Hell, Sartre remarked, is other people. By the French philosopher’s token, the world all of us live in today is a very hellish place, divided as it increasingly is by people who see other people as the ‘other’, who must be opposed, and with a vengeance.
So prevalent and all-pervasive has this identification of the ‘other’ become that a term has been invented for it, and it is called ‘othering’, a form of social, political, racial and other distancing more commonly practised than the recommended physical distancing we are advised to maintain to keep the coronavirus at bay.
Long before it was given a name of its own, othering, creating a hostile border like the LAC between India and China, between ‘us’ and ‘them’, has been endemic in all societies, often creating unbridgeable rifts along fault lines based on religion, caste, gender and dietary habits, among other things.
But of recent times othering has gone viral. Today’s India is deeply divided between those who vehemently support everything and anything that Prime Minister Narendra Modi supposedly stands for, and those who – in an ideological version of Newton’s Third Law of Motion that every action has an equal and opposite reaction – just as vehemently oppose everything and anything he supposedly stands for.
As it heads towards its November presidential election, the United States could more aptly be called the Disunited States, cleft as it is by high-decibel Trumpeters who deplore everything about him, from his response, or lack of it, to the pandemic, to his immigration policy, to his alleged misogyny, to his income tax returns, or lack of them, and let’s not forget his hairstyle.
Why has othering, the manufacturing and marketing of an inimical ‘other’, become so central in our public and private lives? Sociologists can doubtless give us any number of learned and authoritative reasons for this.
But if, by a trick of optics, we could make ourselves see that the ones we see as the ‘other’, see us as their ‘other’, perhaps hateful differences could become welcome diversity. And ‘other’ people might no longer be seen as hell but be seen as belonging to the alternative address.
DISCLAIMER : This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.