the othering process is the human tendency to believe that the group (race, religion, ethnicity, culture, gender, country, sexual orientation, species etc.) that they are a part of is inherently the ‘right’ way to be human. As a consequence of this, people who other consciously, or subconsciously, believe that anyone who is not apart of their group is a threat, an enemy or a liability that must be converted to conform immediately to the norms and standards of their group, subjugated permanently, or eradicated completely…
The phenomenon of othering has its roots in our evolutionary history. We know from primatological studies that group solidarity is exceptionally important in all of the African apes. Knowing who is, and who isn’t a member of your group is exceptionally important for reasons intimately connected to survival. And basic evolution theory states that any behaviour or trait that confers a survival advantage will be selected for; and the stronger the survival advantage, the stronger it will be selected for. In the case of ‘othering’ behaviour, it probably became an extremely valuable behaviour that would have become permanently fixed within our lineage millions of years ago. Whenever territory, food, and mates were scarce (which would have been frequently, and in most cases permanently), intra-species competition would have been strong and othering behaviour would have been selected for. Forming a group can allow you to align yourself with other individuals altruistically to maximize your own (and everyone else in the groups) ability to acquire territory, food and mating opportunities.
It seems that at one point in our evolution othering served a purpose, but what role does it play now? My gut reaction is that othering is no longer serving our evolution. In fact I think it may be hindering us. What do we really need to compete for anymore? We have the intelligence, ingenuity and technology to do almost anything we set our minds to! Here’s another thing to think about, is there really one right way to be human? Biodiversity is a must in almost every single ecosystem on the planet. What makes us think we are any different?!
I like to use Tarot to not only reflect on my own life, but on bigger issues as well. Today I asked the question, What role does othering play in a consciously evolving society?
By consciously evolving I mean a society that is aware of its own evolution and how the process takes place. This is truly the first time in history where we have had the scientific knowledge to understand the finer points of how or intelligence and biology changes over time! In a way, we are now more accountable for what we are and what we will become. They say knowledge is power. I say knowledge is responsibility.
So here is the card I drew:
The Ten of Wands.
Here are some of the keywords associated with this card: burden, responsibility, hard work, stress, achievement
Ten indicates the end of a cycle, the culmination of a lot of hard work beginning to pay off. Think of how far we’ve come in the last 10,000 years! We have introduced mass agriculture, created amazing art, built incredible civilizations, developed mind-blowing technology. Our species has truly shown that we are incredibly resourceful, resilient, clever and strong!
But…as I said above, with great power comes great responsibility. Our species is now beginning to feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. We are realizing that although we are clever, we are not wise. Although we are resourceful, we are not in harmony with the Earth. The stress of our success is beginning to take its toll and we can see the effects in the rise in anxiety disorders, depression, wars, terrorism and disease. The work of carrying on this way is becoming oppressive.
This card urges us to stop and examine where we are. Are the burdens we are carrying necessary? Do we really need to continue on this way? Is there a better, lighter way to travel forward as a species?
I think there is.
It seems that othering will have to be replaced by a more communal, global identity. I’m not talking about a global political structure (no thank you!), I’m talking about a global brother/sisterhood where small “tribes” of people look after one another and trade with other tribes. It’s a concept I initially heard about in the book Beyond Civilization by Daniel Quinn. This is only one possible approach, but I believe it is worth entertaining since it is obvious change is inevitable.
After reflecting on the global state of affairs I wondered about my role as an individual. I believe the individual has a powerful role to play in the conscious evolution of our species.
My next question to the cards was this: What can the individual do to evolve beyond limiting behaviors like othering?
Key words for this card are: control, will power, victory, assertion, determination
The message of the Chariot is overcoming obstacles through strength of will and determination. If we are to move beyond the limitations of othering we will have to recognize and actively make changes to our habitual tendencies. All too often we are just along for the ride. We react to things rather than anticipate them. Most of human interaction is a sort of tensed up knee-jerk reaction to one another. Most of us are defensive, self-centered and materialistic and then we have the audacity to expect others to be that way, too! In order to cultivate a global community focused on healing, harmony, peace and brotherhood we have to take the reigns and steer our lives in that direction. That means you and me, the individual, must learn to treat people with more trust, respect and love.
This is what Brigid from biddytarot.com has to say about the wisdom of the Chariot:
Sometimes, the Chariot asks you to come to terms with your own aggressive impulses. Aggression is part of human nature, part of your innate survival mechanism. Aggression cannot be simply suppressed; to do so will only turn it inward on yourself, leaving it to manifest itself in the form of physical illness. Aggression can be very destructive but it is also a powerful energy that can be channeled creatively. This is a time when you need to be the master of your emotions and curb any impulses or anger. You need to show who is the boss and achieve control of the situation but this will also require you to be in control of yourself.
So what do you think? What role does othering play in your life? Are you satisfied with where it is getting you? Is there a better way to live? Please comment I’m dying to know what others think of othering!