Faith is dangerous whether it be in cultural, nationalist, or religious dogma because although ethnic pride, nationalism, and religious faith don’t necessarily make people do evil things they do serve as clear lines of division which make it much easier to do evil things to those on the other side of those lines. In order to reduce the human tendency to form exclusive groups and think in terms of us and them we must recognize the absurdity of the all too commonly accepted notion of pride by birth or group membership because all too often people seek to become a part of a group in order to distract themselves from their own inadequacies by claiming pride in the contemporary and even historical achievements of others in their group. Lets remember that pride is something that must be earned and is not something that can be inherited or attained by waving a flag, wearing a costume, or simply claiming membership to a particular group.
For a species that loves to hold on to grudges it’s important to note that guilt is also something that can not be inherited. It’s collectives such as political parties, nations, and religions that have any shame or guilt resulting from past actions inextricably attached to them for as long as they exist, and not individuals who may have been children or yet to be born when such actions took place. While it’s true that everyone has some degree of historical baggage this begins to accumulate from the moment we’re born, and not from the moment the country we happened to be born in was founded, or the religion we may have been indoctrinated into was fabricated. Members of a group may be covered in shame related to atrocities committed by past members, but not because they were born into or even chose to be in a particular group, but because they may have chosen to downplay or even deny such atrocities ever took place.
We must learn from our mistakes as a species and not attempt to cover them up as this only brings shame upon ourselves while denying future generations access to historical lessons which came at extremely high costs. Therefore historical facts must be presented in their entirety rather than framed within a portrait those insecure and seeking to hide behind an imaginary righteous and glorious collective would like to paint. We must teach students not only the unedited history regarding past conflicts, but also about the mindsets behind them and the conditions that helped created them. We must then learn to look for these conditions in the present and do what we can to address them before they culminate into the next unnecessary conflict that future generations look back on and ask: “Why didn’t they see that coming and why couldn’t they have avoided it?”.
While working to ensure the nations we reside in respect international law we must always be on the lookout for us/them thinking induced pre-conflict tension, and work to defuse this tension before it builds to dangerous levels and something tragic or trivial happens to set it off. We’ve gone from stone tools to smart phones and wooden sticks to thermonuclear weapons, however many of us still retain the same kinds of superstitions and tribal mindsets that humans had centuries if not millennia ago. Therefore it’s important to remember that although this civilization took thousands of years to develop, and this biosphere took billions of years to evolve they can both be destroyed in less than one. If wide scale conflict not seen since WWII, or the threat of thermonuclear war not seen since the Cold War seems unlikely in todays increasingly globalized and interdependent world just imagine how likely it would be in an over-consuming and overpopulated world suffering the consequences of climate change and ecological decline where international disputes aren’t over gold, oil, and ideologies, but over food, fresh water, and survival.