Let me explain further the idea.

Nowadays (as thousands of years earlier) many people bound themselves in their mind to a particular nation, country, town, neighborhood etc. And very often these people think that they are good ones and other people, who live everywhere else are not so good, just because they are others. From my experience, I see that people who travel a lot are less exposed to comparative kind of thoughts. Of course, they compare people between each other, but they don't judge them so harshly as others do.

So, people always divide other people for allies and enemies by some factors: nationality, religion, wealth and so on.

Now imagine the world where all people treat each other as equals. And I mean not only their doings but thoughts also. Not "This guy is different and I don't like him, but I should act like I do, because of tolerance/politeness/some other rules". But "Hmm this guy is like me, he is human" in spite of this guy lives in another country and has different skin color and is totally another in our current understanding of this subject.

Some more analogy. Imagine kids who laugh at other kid who is taller than they are or smaller, or has big ears. But as these children grow this reasons become silly to laugh at, and in the age of 20 or 30, you don't care how tall or small the person is. And if this is one step to the final state of mind, imagine this state, when there are no reasons to treat one kind of people in a different way from another kind. The state, when we outgrew all this stuff, as those kids did.

And the question is What should happen to change human's way of thinking?

I have some ideas about that.

1. Face another intellectual kind. Maybe this kind has to be aggressive, to band people together against the general enemy.

2. As interracial children will be born and general intelligence and wealth level will increase, the need to separate people for allies and enemies will become redundant (but this idea is very optimistic).

3. It is impossible and contradicts to people's nature and primal instincts of group animals (where we have this feature from) to protect our group(сo-cavemen, co-villagers, country) from others.

Sorry for my English, I'm not a native speaker. I hope that my idea is clear.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The answer to this question could be a story in itself. You might rather propose an idea and ask if it will have this result. $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:46
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ The internet goes a long way towards this goal. I have no idea what you look like, how well off you are, whether our ancestors were mortal enemies, and so on, but I treat you like anyone else I encounter here. $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If you can identify a difference between "us" and "them", then antagonistic groups will develop and you can't stop it, it's in our genes. Even people who are exactly the same in every way can clash violently and constantly if there's one difference, even if it's as minor as liking Glasgow Celtic over Glasgow Rangers. $\endgroup$
    – MrLore
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 19:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Colour of skin etc does not matter, BEHAVIOUR DOES. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 10:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "just because they are others" I'd contend that thousands of years ago, anyone not in your group was at best passively competing with your group for resources, and at worst actively trying to steal your resources. I'd like to think that today, in a resource rich economy, many more people than popular opinion suggests already don't care about appearances, but there will always be people, even in the face of an existential threat, who will condemn another on appearance alone. $\endgroup$
    – SethWhite
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 17:42

20 Answers 20


You have a very ... kumbaya vision of what the world should be like. Unfortunately for you, however, human psychology just doesn't work that way.

From the dawn of the human race groups of homo sapiens (and their ancestors) banded together in the face of larger, faster, or stronger foes. And they had to fiercely compete for the few resources available in a wild, untamed land. Had these groups simply encountered one another, hugged, and started living together, they would probably have starved to death. And not only that, but it's the constant conflict, and complicated social dynamics which scientists suspect stimulated us to become as intelligent as we are today.

And thus, there exists a core part of our psychology which always differentiates between "us", and "them". But it gets worse.

There exist hundreds of nations on this planet. Within those nations, sometimes dozens of cultures, and languages coexist. And there is simply no way that all those cultures and nations are going to embrace the same principles, values, and agree on a set of interests.

Some treat women as second class citizens, some hate certain religious groups, others shun those of certain sexual orientations ... and that's just the beginning. What happens when resources start to run low, and we have to decide who gets what? War is what happens.

You describe well traveled people as being less prejudiced, however, that's a very naive view. A woman traveling to a corner of the world where she is not allowed out without male supervision will quickly reconsider that neutral stance.

You mention children being open minded, but they can also be incredibly mean to one another, and will pick on kids who are "different". They have to outgrow that mentality! Again, a psychological trait geared toward improving our odds for survival. I will also point out that "interracial children" need not be any less racist than others.

The only thing which has historically united different groups is a common foe. However, that unity typically only lasts as long as the threat, and sometimes doesn't work very well even when the threat of annihilation is very real. In fact, historically, some people have chosen to face threats alone rather than ally with a neighbor they disliked.

