Bruce's Blog


7 Deadly Attitudes: Part 5

February 25th, 2013

Deadly Insularity

None of us is an island. We are all interdependent. National boundaries, religious, cultural and ethnic differences are creations of our societies, what might be called tribal differentiations. All are important influences on us as individuals and as specific communities. None are divine or even natural law. When these codifications are used to help us to understand ourselves and relate to those immediately around us, they can be useful. When the same qualities are used to separate us from others and even to cause enmity, they are disruptive to our lives and destructive to the larger society.

Insularity describes us when we draw a little circle around ourselves or our tiny sphere of kin and then metaphorically build a wall there to keep "them"--all those other than we--out. In the United States this might be illustrated most literally by citizen fears about immigrants from Mexico and Latin American countries swelling our population and stressing our resources. We make "them" criminals for circumventing our controls and seeking better lives for themselves and their children.

The deadly attitude of insularity is often even more personal than transgressing national boundaries. Too often it culminates in an individualized insularity that becomes not just "me first," but "me and mine ONLY," epitomized in the parody prayer, "God bless me and my wife, my son Bill and his wife--us four, no more. Amen." Sometimes "God bless America" comes from lips that seem to be adding silently "...and no one else."

Insularity is dangerous not just to the people who are left out of our too-small circle, but to those who are included. Many of those whom we label "outsiders" are just the people with the ideas, inventions, skills and processes all of us need to live fuller lives. When we cut ourselves off from people with other insights and understanding, we are damaging ourselves in the process.

This attitude is deadly also in that it demonizes real human beings in ways that are not just unfair, but untrue. Broad strokes of insult and propaganda result in unrealistic fears and prejudice which erupt into rage and ultimately violence. Insularity is not cool. Diversity is cool. Combining our individual talents, dreams, ideas and philosophies into unique interactions that profit the whole community, now that's cool. Coming to appreciate our differences and honor them gives a strength to us as individuals, community and globe that can be achieved in no other way.

Insulated isolated people and groups slow human progress to a crawl, perhaps even destroying what they are trying so hard to protect.

American poet Edwin Markham offered a poignant response that defeats insularity and breeds hope through diversity:

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!

From the poem " Outwitted”

― Edwin Markham

Your turn: What tempts you toward insularity?

What can we do to avoid falling into the trap of this destructive attitude?


#1 Gwen DeJong said:

Not surprising that I totally agree with you Bruce. Well said. Remember when Mohammed Ali was asked by Oxford graduates for his shortest poem and he said it also summed up his philosophy: "Me, we" was the poem. He went on to say that when "me and we" are combined true civilization happens. Let us all strive for true civilizatin.

#2 Bruce Roller said:

Me, we. I like it, Gwen. Thanks for adding your wisdom to the conversation.

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