Ingroups and outgroups

As a species, we are really good at dividing people into groups. These people are like me, those people are not like me. These people are good, those people are different and scary and bad. And the divisions just keep on going – drill down into any subculture and you find endless vicious debates between groups that seem incomprehensible to the outsider. Did you know, for example, that you can provoke war at a folk festival by starting an argument about singing in your own accent versus a ‘put-on’ accent, or whether a song written by a modern artist using traditional stories and motifs counts as a folk song? The rest of the world looks on baffled, if indeed it notices or cares at all.

The spectrum of non-monogamy has its own internal sillinesses, invisible or irrelevant to outsiders – people in poly relationships are ‘better’ than swingers because it’s not all about sex (and what’s wrong with sex?); a relationship of two women and one man is inherently sexist and oppressive; one of the more unpleasant but pernicious beliefs: nonmonogamy is somehow universally better or more evolved than monogamy. Blergh.

At the risk of sounding like a hippy idealist (OH LOOK THAT’S BECAUSE I AM), what can we learn from people who are different or who have made different choices? And how can we kinda-selfishly take useful lessons and improve our own lives? (This is kind of my take on religion, by the way; I’m not religious, but if your religion has good writings with a solid moral core of ‘be responsible for your actions and don’t be a dick’ then I will read and enjoy them, and if your religious festival has music and tasty food? I am totally celebrating it with you).

Some people in monogamous relationships could learn from the polyamorous tendency to communicate about everything and be lovingly honest, and to learn how to overcome jealousy rather than just banning the things that trigger it. Lots of happy monogamous people do this already, which is partly why they are happy.

And some people in polyamorous relationships could learn from the way monogamous relationships focus all of someone’s sexual and romantic energy on just one person – how can you ensure your partners feel that intensity, intimacy, loyalty and importance? Again, lots of happy polyamorous people do this already, which is partly why they are happy.

What can I learn from people who are or have chosen to be something that I am not? Perhaps even harder, what can I admire in them? There’s always something. In my most generous moods, I can even find things in Tory policies that – even if I disagree with the implementation, and the results – looks like it came from a good place. (NB: if you’re dealing with American politics, this may not apply. Sorry about your political system, guys 😦 )

Be good to people, be happy, live well, and keep learning how to be kinder and happier, in whatever ways I can find those lessons. That’s my plan. Who’s in?

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4 responses to “Ingroups and outgroups

  1. I’m in.
    Or, at least, I want to be. It’s much easier to make myself feel okay by dismissing what other people do or think. What you say makes complete sense.
    I must try harder… but Tories?

    • Look, I said I had to be in a generous mood. A very generous mood.

      (for example: if prejudice and unfairness weren’t so inescapable, then a world in which you just have to work hard enough/sell something appealing enough and you can succeed as far as you want to based solely on your own achievement, and the government will stay out of the way… *in itself*, that’s not such a bad starting point. It’s just that – in my opinion – it’s also deeply unrealistic and propagates genuinely disastrous, even fatal, inequality in the guide of ‘fairness’)

  2. I like your plan. I’m in!

    Am just catching up on your blog now and am interested to see that you’ve covered the mistaken “poly is better” belief here. I hadn’t read this post before I added that to the list of potential #PolyMeansMany topics! I guess it affects us all because, even if we’re definitely not saying that our way is better, some people seem to assume we are. It can’t hurt to clarify every now and again that different relationship styles work for different people, can it?

    • Totally! Also, it really can be difficult to hear the difference between ‘this is awesome and makes me really happy’ and ‘this is awesome and makes me really happy AND everyone should make the same choices I do’ – I know I get it with mentioning I’m vegetarian, too. I’m trying to think of incidences where I’ve been on the other end of it, too; I know they’ve happened, but I can’t think of any examples right now!

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