  • $\begingroup$ A good point about the common foe. In dangerous times you think first about you and yours. $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 15:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As for the common foe uniting all groups: That isn't guaranteed to work either: Just look at the situation in the Middle East over the last 30 years or so.Today's friend is tomorrows enemy and vice versa. Every group is allied with some other groups but it is quite possible those others are fighting among each other. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend or maybe he is today, but wasn't yesterday and tomorrow is another story altogether. $\endgroup$
    – Tonny
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ "The only thing which has historically united different groups is a common foe." This isn't true. Tonny points out quite rightly that the Middle East has had a common enemy for a long time, and yet almost every single attempt to join two Arab countries together on that basis, never mind pan-Arabism, failed. Plus other groups unite around psychology other than fear. Religious people unite because of their love of something, same with many other non-hereditary groupings. $\endgroup$
    – user20787
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 14:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This was considered and still rejected. The Arabs haven't sought to face the threat (Israel/America) alone, they've just turned on each other, because as it turns out having a common enemy doesn't change how you feel about whether or not your allies are deserving of respect/life. Or indeed the way the communists turned on the anarchists during the Spanish Civil war when they were both fighting the nationalists. Most of history goes unexplained if the best/only thing to unite people is a common foe. $\endgroup$
    – user20787
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 16:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. There are some sickeningly "kumbaya" answers down below, btw. And when the space aliens invade to turn us into hamburgers, every superpower will volunteer to be their buddies and help them corral the rest into the meat grinders ;) $\endgroup$
    – bobflux
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 14:08

Common enemy is the best. Human societies are a pack. There is always some fundamentally beneficiary reason for humans to form groups and it needs to benefit everyone. You see that all the time, mafia was born to fight against anarchy, but as government regained its strength they became criminals. The enemy does not need to exist anymore, because organisations find a new reasons to exist. A reason that ties humans together is needed.

  • 10
    $\begingroup$ I seem to remember - I think it was Shadowrun? - had something along the lines of "Who cares if the guy next to you on the subway has darker skin than you if the orc across the way could crush your skull with one hand?" Also, wasn't this Ozymandias' purpose in Watchmen? $\endgroup$
    – Trevortni
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 18:39
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ Terry Pratchett wrote "Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.” for Discworld $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ It is interesting that it looks like the only solution is a common enemy. And as @AndreiROM said, people always need someone to stand against. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 9:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Common enemy doesn't change how people see each other, that's an exception rather than a norm which goes no way to explaining most of human history, like the fate of the Arab world rallying around trying to defeat Israel, or examples like the Allies in the second world war, or even the communists and anarchists in the Spanish civil war. $\endgroup$
    – user20787
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 16:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This seems to be a quite narrow view. Yes, a common non-human enemy would help, but in no way does it fix the original problem. It only shifts the focus on something else for a short time. If aliens would crop up on earth, threatening all of us with extinction, you can be 100% sure that we would immediately splinter into groups like "we must destroy them with fire" or "we must learn to communicate with them" or "we must flee and found NewEarth somewhere in the galaxy" and so on. $\endgroup$
    – AnoE
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 17:49

Our mentality comes from old times of packs. For human genes to spread his pack needed to be in good condition. So there are two aspects:

  1. Unknown human is competitor. He will eat the same food your kids need.

  2. If he looks different, he may be sick.

So fear and need to keep different ones far, and yours close, was great evolutionary advantages that saved from hunger, leprosy etc. It served us well. Native Americans didn't, and illnesses from white people killed a lot of them. So until really, really recently it was still beneficial, evolutionary.

You can't get rid of that. Not fast, because it was breed into us for millennia, longer than humanity even exists. So you need to give something else. It might be an alien. Or new plague. You need something we could unite against. Something we could fear, despise, discriminate. And it needs to be common. "Aliens somewhere" won't do, you need aliens here, stealing our jobs. Things like that.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "aliens here, stealing our jobs" will still become a divisive subject, with some people wanting to embrace them as brothers, etc. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:58
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "it'll be different with some people" will always be true, no matter what we think of. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ The illness thing is a bad example. The Amerindians had been isolated from "others" - humans and most domestic animals - for 10K years or so, and so their immune systems hadn't evolved to handle challenges. The Europeans had been exposed to "other" - Indian, Chinese, African, &c - since Roman times at least, and so their immune systems evolved to deal with diseases. Of course that evolution was by plagues killing off large parts of the population... $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf why bad? If they would keep whites away, shoot them when they could and run in other times, and only expose small scouting partys, it could be less deadly. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot: Bad example because 1) It was the isolation that caused the immune system deficiencies; and 2) they didn't have the power to keep Europeans away. And you only need one person to come into contact with a sick European to bring the disease back home. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 4:20

One thing I can see working is a forced marbling of society.

You see it all the time with immigrants; they move to a new country, find people with a shared background, move into the same communities, and you end up with places like Little Italy, China Town, etc.
Basically small towns inside of a large city.

I was talking to a Canadian a couple weeks ago about how Canada is accepting a lot of refugees from the middle east, but instead of doing things to try to get them integrated into Canadian culture, they are all moving to Toronto and clumping up in neighborhoods so they can pretend they are back home, not contributing.

