Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Have you ever been subjected to being pushed outside of a small, insular group of people? They are the elite in your church/school/college/dorm/workplace. They are the cool ones, the club you want to be a part of. Many people feel left out and sad about the fact that a certain group refuses to accept them. It seems like nothing and nobody can ever show said groups the error of their ways. We, the outsiders, always hope that somebody else who is cooler will exclude these elitists so they will learn their lesson. It rarely happens like that. The group goes on from junior high to highschool and then into college still thinking they're all that. They may never get it. Often the group revolves around some common subject like clothes or music or sports or following the latest trends in coolness. Sometimes it's the group that was not cool in junior high and highschool taking vengeance on the groups they thought were excluding them.

I have always been the person on the outside who can possibly be friends with individuals in such groups, but never accepted by the whole group. It bothers me that people get so exclusive. I hope I do not mirror their ways. I have my rather exclusive interests yes, politics. Wait. Politics is something we want everyone involved in. Scratch that. Writing, then. Wait. It's kind of a naturally inclusive thing because if you cannot write then you can read and thereby you are included. Hmm. I am sure I have been exclusive at some point in my life. We all have. I am sure you would like some examples from my past, but I am not here to point fingers I am here to discuss more important aspects of exclusion.

What is the best way to react when you come into contact with an exclusive group? I know I have reacted in many ways, I have felt utterly alone. I have walked away from the group sad and grumpy. I have been unable to enjoy myself. I have created my own strange group of "left outs." I have tried to sneak into the conversation that excludes me or change it's subject. I have challenged people's views with rather irreverent joking responses. Yes, I am half ashamed to admit that I can be very irreverent if I am pushed far enough. Sometimes I am not trying to be that way, the words just come out and only afterwards do I realize that I just shocked everyone in the room. Then I usually feel good about myself for a little while. Still, these are not the answers.

In response to these troubles it may be best to start by realizing that you are not alone. Everyone has felt left out at some point in their lives. Some of us more than others. Aristotle said that man is a "political animal" meaning that we are drawn toward associations. We want and need friends. These people who exclude us are exactly the same in their need for friendship. Some of them may not even know they are excluding others. It would be naive to think that all of them do not get it, but I am sure some do not. One reason for excluding others is our inherent desire to be unique. You've heard the phrase "everyone is special." And you have probably heard the response that if everyone is special no one is. We like to have something that other people do not have, but that other people want. For the excluder that would be the reason to push someone out of the group. For the excludee that would be the fact that he or she is left out.

I liken all this to the 1967 tv series, The Prisoner. In that show the main character Number 6 despises the fact that he is nothing more than a number forced to comply with rules he does not understand. He fights against the leadership on the strange island where he finds himself. He tries to escape the place several times. Human beings do not like being just another faceless number in the tides of society -- the island is analogous of society. Yet we uphold society and this number system by considering others nothing but numbers. At the same time we fight against the idea that we, ourselves, are nothing more than a number. Just as Number 6 regarded his fellow citizens with suspicion, believing that they were helping to keep him on the island as number to be ignored so we suspect our fellow human beings of not appreciating our own uniqueness.
If we can keep a person who does not have our qualities from our group than somehow we are more unique.

Then again there are the people who are just plain unique and there's no way around that. Nobody likes those people. Nobody gets to know them. I would like to say I do, but often I do not. This is where the overwhelming exclusive factor kicks in with the best of us. It is called human nature and it is tainted. The truth is we do wrong things. We ignore our fellow human beings and justify it to ourselves. We do not like that person and we do not want to deal with him. We punish him for our own faults. Humans are flawed creatures, we cannot avoid that fact no matter how hard we try.

I have a name for what I consider to be the bottom line in all this: highschool forever mentality. Do not define yourself by what happened to you in highschool. Make up your mind to have a mature reaction. If you feel left out and shoved around realize that the people who are doing this to you have probably felt the same way as you feel and are now pursuing their own immature reaction to that. This does not give you an excuse to be immature. It gives you an excuse to be mature, to refuse to allow their actions to define yours. And it gives you an excuse to find some better friends! If you find that you have gone through life excluding others without realizing it -- or by justifying it to yourself -- then have the balls to own that to yourself. Try making friends with someone who is different from you. Who knows, you might like it. If you see one of those singularly unique people whom no one likes try talking to the person. After all, it is not even mature for three year olds to give others the "silent treatment" in an effort to get them to go away. We cannot by our own power overcome human nature, but we can still choose to do the mature thing. If you just cannot see that odd person as, well, a person than remember this: there is one thing in which we humans are all equal. We are all equally flawed.

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