Editorial: Us vs Them vs Us

Trent Ernst, Editor


This last weekend, Michael and I went for a drive, looking for an alternative to the alternative routes to Grande Prairie via the Kiskatinaw Forest Service Road (spoilers: it didn’t work).

As we were driving, he pulled out his macaroni-box-sized Android phone, and, as he does when he has his phone in his hand and he’s in my presence, he asked me if I was going to finally get rid of my scabby iPhone and make the leap to a real phone.
I, of course, said no, as I have every time before. I didn’t run through all the reasons as I have in the past—invested in the ecosystem, having a workflow based on Apple services (I am actually writing this on my iPad right now, but as I am, it is automatically updating to iCloud, meaning that when I get back to the office, the story will be waiting on the computer there. And yes, I know you can do that with Google services and even Microsoft Office these days, but this is just the way I roll) and the fact that Android sucks rocks. (Nonono. I don’t say that. Out loud.)

Truth is, I’m actually Android curious, and if I were independently wealthy, I might double-fist, carrying around an Android and iOS device. But I’m not, so I will double down om my investment that I have already made, and when the iPhone 6 comes out (rumours of this fall) I will most likely pick up one for myself.

But I’m starting to get tired of this whole this or that dichotomies. Are you Android or iOS? (iOS.) Mac or PC? (Mac.) Do you use a Canon camera or Nikon (Canon.) Do you drive a Ford or Chevy? (Nissan.) Are you voting Liberal or Conservative? (This is Canada; we are not a two party system.) Boxers or briefs? (Neither.)

One of the most famous examples of this type of dichotomies is the whole Coke vs Pepsi thing. Back when I was growing up, I was a hardcore Coke fan boy. But somewhere along the line I realized that the whole question of Coke vs Pepsi ignored one important fact: they both taste like malted battery acid.

That was the day that I realized that it didn’t have to be either/or. It could be both. Or neither. More importantly, I realized that we could re-frame the question so that things didn’t have to be one or the other.

It applies to more than just what products we use. So many things in life are built on dichotomatic thinking. And yes, I’m pretty sure that I’m making that word up, but basically what I’m saying is that there are so many things in our lives that are built around this either/or ,this/that, us/them dichotomy in an attempt to categorize us and put us into boxes.

Politics is just one example. This last week, there was a symposium in Tumbler Ridge that looked at the process of aging in resource towns around the world, and I was made aware how much us/them thinking is involved just in issues of age. Are you old or young?

Yes, it’s true that if we are one, then we cannot fit into the other group, and that there are certain characteristics that define us as part of one group vs another. For instance, save for a smallish group of transgendered individuals, we cannot be both male and female.

But if we allow our differences to divide us into isolated groups, we run into the problem of dualism, where our differences are viewed as opposites, and not as elements of a larger system or community.

We do it because it’s easy. It’s far easier to say “cool person/not cool person” than it is to understand the complexities of who they are as people and how they fit into the larger community.

Tumbler Ridge would suck if everyone here was the same: if everyone were male, or conservative, or only ate mint chip ice cream. But you know what would make it not suck? If we started to view others not as capital-O other, but as essential parts of the same community. If we got rid of this dualistic world view that says just because someone is not part of the same group, it somehow means that they do not play a function in our lives.

Am I saying that we all need to agree? Nope. Am I saying that we all need to like each other? Not in the least. But I wonder what would happen if we took the time to re-frame the argument from pro vs. con, from us vs them, and started to think about  the sum of us as, well, us. As all part of the same community. Different, but essential to the other, like a lock and a key or peanut butter and banana.