So a potential solution would be to have an event that breaks these clumps up and forces disparate groups together. Something like the mandatory relocation to Happy Humanstown in the movie Home would be one very drastic way to do it.
It could also be a government mandated thing, where for the good of society peoples rights to live where they want are suspended and the government forces them to live among people with different cultural backgrounds.
People would hate it at first, and you'd get a lot of conflict in the beginning, but eventually people would see that even though these people look different or have different beliefs, they are basically the same underneath.

One thing is that you'd want to keep the neighborhoods somewhat small, as humans generally can only really have so many social relationships, and if the groups get too large then you'll start to get clumping again.

  • $\begingroup$ But you can have very serious differences between groups of humans without there being any racial, ethnic, or cultural differences that are discernable to an outsider. For instance, the Protestant/Catholic conflict in Ireland, former Yugoslavia, Sunni versus Shiite, with ISIS willing to kill both for being insufficiently pure... $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Right, and all those would have to be taken into account with the blending. We know about them, and so they are discernible. It would just have to be one more factor to take into account. And you might even have to reshuffle every year or two. You can go and take a jar, fill it with rocks, pebbles, dirt, etc. add water, shake it up, then let it sit for a while, and you'll find that things settle in layers. So every once in a while you'll probably have to move people around, shake things up, and restart the mixing process. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ But all that "blending" is going to do is make conflicts a lot easier due to proximity. If your religion tells you that Allah wants you to kill the infidels, for instance, it's going to be a lot easier to do that if you just have to go down to a local club packed full of them, than if you have to cross an ocean to get to them. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Only in the beginning. And once you make a public example of the first few trouble making people it will start to settle down, and after a while it'll just be normal and no one will care anymore. That's what I meant when I said "People would hate it at first, and you'd get a lot of conflict in the beginning" but it will pass because people can get used to anything. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 19:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273: Ireland has had Catholics & Protestants living in close proximity for centuries. Islam has been in close proximity with non-Muslims (granted, not always the same non-Muslims) for some 1400 years. Jews were persecuted in Europe for about the same length of time... $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 4:24

The thing that would happen to change humanities way of thinking is a non-human threat.

Realistically speaking, for any given group of people to band together, you need a different group of people to be against. You see this all the time.

  • To prevent the people to rising against the government, the country goes to war. Now the government and the people are "on the same side".
  • To prevent one country to rising against another, they ally (against either a known or unknown foe) putting the two countries on the same side (Think USSR and Allies vs the Axis during WWII).
  • To prevent one subset of humans from rising against (or picking on, if you want to get semantic) the other subset of humans, you need to find a set of non-humans to unite against.

This "us vs them" mentality will naturally scale up or down depending on the circumstances. Any two groups will unite against the largest opposing set. And if that "enemy" were to vanish, then each group would divide again into sub-groups until they reached the next largest confrontation.


Human culture mirrors aspects of our nature. If that nature were to change so too would our culture, but unfortunately our culture will never change our nature. What I mean by that is much of the nature of what we hold dear is deeply rooted in our need for, and gravitation towards conflict. All of the most wonderful things humanity has ever accomplished were never in spite of our xenophobia, but because of it.

Cooperation is a wonderful thing, but imagine the ant. All of the personal aspects of the ant no longer are part of its nature because its nature made it lean towards total cooperation and there is a genuine conflict between self identity versus group identity in this situation. If everyone felt "part" of everyone else then the sense of self would diminish and be removed over time. If somehow humanity overcame the fear and mistrust over the unknown outsider then we would no longer actually be humans eventually, we would become a hive/colony creature with no personal wants or desires in favour of success of the group.

I don't have a lot of data to back up my claim, but what I encourage is for you to think about all the different aspects that make being you so great. Think of all the things you hold dear and all the things that you fear. All the things that motivate you to do what you do and I think you will find that the fear of the unknown, and the satisfaction of individualism is behind much of it and the rest of what we do is merely our reaction to those feelings.

Please feel free to let me know what you think or if you have counter points!


The question is quite hard to answer i think. Nevertheless i will give it a try. First, from what i read, racism is part of human nature, but it can be overcome individually by experience and by intellect. It doesn't even require a lot of intellect, even sub-par brains are quite capable of overcoming it.

Apparently, the fact that humans have spent so much time (evolutionary speaking) in groups of no more than 120 people has resulted in our brains being able to handle this same number of other people without effort.

That said, it's a natural tendency in humans to divide their fellow humans into the in-group and the out-group, and it requires effort of some kind to overcome this.

Interestingly enough this also means that given enough time (many generations) this trait might be out-evolved. But that is just a side note, since i assume you had shorter timeframes in mind.

As you stated yourself (and as is observable in many ways) people are the most hostile towards out-groups they never or hardly had contact with. This can be seen for example in switzerland, where anti-islamic referendums were accepted the stronger, the less contact the voters had with muslims, and rejected the strongest where muslims were part of everyday life.

