On the outs

We may be wired to exclude, but we're also wired to love

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Short read
  • We are wired to exclude but also wired to love
  • Because we are wired to love we sometimes resort to dehumanizing people in order to exclude them
  • Story is our heart’s weak link: when we hear someone’s story, they become human again
  • Stories build bridges across our primitive wiring to “other” people outside our peer group. In celebration of Pride Month, we’ll hear a story or two each week from a few of our co-workers.

The whole read

It’s just a fact that human beings have the capacity to cast other people out, by the one or by the whole group. Some of this can be explained as a natural outgrowth of homophily (a new word I learned when Googling, “Why do we cast other people out?”). It means “love of the same.”
Homophily/tribalism is a primitive response to the perceived “otherness” of those who do not belong because they are either:

  • outsiders who don’t look or act like the group and are therefore regarded as untrustworthy and threatening, or
  • insiders who violate the group’s codes and standards and so are put out. 
While love of the same can result in good things like cooperation within the group, as we all know it also can cause an untold amount of damage to people who have been marginalized. Not surprisingly, the impact of being a member of a cast-off population subjected to the daily trauma of hate, disrespect, aggression, and inequity comes at grave risk to a person’s sense of security, wellbeing, and self-worth. Being excluded also often denies access to fundamental, life-supporting opportunities and services including healthcare. Despite being thousands upon thousands of years away from our primitive beginnings, we still struggle with the old wiring of othering.
Though we are wired to exclude, at the same time we are also wired to love which can put humankind in a bind. It’s hard to be cruel when your heart is open. To do so we often have to resort to de-humanizing those we have made other. Fortunately, there is a crack in that method: we have a weakness for story. It’s hard to de-humanize someone when you hear their story. Story is like an accelerant of humanity. Suddenly this other person becomes a lot more like us with our fears and hopes and dreams and struggles and triumphs and losses and confusions.
What better way to celebrate Pride Month and Safety Awareness Month than with a story, building another tiny bridge across our otherness one story at a time beginning today with Barbara Johnson, an HR Customer Service Representative in the HR Service Center. As a kid, Barbara was so responsible that starting in second grader she’d set her alarm, get herself ready for school then pop two houses down to wake up her best friend and make her lunch. Read more of Barb’s story and who she grew into and watch for more proud stories to come throughout the Month of Pride!
Looking to be more human? Check out the Be Human Project.