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9 Examples of Us vs Them
John Spacey, August 31, 2021
Us vs them is a false dichotomy that presents a situation as being necessarily adversarial when it could be cooperative. The following are illustrative examples.
Good vs BadBreaking the world into good and bad with neglect for the grey areas in-between. This is common in simplistic storytelling whereby the world is presented as a struggle between completely bad entities and completely good entities. In reality, most things fall between these extremes but this is harder to write as a story.
Ideology vs IdeologyLabeling people or nations with ideologies and then presenting things as a struggle to defeat the other side. For example, a nation that is bitterly divided between political parties whereby cooperation and civility completely breakdown. This can be described as win-lose thinking whereby the goal becomes defeating the other side as opposed to agreeing on mutually beneficial compromises.
Position vs PositionIn some cases, a single political issue can be so contentious that each side begins to view the other side as fundamentally bad. This may leave no room for compromise and in some cases debate also breaks down leading to negative outcomes such as oppression of one side by the other.
Identity vs IdentityDividing people based on identity factors such as age, gender and ethnicity and presenting things as a struggle of your identity against other identities.
Nation vs NationPresenting global politics as a win-lose struggle to defeat other nations as opposed to a cooperative domain where nations work on mutually beneficial initiatives.
Ingroup vs OutgroupSowing distrust and encouraging exclusion of a perceived outgroup. For example, English speakers in a nation who label French speakers of the same nation with negative characteristics.
Taxpayer vs FreeloaderPresenting public funding as a transfer from hard working taxpayers to lazy freeloaders. This discourages investment in hard and soft infrastructure that may benefit all.
Divide and ConquerAn elite may use us vs them to divide people who have common interests. Where people with common interests are divided with distrust and infighting they have less power to challenge an elite. This may also be used to avoid accountability. This follows a familiar pattern whereby some relatively powerless outgroup is blamed for the failures of a powerful elite.
SchadenfreudeSchadenfreude is happiness at the misfortune of others. In an us vs them situation this can play a role as people become less interested in gaining than in making the other side lose. For example, a government that implements policies that are unpopular amongst its own supporters because it is even more unpopular amongst the political opposition whereby they view it as completely oppressive. This may be done out of a sense of schadenfreude whereby nobody gains from the policy.
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