Currently it can be oberved how this natural tendency to divide people into in-and outgroup can be exploited by those willing to play this ugly game. This requires a basic discontent already present in a sufficient part of the population, which can then be presented with a scapegoat. Add some media coverage and you get live history lessons about the beginning of the 3rd reich.

So, how do we overcome this: Since it seems unfeasible to have the entire world population travel a lot so they learn that foreign people are basically just like themselves, You need a different approach.

You could, as you stated, remove the reasons for the basic discontent i noticed above. This could actually be achieved, but it will be no small feat. Yet i think it would be a necessary step towards your goal.

It would not suffice, though, i fear, because of another trait of human nature, which is greed. There will always be people who will attempt to play one part of the masses against the other part, to gain money, or power, or both.

So you also need good education for everybody, to empower the masses to understand this game. In turn this might help reducing the money some news networks make by playing along with this game.

Admittedly, making 7.2 billion people stop responding to clickbait and start sceptical thinking is quite a task, but again, if you want your solution to be sustainable, i doubt it can be sidestepped.

By the way: a common enemy might actually appear to achieve the same goal. But it has been discussed that racism in europe (both eastern and western) has been kept at bay during iron curtain times by directing it towards the respective other side, where it did not cause much harm (at least not visibly), and that the removal of the common enemy let it loose again. While i have no means of verifying this claim, it seems good enough to consider its viability.
So, no the common enemy will not solve the problem, it will only mask it.

I'm not sure i overlooked anything important, but i think that at least the points i described are integral parts of a potential solution.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ to be clear prejudice and stereotyping is instinctual, doing both based on "race" is not. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Valuable point, @John. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 16:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ More specifically, there's a built-in brain function for classifying as in/outgroup. One experiment found that the effect ascribed to "racism" could be redirected by putting people of different skin colors in Yankees and Red Sox caps. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 16:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @chrylis: And then people like me lump both into the outgroup "sports fans" :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ "Admittedly, making 7.2 billion people stop responding to clickbait and start sceptical thinking is quite a task, but again, if you want your solution to be sustainable, i doubt it can be sidestepped." wow and just think, clickbait was only invented like 3-7 years ago. I hope some other threat doesn't arise in the next 3-7 years! $\endgroup$
    – djechlin
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 21:13

To break a population out of a tribal way of viewing others in that population you need to somehow create shared experiences that are common across that population and a shared identity that overrides the differences between different groups. Since much of this tribal identity is formed in childhood, your efforts to overcome inter-tribal suspicion and hostility must focus on children and youth. This makes a public education system the most logical tool to implement the changes you are talking about. Ideally one would remove the children from the environment where they are being imprinted with tribal prejudices and fears and place them in a controlled environment in which they can safely interact as equals with others in their age group from a mix of tribal backgrounds.

How could something like this be done in practice? I am thinking compulsory secondary school education at a system of boarding schools in which students are assigned to schools essentially by lottery. The school assignment would not be entirely random as you would not want to send any two children from the same primary school to the same secondary academy in order to minimize reinforcement of cultural baggage they may bring from their home neighborhoods. If we are trying to build a unified global culture, then the system of schools would of course need to be global as well, with the children's school assignments being anywhere within the system. Such a global system would mean that students of many different language backgrounds would be studying together, and this would offer challenges for the children and the school faculty, but studies show that multilingual education offers distinct advantages for student development.

I visualize these boarding schools as being quite large, much like large universities, though with secure access to offer safety to the younger students. As the students, particularly the younger ones, will need adult mentors and parent surrogates, the staff and faculty of the schools will also reside on campus to provide adult support and guidance. All adults on the campus would be expected to be accessible to the students. For example, campus groundskeepers would be required to be agriculture/biology specialists who could also mentor students interested in those subjects, while food service staff would be required to be culinary arts specialists who would be willing and able to support any students' interests in various food preparation arts and technologies. I expect the total student to teacher/mentor ratio to be as low as 3/1 or even 2/1. The total population of these academies would likely be between twenty thousand and forty thousand, making them like small cities.

Popular culture would be blocked from the campuses and there would be no televisions on campus. This may be difficult for the students at first, but it is essential to prevent transmission of stereotypes and reinforcement of tribal prejudices and behaviors. The children would be kept busy with structured activities, though, so they will be unlikely to have much time to lament the loss.

While the schools will provide classical education, the "structured activities" mentioned above will be the key to building shared identities among the students. From the very first day when students are given their residence hall and room assignments, tasks will be assigned to them that require teamwork within a specific group. For example, the dormitory rooms assigned to incoming first year students could all be in the same condition that they were left in by the previous students and the new students have to clean and paint the room. The new roommates have to work out between themselves how to divide the labor and what colors to paint the room and decide what furniture in the room needs to be repaired or replaced. Since their rooms are now covered in wet paint they must camp out on the athletic fields for the night before they can move in, which necessitates working out with their new roommates how to set up the tent and other camping out details. Shared unusual experiences and minor hardships like this will cause the roommates to bond into a team that has a degree of trust in one another. Moreover, as the students mature as people, they realize that all of their upperclassmen, and indeed all of the first year students in all of the academies across the entire system have been through the same experiences, which creates bonds between all graduates of the school system.

