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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future

Chapter Six: The Future Human

Section 10: Self Competence


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Scottish Highlands Dance competitors.



"Self-concept" refers to knowing what conceptual classes one belongs to. One belongs to one's: self, family, ancestry, race, culture, religions, gender, age bracket, profession, nation, fraternity, sorority, athletic team, school, social club, trade union, and so on ad infinitum, including species, world and cosmos.



Any group that is appropriately prized by the individual can be a source of individual strength, resources and "roots." Since one belongs to group G, one has access to the unique strengths of group G. Thus, it is important that one highly regard the groups with which one identifies.



However, this prizing must be based upon essentiality and not upon presumed superiority. Alfred Adler was the first to describe how people fabricate a sense of superiority to help them compensate for a basic sense of inadequacy that inheres in the human condition. This sense of superiority can be bolstered by connecting one's own superiority to the supposed superiority of the groups with which one identifies This sense of superiority is inherently insecure because any display of competence by "outside" groups is a threat. Thus, an "us v. them" mentality must reinforce the sense of superiority by criticizing and ridiculing other groups.



Being the recipient of criticism and ridicule does nothing to bolster one's basic sense of adequacy. Intergroup relations become strained by intolerance and hostility. This situation makes it difficult for the individual to identify with the larger group that would include significant outsiders, and, thus, the individual loses access to some of the larger sources of strength and commonality. Clearly, this entire "superiority complex" is destructive to intergroup relations in general and especially to cross-cultural understanding and peace.



Adler's mature alternative to the inferiority/superiority complex is based upon equality. This does not mean that there are no differences among groups, but that persons and groups are equal in the sense that each is essential in making the world what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. "Without me, and the groups I belong to, the world would be a lesser place" -- this is what essentiality is about. Essentiality is closely related to the quality of purpose to be discussed.



Prizing one's groups on the basis of essentiality in no way conflicts with recognizing the essentiality of others. Thus, it is easier not only to be tolerant, but also to respect other groups, including other cultures. Furthermore, one is freer to identify with larger groups--there is no problem in identifying with one's ethnic group and one's nation, even though a majority of the nation is composed of other ethnic groups one may claim the collective resources of all those groups one's own. Consequently, prizing based on essentiality adds to one's individual strength and improves the prospects for better world relations.



Since the bond between group and individual is recognized when identification takes place, a basis for caring for the group is established. Thus, identifying with the entire human race provides for caring for humanity and its future generations. This identification also involves contacting the "common human core" -- the basis of understanding and compassion, which in turn may give meaning to one's life. Thus, just as it is important that one's identity be accurate and positive, it is also important for it to be expansive--preferably including the entire human race.



However, this expansiveness does not negate the other extreme -- one's sense of uniqueness as an individual is also critical to one's self-concept. "I am like all others in these groups with which I identify and yet I am different from them all, and my contribution is essential in its own way." Such a sense of unique essentiality fosters a responsibility to use one's best talents for the betterment of the larger groups to which one belongs.



Thus, the future requires people with a pluralistic identity, which is both expansive and specific, and based upon essentiality. This will secure individual strength and positive intergroup and cross-cultural relations. It will secure the commitment of the individual to the welfare of the diverse peoples that constitute our world.







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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


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The Emerging World Order

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The Future Human

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