Problems with group identification
What is group identification? In social psychology, it is an individual’s sense of belonging to a particular social, cultural, or subcultural group. We all experience this sense within the context of whatever beliefs resonate closest with what our self's seem to most value. Additionally, I have seen (not sure the quality, but empirically this makes sense to me as well) psychological research that suggests that one’s identification with a group tends to give one’s individualism in this world a greater sense of meaning and/or purpose. What is the meaning of life? There is no “objective” answer at our hands in our increasingly secular society in which there may of once been. To have no purpose is to have no motivation. To have no motivation produces little action. Little action produces little results. Little results produces an inferior life compared to those who have produced results. This is incredibly broad, though I hope you get the gist of my point. We need to find answers to our existential questions that seem to work and provide utility, not a easy task by any means, though I’ve come to think over the years that this pursuit is quite a necessary one if you are interested in living as meaningful of a life as possible which is within one’s capabilities. You have to be realistic, you have to accept that knowing anything for certain is mostly the knowing of the ignorant, and while doing so you still have to come to conclusions that seem the most likely to resonate with the truth, whatever that means.
We view the world through the lens which we have learned through our experiences (education, peers, parents, siblings, past emotionally influential events, etc etc etc). Using this lens, we contextualize what we perceive in order to make sense of all of the raw sensory data that is being inputted into our consciousness at every literal moment without our permission. The conclusions that we have come to, or the conclusions about how reality truly functions, so then matter to an subtly monumental degree if we are interested in a more functional outlook, which hopefully, you have decided, tries to narrow down what is most likely to be true to the highest order that is possibly within our means. As you have already come to realize living in this world, people see things differently. It is not just that they see different things because they have different sensory mechanisms that are viewing objects at different angles, it is that their conclusions which they have come to regarding how reality functions and how society ought to function are fundamentally different. Once one has come to a conclusion, it is a truly emotionally straining process to have a criticism put upon their views which exist so fundamentally at what they perceive to make up their distinguished individuality. However, I would argue that this honest existential interrogation into what we know and how we know what we know and, if we’re truly sure if what we know is the conclusion about reality that could most accurately describe reality at the most “objective” level cross culturally, assuming idealistically that such a description really could exist (fuck the relativists). For us who hold differing ideological perspectives on the world (which is all), I would argue that this is an essential process we must embark on in order to come to a better mutual understanding of our peers who hold differing worldviews.
Finding meaning, not a easy pursuit by any means. Some never find it and live a hedonistic life of self serving indulgence. Some find it in serving something which lies beyond themselves, religiously. Seemingly most of us, find it in serving those close to us (being a better spouse, parent, friend, sibling, pet owner, and more maturely I would argue, member of society). It feels righteous to the core of us to help others, we feel good not just because we gave ourselves some sense of pleasure which only impacts us, we feel pleasure because we know that we made a positive impact on another individual’s life today and we can feel proud of that. It is a meaningful act.
Meaning in being a better member of society. The better hearted of us tend to proportionately have a greater interest in improving the world for our fellow living and not yet living humans and animals. Life is amazing and it is even more amazing when filled with happiness and opportunity, and so doing what you perceive to be your share to contributing to the capabilities for these ideals to thrive in is a truly meaningful and worthwhile pursuit. Problem: we don’t collectively agree on which solutions are best and we don’t agree on if specific identified problems are truly problems. When every solution has its own necessary shares of negative repercussions, we can see that the notion of doing what is good is not a binary situation. I’m not implying that some solutions are not better then others, or that the necessary negative repercussions are not outweighed by the positives, I am simply pointing out that they exist and it is necessary for us to point out fairly what they are when we are being a proponent for a certain solution to not piss off those who disagree with us who perceive us to be ignorant of the repercussions existing at all. This is being humble and fair in our representation of the problem and solution at hand.
It is normal for us to label our experiences, values, and beliefs in order for us and those around us to have a better understanding of the situation, which is obviously a good thing. If you are feeling depressed, say to yourself I am feeling depressed, because at that point you can make actions to treat the depression and not exist in a state of cognitive dissonance like limbo where you’re feeling depressed but are not letting yourself be cognitively aware of what exactly is happening to you. If you are an active member of the Christian faith say that you are to those around, so they get a better understanding of you as a person and so interpersonal relating can become stronger. If you are an anarchist say that you are, so interesting conversations can come about and so you or those you speak to can have your beliefs challenged and minds changed. Identification and communication of our beliefs and values are healthy, but what I am arguing against in this write up is the problems that occur with identification with a certain set of beliefs that you are subconsciously not letting yourself separate yourself from in light of rational scrutiny. Additionally, not letting others challenge your beliefs and not taking the criticisms in and dwelling on them impartially can appear advantageous in the mating sphere. Yesterday I was listening to a podcast with Dr. Andrew Huberman (the GOAT) and someone I’ve never heard of Dr. David Buss, who specializes in the scientific analysis of human romantic relations. I only listened to half of it yesterday, though what I learned was that purposeful deception is rampant. Guys and girls constantly lie or exaggerate their religious, political, philosophical, etc outlooks on existence if they are trying to impress the other mate who they perceive to have those outlooks, additionally guys will exaggerate how much money they have. These seem to be consistently cross cultural phenomenon, though the cultural contexts will impact these elements to differing degrees. Women seem to be attracted to a man who is the center of attention, who is confident and possibly a little bit arrogant. If one does an honest existentialist interrogation into the foundations of their belief structures, they become profoundly humble into how much they are uncertain of. Let us not forget the famous Socrates quote toward the end of his life (while being lets be realistic, probably the smartest living man at that time) “I know that I know nothing”. However, the data in that podcast seemed to present a reality in which women are attracted to men who are confident, who are sure, and so acting (or purposefully not self examining) becomes a normative learned reflex. Unfortunately though, as one could easily figure, these modes of acting or modes of criticism resistance are not healthy for the better progression of society in a functional direction.
It is easy to find conclusions that confirm your worldview when they may not really be there, or more specifically when you may not realistically have sufficient evidence to really claim that they are really there. The seemingly progressively controlling government is responsible for causing the economic crises. Secularism is causing the rise in mental health issues. Your lack of success as a visible minority on a dating app is a result of blatant widespread racism. You getting less hours then your male coworker who is seemingly equally as competent is a result of patriarchal sexism. Poverty is a result of the oppressive bourgeoise who unfairly thrive in an unfair capitalist model. You can go on and on with this, and I’m fairly confident you get what I am trying to communicate. A religious man sees a formation in the clouds as a sign from God when his agnostic brother sees the same as an abstract and incomprehensible beauty. We see just and unjust, good and evil differently depending on the context from which we are coming from. The solution: awareness of the biases that may come as a result of the ideological group in which you identify with, and an active effort to be honest with yourself when these biases may influence your behaviors, regardless of the fact that this will probably make you appear less confident, which may subsequently necessarily provoke less inspiration from those you are trying to influence.
One of my favourite quotes of all time, representing the concept of the Jungian shadow.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956