These activities will be structured to first build bonds between roommates, then perhaps between all of the students on each floor of each residence hall, then between all of the students in each residence hall, and so on, encouraging the students to identify with an ever-growing group so that by the time they are upperclassmen the entire population of the school itself becomes their group; their family; their identity.

A number of the activities should be very difficult, such that the teams can feel a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the activity despite having blisters, scrapes, and bruises and being exhausted to the end of their endurance. These activities can mix entertainment and education with the culture-building. Things like inter-dormitory capture-the-flag wars could build solidarity at the residence hall level, while group wilderness orienteering/survival excursions could build group cohesion at other group sizes. What is vitally important about these activities is that they are all the same at all of the schools, particularly the more challenging or otherwise memorable ones. This way when any graduate of any school meets another graduate from any other school, they both know that each went through a similar grueling survival trek, and each experienced a similar awesome campus-wide autumn culture festival, and each experienced a similar exhausting and bewildering first day at school, etc.. In other words, there is already a lot they will have in common regardless of their native language or skin tone. There might be some residual inter-school rivalry, but that rivalry will be tempered by the certain knowledge that they are more alike than different.


I'd say this is about Ego. People like to feel good about themselves and it is far easier to subject 'others' to a negative stereotype, thereby making 'us' look superior, than it is to actually be better ourselves. I believe that everyone is generally good to their own be it their family, friends etc. Modern thought is far more planet wide than it has ever been in recorded history and, as Kys mentioned about the internet, we are definitely becoming better at a generally positive treatment of unknown 'others' because the feedback we get from our behaviour is so public and open to criticism. It is nice to be included and in most cases to be included we have to be nice. We are all becoming our own.

That said, we may also be becoming overly sensitive and reactionary. Weak against negative feedback rather than capable of learning from it. Easily demoralised. Basically, becoming a bunch of crybaby pansies who keel over and die when the first alien race turns up laughing at our feeble whining when they take over the world would be a terrible end to the human race. We do need adversity just as much as we need cooperation and the internet definitely provides a lot of different perspectives on how best to go about dealing with others. insults can be hilarious eh?

This isn't just what should happen, it is happening.

  • $\begingroup$ So What reason could change people's mentality to treat each other as members of one kind? I think you wrote a comment or some kind of aside, not an Answer. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I answered "And the question is What should happen to change human's way of thinking?" rather than the title. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ So what should happen? Your post is not clear. I went over it carefully, one sentence at a time. Where do you say anything resembling “xx is what needs to happen”? People do xxx. People are becoming yyy. It's nice. Second para seems to be just commentary. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 4:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I added Just one word. Just for you and Just because I remember your Alien Music question and enjoyed reading through it. Admittedly it is Just a little clearer now. Can you tell me what word I added? $\endgroup$
    – Ryan
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ You inserted two words: “with” and “just”. Try the Puzzling SE if you enjoy riddles. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 5:42


"Us vs. Them" is deeply embedded in the human psyche. We ally with some people to beat up on other people. That is how it has been since before we were chimps. Let me call it "tribalism" for short.

Getting over that is not going to be easy, but I am optimistic.


What is needed is education. We need people to recognize tribalism when it happens. Recognize it in themselves and recognize it in others.

We need a culture that understands that tribalism is destructive and therefore wrong.

However, we need to avoid making it a fight between tribalists and non-tribalists, because that is just another Us vs. Them conflict we don't need.

Politician likes to provoke tribalism since that makes people easy to control, and also makes people willing to give power to their leader. Politicians like power.

We need a population that recognizes it when they are being manipulated. We need a population that won't vote for manipulators.

I am an optimist, I think we can get there.

Other enemies

Being invaded by aliens would indeed make humans unite. But that wouldn't solve the problem, only move it up one level. There would still be war.

Instead, I hope we can reach a state where it is "Us vs. the Universe". And if we meet any aliens, they can be our allies in that fight.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Training all the humanity to override their wetware is more expensive than simply killing them. Sure, we can theoretically get there, but even reducing humanity to size of less-than-150 specimen seems more likely (and also fits the bill). $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 13:09

"There is too few humans, we should stay together to survive"

My idea is that a mayor disaster would kill most humans, or a virus that kills people with some very common gene or that at least prevent them from having kids.

With just a few humans remaining (ten thousand? genetic pool plays a role here), and supposing that food, fresh water, and lands are still available, a sense of "not letting humanity to disappear" (instead of "I must survive") may bring people together.

Cultural/Religious/Political differences won't be too important since there is almost no culture/religion/politic (too few people in each part) and there are more important things to think and do, like farming, protecting your selves from savage animals or deceases.


