The generally used definition of othering goes along like this:
The belief/insistence that someone outside the group is somehow, “categorically, topologically, intrinsically, DIFFERENT.” Also, the use of this belief, the not-understandable “other,” to re-affirm the group’s “normalcy” and identity.
There you go, the human history of race, sex and gender identity wrapped up in a neat little package. Covers a hell of a lot of ground, that little word. I don’t think I’d get a hell of a lot of objection if I gave one of Mr. Card’s rants on teh ghays as an example of culturally-blinded othering.
Ah, but I won’t let my liberal friends off that easy. No, I have a prime example of othering that the author (and most of his readers) would not even subliminally realize is doing so: What makes people vote Republican? The title alone is problematic. Consider this quote from Jonathan Haidt’s first paragraph:
We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death.
I think it sort of speaks volumes all by itself. What is remarkable is that, in large part, the article in question is a self-congratulatory reflection on Mr. Haidt’s intellectual journey from the belief that conservatism should have a DSM IV code, to the realization that “Republicans” are simply an alien cultural group that use a moral value system that Democrats do not understand.
Mr. Haidt, I’m sorry, you’re a bigot. A highly intellectual, well educated bigot, but a bigot nonetheless. You lose. Just based on the fact that the entire article, and most of the responses, are written with the following implicit assumptions.
- conservative ideology is monolithic.
- conservative ideology shows no rational basis, so adherents must have non-rational motivations.
- conservative ideology is purely an envelope over conservative Cristian morality.
- conservatives are largely ignorant of the reasons they are conservatives.
- conservatives think differently than liberals, their brains work differently.
In the end, Mr. Haidt has transformed the conservative American into the transcendent alien, someone who doesn’t act like us, doesn’t think like us, and has a fundamentally different moral core. The Republican in Mr. Haidt’s article is the same alien creature who was behind the Yellow Peril, the Red Scare, and the Zionist Conspiracy.
The sad thing is, Mr. Haidt believes himself enlightened. He thinks he has actually achieved some sort of understanding. The sadder thing is, compared to his peers, he is probably correct.