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Why it's so tempting to build walls and shut people out (and what to do instead)

Why we build walls

  • We evolved this way. For thousands of years, our ability to band together against a common enemy (weather, wild beasts, other tribes) was life-saving.
  • Knowing who we are makes us feel secure. With countless labels, we build up this creation we call our self. And it’s easy to ignore things we don’t like about ourselves and even easier to locate those qualities in others.
  • (False) certainty about others is reassuring. Putting labels on entire groups of people makes things much simpler.

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Why it's so tempting to build walls and shut people out (and what to do instead)

Why it's so tempting to build walls and shut people out (and what to do instead)

https://ideas.ted.com/why-its-so-tempting-to-build-walls-and-shut-people-out-and-what-to-do-instead/

ideas.ted.com

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Key Ideas

Artificial divisions

We make artificial divisions everywhere.

Being human means there’s a wall-builder in each of us. Our minds naturally divide the world into me and not-me, us and them. 

Why we build walls

  • We evolved this way. For thousands of years, our ability to band together against a common enemy (weather, wild beasts, other tribes) was life-saving.
  • Knowing who we are makes us feel secure. With countless labels, we build up this creation we call our self. And it’s easy to ignore things we don’t like about ourselves and even easier to locate those qualities in others.
  • (False) certainty about others is reassuring. Putting labels on entire groups of people makes things much simpler.

The costs of walling ourselves off

  • Once we slap a label on others, we don’t bother to look more closely, and our fears grow.
  • We are actually less safe. Labeling entire groups of people as good guys or bad guys is dangerous, because we end up accidentally putting white hats on bad guys and black hats on good guys.
  • We waste precious resources. Trying to wall ourselves off from entire groups of people is exhausting and inefficient.

Fight the temptation to create artifical divisions

  • Embrace our inner wall-builder. The more we know about our own impulses to find enemies, the sooner we’ll recognize it when people are trying to manipulate us for their selfish ends.
  • Give your wall-builder a place to play. You can channel the urge to find heroes and enemies into healthy competition.
  • Choose your real-life villains wisely. We can target bad actors and real social problems, instead of indulging in the dangerous temptation to paint whole groups of people with the same tarring brush.
  • Find ways to know the people who seem alien.

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