This is a famously difficult question to answer. It would not be an understatement that religions have been founded on answers to this question. I do not expect to be able to provide a direct answer to "What should happen to change human's way of thinking." However, I may be able to provide a circular one.

It is possible to divide religions into two categories based around the existence of a final battle. Some religions, such as Christianity or the Norse religions, believe there will be a final battle, the likes of which has never been seen before. In this battle, differences between individuals are "set right," by whatever definition of "right" the religion prefers. Other religions, such as Buddhism and Daoism, preach that there is no divide, that all is the same in the end. In these religions, we see a direct focus on the question you ask. There is a need for "harmony" in these religions, and they seek it directly. In those which have a final battle, there is no such need, for the final battle draws the final lines in the sand between "us" and "them." But even in such dividing religions, we still see concepts of unity along the lines you seek. In Christianity, imagery of Jesus teaching us how to get along, even with those who may persecute us, are juxtaposed with an Armageddon showing how God will make all right in the end. It is truly a nuanced concept indeed!

Just looking at the different religious approaches to the topic is enough to point out a key reality: differences exist. Even though there is commonality between the different viewpoints, there are also differences which are not trivial. These differences have been enough to spawn wars. Violent, atrocious wars. And in those wars, we often see the paradox of this goal: In order to accept others as "us" rather than "them," we are obliged to accept that they may not share that same desire for acceptance. And if they harbor contrary desires to "ours," and they are "us," then "we" must recognize that "we" harbor contrary desires as well. Any answer to this question must address this fundamental dissonance.

We can see what happens if it is not addressed. Countless villains from across the centuries can be tied together by a common mindset: "once everyone sees things from my point of view, there will be peace." Those who hare familiar with history can point to countless dictators who won over countries with that argument. Those who are familiar with religion can tell you how much blood is shed in the name of that argument. Those who prefer the softer lens of fiction should recognize the echos of Darth Lord Sideous in that phrasing.

We see this paradox surge forward in the infamous golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." In such a form, it inspires an assumption of sameness, but it does not capture the acceptance of differences very well. It has been suggested that a more powerful phrasing of this should be used, called the platinum rule: "Do unto others as they would have done unto them." However, when dealing with "them," this rule becomes impotent. How can you act upon others according to the platinum rule when you cannot understand them? Even in this more subtle, nuanced phrasing, the issue remains.

And so, the final answer remains solidly wedged between these paradoxical stances. To have sameness, you must embrace difference. To reconcile differences, you must see the sameness.

So perhaps the answer is circular as well. Perhaps the answer is not a concrete path, showing what must change in humanity, but rather a question in its own right. Perhaps that question spurs us forth to harmony. Perhaps that question drives us to become better.

Perhaps that question is simply, "What should happen to change human's way of thinking?"

Peace to you all.


There is a novel called "Factoring humanity" (Robert J. Sawyer) which offers a interesting solution that I'll try to expose here without too many spoilers:

Imagine you are a 2 dimensional being, like a dot in a plane. You can interact with other dots with more less empathy, like any human being treats another human being.

Suddenly, you discover that you live in a world with three dimensions, and you are not just a dot, but a segment. And all dots are also segments,that are part of the same entity, like bristles are part of a brush. While being in a 2 dimension world you could only see the dots created where that brush's bristles were cut by the same plane.

So Humanity is a 4-dimensional entity that does not now what empathy really means because it has been always alone. And then, when another entity appears (an alien race) the realization happens: we are one and there are others, so Humanity needs to learn what empathy means in a deeper way. So, from one day to another, wars stop, crimes don't happen, all kind of grudges between humans dissaper because we can feel other's feelings and our empathy does not vanish with distance (there are no them, there are "us" all around the world)

In this short novel aliens teach humans how to "move" in this 4th dimension to ensure we are united and in peace when doing a "first contact".


i think that the answer is very simple: disasters. when something really bad happens worldwide, it doesn't matter where you come from or what are your ideal, as long as we help each other, you are as human as me.

My point is that when trying to survive there is no time for racism or anything similar.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are situations where resources are limited though and strangers around you are competitors who diminsh survival opportunities for you and your loved ones by mere act of existing. Letting women and children to board lifeboats first doesn't prohibit locking away people on lower-class decks. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 13:21

I don't believe most of the answers are actually tackling the question; which appears to be: how can you make people see each other as people, not just pretend they respect them. Furthermore, specifically, are these three ideas about that realistic?

A popular response so far has been just throw a common enemy in the mix. In war you pretend that you and your ally get along, while really you plot how to dispose of them after you've dealt with the common threat. But this doesn't explain most of human history. From the fall of the Ottoman empire many in the Arab world had a vision of a future where the Arab nations would unite, and form their own USA. Even though they had a common enemy (Israel/America) this never happened, because in the end the common enemy did not make them see each other differently.

