“Us and Them,” “For and Against”

My last post was about “us and them” thinking. Lots of what we do at SPACIOUS is in fact an effort to smash such thinking.

I began SPACIOUS when I saw the power in what I’ve come to call an “unorthodox friendship” with Joey Katona, our Co-founder and Cultural Catalyst (that means he makes good things happen). The reason the friendship was unorthodox was because we easily could have been a “them” that we didn’t like, didn’t bother to get to know, didn’t think it worth giving the time of day to. I belong to some “us” groups that he doesn’t, and vice versa. In fact we each belong to some groups (or demographic sectors) that the other’s people might find something about which to be against.

And instead we’ve built something based on what we’re “for.” We’ve built something to fight “against.” We’ve built something to banish “us and them” thinking. And that is SPACIOUS.

Last night we hosted Lauren Joseph of Hagar, a wonderful school in Israel’s Negev that educates Jewish and Arab children in the same classroom, with co-teachers (one from each community). We had a good discussion with some good people, while enjoying Mediterranean food and drink. Many of us who were there have long cared about issues in the Middle East; others admitted coming to get educated. But we were a group that could have drawn “us and them” boundaries on several parameters, had anyone been inclined, and we were gathered to learn about a school where “us and them” doesn’t hold water. You can see some photos over at our Facebook page if you want to.

I loved the openness of the group, coming together for common cause. It got me thinking about how sad it is when the opposite happens, how when we’re against things, we’re automatically setting up an “us and them” mentality. Why not just let people be into other things that we’re not so excited about rather than asserting the supremacy of our pet causes? I know I can be guilty of not doing this well.

79,000,000+ people have watched the YouTube video, Kony 2012, which is attempting to marshall worldwide outrage over the atrocities of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda so that he will be stopped and arrested, thus ending the conscription of child soldiers and the mayhem in his country. It’s a beautiful and encouraging movie, in my opinion. But what’s interesting is how many people feel a need to make negative comments about it, saying that there are more important issues, that this is not a good way to go about capturing Kony, etc.

I want to yell a big, screaming, “WHY be against this (or anything else trying to do good)?” Aren’t there enough problems in the world for all of us to grab onto one and initiate or follow the way into a solution? We can even get involved in more than one issue. And the ones we can’t get to… well, mercifully someone else will find those to be their most important issues. There’s room for all sorts of outrage, all sorts of advocacy, tears and energy (and hope even) spread in many directions.

So when we are tempted to rage against something, maybe we can slow down and just let something we’re not that into be someone else’s “for” (while we cultivate and focus on our own), and just skip the “againsts.”  That will diminish the “us and them” sectors.

We’re trying to do our part in this through SPACIOUS, always emphasizing the fact that when we know the names and stories of people, we can enter into their lives — whether it’s for a global cause or to spread an iota of understanding and compassion or to just marvel at another individual, unrepeatable snowflake of a person walking the planet.

Join “us”; and remember that there’s no “them” where SPACIOUS is concerned. It’s a circle to which all are invited (thus our logo):


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