Monday, 2 April 2012

Oppression is a human thing

Human history is filled with some human societies oppressing less powerful groups.

It's a problem that, sadly, probably isn't going to go away easily. In the USA Rick Santorum is running a presidential campaign that often seems entirely based on oppressing women and gay people.

But why do humans do this?

In Santorum's case, he claims to be protecting the moral fibre of society as defined by the Catholic Church and has gone so far as to claim those who vote against him are not truly Catholic. He's entirely wrong about this. In fact Washington Post writer, Lisa Miller, cuts right to the heart of the matter when she says "Santorum observes the teachings of his church selectively". That is to say - he picks which matters are important to him and uses his faith to justify those views.

I can't really say on where the need to oppress comes from. It may come from a mental image based on tribes, and spotting outsiders trying to infiltrate the tribe (evolutionary psychology is not without criticism, though); it may come from a desire to feel powerful by exercising that power over others; it may be that people want to "fight back" at perceived changes to society.

In any case, some people will be strongly motivated enough by these principles to run for power and if enough people agree with them, they get to make oppressive ideas policy.

The point I want to make here, though, is that justifications such as "the moral fibre of society", or "my religious views" almost always come afterwards. We are affected by our culture, and justify later.

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