Indeed we have many more examples like this from history. During the Spanish Civil War the communists backed by the USSR turned on their anarchist comrades mid-fight, and started murdering them instead of the nationalist enemy. And the allies during the Second World War didn't become best friends forever as a result of their common Nazi enemy. In fact even before the war was over Chuchill was drawing up plans for Operation Unthinkable, to paradrop soldiers into Moscow and kill Stalin in order to win the next war before the last was even over.

There's an even more interesting contrary example, where war made absolutely no difference to who your friends were. During the Persian invasion of Greece, Persia's relatively small ethnic Persian army was supplemented by a large number of mercenaries from all over the place, and the Persian nobility actually preferred Greek bodyguards, even during the war. After the invasion failed they figured they'd not push the issue... but then were so impressed they asked if they could hire Greek soldiers, and they did. Much like how Britain's failure to conquer Nepal led to the creation of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, and Britain guaranteeing Nepal's independence. So it seems more likely that actually, you'll become friends with your enemy than ally. Reality is stranger than fiction!

There are however ways to make people see each other in more favourable terms. It is false to say humans can't see each other more sympathetically because of biology. In that case we'd all still be living in primitive and small tribes.

But we've got better at seeing foreigners as human in recent times, after something of an embarassment of the last few centuries. Trade is an important factor in this explosion of empathy and tolerance. We've become richer, and thus more able to travel and explore, and the more people we meet the more we realise they're just like us, and the greater globalisation, the more we depend on and value the skills and contributions of those different to us.

Consider America. The revolutionary war wasn't because the colonists hated Britain, but because they really wanted to try something new. And in the early days the only real Americans of course were white protestant males. Now almost all white protestants view white Catholics as quintessentially Americans too, that isn't a thought which crosses most people's minds; that back then catholics weren't considered proper. And now many other groups are also thought of by most people as being fully American, collective empathy has increased as immigration, integration, trade, wealth, and education have increased.

Many ideas have been created to attempt to unite people. Kings united tribes under feudalism, and Nations united kingdoms under Nationalism. Missionary religions tend to be inclusive as they're always seeking new members. Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism don't care much for anything besides the loyalty of their congregation. If you're in the club, they love you. They are united by their love of something... much like death metal fans.

Indeed we have examples where people have had this experience, one of the most noteworthy being Malcolm X's revelations during his Hajj in Mecca. Beforehand he had spent most of his time with the Nation of Islam, which was a racist and odd sect of Islam unique to America's black community. He had believed that whites and blacks couldn't get along, and that whites were all evil. But then:

During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) -- while praying to the same God -- with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the "white" Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana. We were truly all the same (brothers) -- because their belief in one God had removed the "white" from their minds, the 'white' from their behavior, and the 'white' from their attitude. I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man -- and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their "differences" in color.

Other ideologies, like anarchism, socialism and communism, also sought to unite the people of the world and for them to think of each other as comrades. It should then be little surprise that it was not long after the fall of communism in Yugoslavia, that ultra nationalists emerged and began butchering each other - they no longer had reason to believe what they had been told, that people were fundamentally equal.

Of course, the factors which can be used to unite people can also be used to divide people. But that's true of every tool, people can use it for good and evil.

IN CONCLUSION: Common enemies don't often help with empathy, trade often does through exposure, and people aren't inalienably bigoted because humanity has got a lot more interconnected and empathic in recent decades. And yes, when people have babies with their former enemies it kind of makes them start to have empathy too. Incidentally that's the oldest alliance making strategy: I'll let your son marry my daughter if my son can marry your daughter, and then I'll stop stealing your cows and plotting to murder you. The best strategy for promoting empathy is encouraging education, trade, and interaction. Bedroom diplomacy isn't a bad idea either.


Lots of answers look at the question from a scientific perspective, which is obviously very useful. However, my answer looks at the issue from a different (Buddhist) perspective.

Believing we have something in common (nationality, creed, sports team, whatever) to a particular person or group of individuals often helps us relate to that person/group and see them as "us" instead of "them." Tibetan Buddhist teachings state that "all beings are just like me" in the sense that they also seek happiness (whether or not they are aware of it) and freedom from suffering. That helps us to extend the "group" of people to whom we relate to and eventually include all human beings. That's called "equanimity", and there are specific meditation practices to train the mind in this way. There are also meditation practices used for developing compassion and loving-kindness (towards everyone). These are secular values; you don't have to be a Buddhist to cultivate them.

Genetics and environmental variables (e.g., how one is raised) play a large part in determining how someone views the world and other people, but recent studies on neuroplasticity show that by training the mind we can actually change our brains. So it's possible to change one's world view for the better by training the mind, and I know a lot of people who did it. However, it's like going to the gym or getting good at a new sport, you need to train frequently and consistently to get results.

