Humans are a gregarious species. In other words, we have lived in community since Antiquity. For this reason, I think that trying to understand how the brain works by separating it from the culture and society to which it belongs is as artificial and absurd as trying to study the habits of a fish by taking it out of it. the water. We are social beings, our identity is partly built on the gaze of others.
The same goes for self-esteem. Our self-opinion is the final amalgamation of the interaction of many internal factors, such as our temperament and personality traits, with external factors; that is, anything that comes from the environment, like the education our parents gave us or the neighborhood in which we grew up.
It is not uncommon then to point out that our sense of personal worth largely depends on the group to which we belong. The concept we have of ourselves is shaped not only by our personal identity, but also for a social identity.
The link between self-esteem and bigotry
The sense of belonging that comes from being a member of a group can thus help to strengthen or weaken our self-esteem. Therefore, the most positive characteristics that we give to our group, whether it is a political party, a football club or other, we will feel better about ourselves.
Social identity merges with personal identity, which has a direct impact on self-esteem. If I think the group that welcomed me is fantastic, that also makes me, as an individual, a fantastic being. I this is where we find the germ of fanaticismThose who fight tenaciously (and often even literally die in that struggle) to defend the group’s banners are ultimately defending their own self-esteem, which they feel is in danger.
Research in psychology postulates a simple equation: the lower our self-esteem, the greater the need to identify with a powerful community it helps us to fix it or at least maintain it. The more we feel uncertain and doubt our worth, the stronger the urge to put our personal pride out of a strong group of members.
Of course, this equation is not mathematical; that is, it does not apply to 100% of people. But this applies to many of them. At least in the West, which is the side of the planet where research comes from, the correlation between low self-esteem and bigotry is significant. What I feel like I don’t have, I try to get the group to provide for me. Here we have the fertile land on which lies, often uncritically, some of the worst flaws we have as a species. Here are some examples.
Set up like the absurd belief that we we are better than the citizens of a neighboring country for the simple fact that we were born by chance on this side of a border, And not the other. Patriotic pride is remarkably heightened when it is also accompanied by a sense of morality that we believe is inherent in our society, such as the idea that “God is on our side”, or “good always triumphs over evil, and we are the good ones “.
Leaving aside fundamentalism (for its obviousness), one of the most notable cases in this regard is what happened in 1978 in Guyana, where more than 900 people who made up the People’s Temple community committed suicide. submissively and without thinking on the orders of Pastor Jim Jones, the group’s spiritual leader.
3. The dogmatism of ideas
Polarization in antagonistic groups that attack or advocate for a particular cause is usually a bad symptom. The recent debate on the decriminalization of abortion in Argentina is a clear example, which has led much of society to split into two opposing and irreconcilable sides, where moral aspects and scientific arguments have been relegated to the background, Eclipsed by a superficial discussion in which it did not matter the arrival at logical conclusions, but the victory of the own position on the contrary. In this sense, blaming someone else or demonizing the adversary provides us with the perfect excuse not to deal with our own frustrations.
3. Political affiliation at all costs
The great merit of Adolf Hitler, and which allowed him to come to power in the 1930s in Germany, was tell people exactly what they need to hear, at the right time. German morale had been devastated after the great war. In this context of widespread crisis and blatant social self-esteem, Hitler knew how to channel people’s frustration and speech – so that they would once again begin to feel proud of who they were.
With such deteriorated self-esteem, even an educated people like the German could not help but resist handing over power to Hitler with the results we are all already experiencing. “It’s easier to deceive people than to convince them that they have been duped,” said Mark Twain.
4. The “passion” for sport
Especially in football, in stadiums several times real pitched battles take place. Regarding this last point, it is common to hear a lot of people say things like: “We won, we are the best!” (When the team sympathizes with triumphs) emphasizing the personal desire to achieve the greatest possible identification with their group. On the contrary, we will hardly hear anyone exclaim: “We have lost, we are the worst!” (Faced with a bitter defeat). In this second case, the expectation is not to get involved and distance yourself from the defeated team so as not to be associated with disgrace: “They lost, they are the worst!”
Only those who do not feel well placed in life they try to improve their self-image by connecting it with successful people. They don’t seek prestige in their own success, but in someone else’s. At the other extreme, those who have a good opinion of themselves do not need to reinforce it by appealing to the glory of others.
The premise is that the greater the intransigence of an idea or doctrine, the more likely it is that the self-esteem and personal sense of identity of the individual who proclaims it will be deteriorated. We get to feel superior (in every way possible) to the same extent that we convince ourselves that our group is the best, and this is one of the worst mistakes we can fall into.