Long Divisions

Why we’re still Us and Them

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Mankind has been dividing itself for millennia. We are so divisive that it is wired into the more primitive areas of our brains. Some of the oldest areas of the human brain, those that we probably inherited from our progenitors on the evolutionary tree, are the parts that deal with distinguishing who looks like us and who doesn’t.

Pithecanthropus_alalusWe are so good at this that the primitive areas of our brains can make the call in milliseconds. We are hard-wired to discriminate. It’s a survival strategy that evolution adapted for in time immemorial. We needed to know in a heartbeat whether to keep on eating or to hotfoot it out of there!

But Homo sapiens, or perhaps, more precisely, Homo sapiens sapiens, is a unique species. We have advanced, we have developed adaptations and improvements to our brain structure that our primitive ancestors did not have. These adaptations and improvements should allow us to override the primitive, historical areas of their brains. And to some extent, these adaptations have allowed us some control over the more primitive areas of our brains.

Still, the species Homo sapiens sapiens has a long way to go. We have a prefrontal cortex, the home of our rational thought, that should allow us to intercept and subdue the more primitive areas of our brains. But we still allow the more primitive areas of our brains to influence the more modern areas of our brains. We still try to divide our existence into those who look like us and those who don’t.

In fact, we seem to have extended this primitive ability. We can now make these distinctions along any of a myriad of spectra. Religion, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, language, what part of town you’re from, what kind of car you drive, what college you attended, what fraternity or sorority you joined. All of these distinctions are the more primitive areas of the brain unconsciously influencing the more modern areas of the brain. All of these are just modern versions of who looks like us and who doesn’t.

We all should know that when we think of the previous list of distinctions rationally, in the cold light of day, that they are arbitrary and capricious. But we still make the distinctions. And until we can fully unwind the primitive areas of our brains from the more modern areas of our brains, until the prefrontal cortex takes command and tells the primitive brain that, no, we are no longer going to divide, we will continue to be what we are. Us and Them.

Divide

Author: rudyblues57

A fellow traveler in our journey around the neighborhood thermonuclear explosion. Full of random thoughts and esoteric observations about the human condition, how we treat each other, and other detritus of life.

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