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March 17, 2014 | by  | in Opinion |
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Editorial – Them

This issue is about people who we hear of, but rarely hear from. Them. Others. Outcasts. The marginalised and disaffected.

Humans are social animals. It’s a sad fact that our need to form groups results in the exclusion of those we deem unfit to be part of the club. Our groups are formed based on similarity: we identify with others who share our likes, our hobbies, our worldview. But we also define ourselves in opposition to others. We emphasise who we are, as well as who we are not.

The concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’ causes real harm to people. It silences those individuals that society considers to be ‘them’. We do not use the term ‘them’ in order to engage in an act of othering. Instead, we aim to elevate the stories of those who are othered and draw attention to the pernicious process of othering.

As a nation, we decide what we want our culture to be, and treat those who do not act accordingly as second-rate. Penny Gault examines the effect this has on Māori. Stereotypes of Māori are created and repeated in the media: they’re dumb, they’re violent, they’re poor. At the same time, the media appropriate aspects of Māori culture and use them to represent ‘us’: the haka and koru are Kiwi symbols. But child abuse, domestic violence, and lack of education are Māori-specific issues.

On a more personal level, Preya writes movingly about being an Indian immigrant in New Zealand. For her, she feels neither ‘Kiwi’ nor ‘Indian’. The process of othering is so rigid that she lives in limbo. It’s a disconcerting feeling to simultaneously be a part of many cultures, while not belonging to any particular one.

Philip McSweeney interviewed some people experiencing homelessness in Wellington. It’s hard to think of a more marginalised group in society. His feature explains something which is obvious, but which we too often forget: these people may live different lives with different motivations and ambitions, but at a basic level, they’re human just like us.

We want to highlight the absurdity of othering. It’s bizarre to shun people based on one aspect of their personality. It obviously harms them, but it harms ‘us’ too. If we disregard all homeless people or queer people or people of different races, then we will never get to know them. We’ll never find out that, actually, we share a lot of interests. We have the same sense of humour, the same hopes and fears and emotions. It’s our loss when we forget that every person is an individual, made up of millions of different traits. To judge people on just one is ridiculous.

The aim of this issue is to challenge us to think twice about the way we dismiss people. For us to perhaps talk to homeless people before we shun them. To be sensitive to those who come from other backgrounds or cultures. To be conscious of the fact that we engage in othering, and examine the way we do it. Hopefully, this issue, in some small way, achieves those goals.



Duncan & Cam

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