems.
And again, I know this isn’t an instant fix. Good heavens, when someone’s been attacked, it’s got to be nearly impossible for them to turn around and see their attacker as a brother or sister. But if the rest of us can look at the situation that way, and try to help from that point of view, maybe we can move the situation forward.
Think about this: Thirty-six years ago, two nations in the Middle East, who’d been enemies since before the pyramids were built, got together (through a supportive outside mediator) and signed a peace agreement. In the last few years, one of those nations has had two revolutions, but that peace agreement has still lasted. To the degree that that nation is the mediator today for a new peace agreement to help our their former arch-enemy. Because they’re seeing both sides of this current conflict as fellow beings, and peace as their greatest self-interest.
If that is possible, then how is anything not?
While I was writing this, a song was going through my head. And it made me think about the man who wrote it. He was born into a relatively poor area of a poor town, which he will always be associated with. He was best-known as a member of a small group of four men. He was a husband, he was a father. He was associated with one country, and then left it for another, and then got associated with yet another through his second marriage. He was all these things, and yet, more than anything else, he was an individual. Arrogant, funny, loving, cruel, and brilliantly creative, he was all himself. He never would have allowed anyone to consider themselves the same as him. And yet, he wrote:
You might say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.
Doesn’t that sound nice? Let it roll around in your brain for a minute. Really nice.
And also note that, in that last line, Mr. Lennon implied something else. Maybe if the world can be “as one,” it will manage to keep on… living.
Barking Like Crazy, but Praying for Peace,
Yes Shirelle, it sure does sound nice. Not that I thought he had all the answers, but when Obama was elected, I felt our country was in a new place, that we were looking to the future together. Instead the hatred that has shown its ugly head feels as if it’s destroying our democracy. In watching tv news or reading the newspaper, I can’t tell if I’m seeing the Middle East or Missouri.
However, I want you to know I love your website and thank you for your very thoughtful words.