Now, going deeper into the spiritual/religious ground, Tibetan Buddhists believe in rebirth (similar to reincarnation), and according to the teachings, all of us had uncountable previous lives. Odds are most other people (regardless of nationality, race, sex or creed) were our mothers, fathers, brothers, partners or good friends in one of those many previous lifetimes. Even though science has no solid proof of life after death (yet), I choose to believe it, and that belief helps me to look at people from a kinder and more compassionate perspective.

There is a book called "Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World" by a French Buddhist monk called Matthieu Ricard which goes into this subject in great detail. Also, lots of good books written by the Dalai Lama.

Kind regards


Many others have covered this ground, but here's another take on it. You're combating behavior that is supported by a foundation of very old, very obsolete and yet very powerful instincts: the need to identify with a group ("This is my family, clan, village, etc"), the need to seek out differences in other people ("Are 'they' part of my family, clan, village, etc?") and mentally group them, distrust of the "other" ("'They' are competing with or are a threat to my family, clan, village, etc!") and finally egocentricity (not an instinct, but a primordial way of thinking). All of this instinctual wiring manifests itself as emotional response. That, combined with the reality that humans are only partially rational (we tend to feel first and think second) helps explain the behavior that your question addresses. And the predilection towards this type of thinking is strong! If I could magically make everyone a uniform shade of grey at the same height and proportions (not clones, mind you), other subtle differences would be sought out and categorized, judged and stigmatized; distance between the eyes, shape of chin, something about teeth, you get the idea. It sadly does not matter how homogeneous a group seems to be on the outside. Within the group, seemingly pointless and irrational biases will exist and exert influence.

Acknowledging the instinctual basis of prejudice and bias does not in any way absolve or excuse people from practicing prejudice and bias. It merely highlights the struggle - and collusion - between the primitive instinctual mind and rational mind. Collusion you ask? Yes indeed. Ask anyone about their pet prejudice and you'll get all kinds justifications for it. And the justifications often sounds convincing until you see that the majority of it, if not all, is just specious rationalization of an otherwise emotional response.

The "Vulcan Way" doesn't work either. All that amounts to is extreme repression, and few things drive people more strongly than repressed emotions - and usually not in a good way.

It is possible to "think your way" around or over these instinctual/emotional hurdles ("My dislike of and unease around [fill in the blank] people is unjustified and unfair") but it requires a long commitment of conscious mental effort to train the mind to intercept and ignore its irrational instinctual warnings at the onset. As you no doubt see, most people aren't willing to put in the effort.

It's true that a common enemy will briefly unite different groups under the banner of a much larger group, but even in that scenario, you still have the old "our group vs their group" instinctual response being harnessed. Here these instincts take on the guise of “human solidarity” (against Martians say), "patriotism" or "true believer" depending on the context of the conflict. But even here you find irrational group judgements: "I'm Army and we're much better than those Navy pukes over there!"

If you really want to change the way people think, you need to look away from an external solution like education, etc. - which helps but does not solve - and turn to an internal solution, and a bit of a radical one. If the citizens of your world are plagued by obsolete instincts, perhaps their level of technology is sufficient that they can "reprogram" themselves - remove the obsolete code so to speak. But they have to be careful. Those same instincts form part of the foundation of love, kindness and other emotions that we treasure. Proceed with extreme caution!

A far less radical approach might be to envision an evolutionary scenario where competition for resources was never a factor. Here, you're not so much changing and established course as starting from a different place.


There are mainly 4 things (that i can identify) that unite and depending on how the events are played divide people. This can be corroborated through history.

  1. A big threat of some kind

When i say big i say apotheosic, preferably of sentient origin as plagues and apocalipsis usually divide more than they unite.

  1. A leader

Most complex lifeforms on Earth that lives in packs have evolved to have hierarchy, that applies to us. This can be seen in history when a very charismatic leader appears and rallies countries, groups and do incredible acts.

Acts of supreme courage are achive thanks to the motivation that these leaders insipire on his peopple am talkin about moral as in the moral of an army is high.

Just to name some of these leaders: Hittler, Joan of Arc, Lincoln, Cesar, Leonidas and many others. Though even all the leaders that have lived have'nt managed to unite humanity so only someone with superlative carisma and abilities (he would have to stay alive despite all the enemies and posibly his own people trying to kill him) would be able to achieve this.

  1. Religion

Religion is the big uniter and divider. Apparently it fills some hole inside human kind. When people find themselves under the same religion they usually forget all of their piers's differences.

In the crusades old enemies like France, England and Spain united against the enemies of the faith.

  1. Ambition

Ambition is inherent to all humans, the need for more. Enemies can unite to achieve common goals even if only to destroy themselves at the end.


Change of Consciousness through Ontological Endcation

enter image description here

To transcend this animalistic mentality, one must bring himself up to general understanding of all man as human beings. To reach this platform of understanding, one needs to uplift his consciousness by going through ontological education.

People are not equal. We see some people to be more intelligent than others. However, all men can be seen without boundaries as one humanity. So we see oneness of humanity with all diversities existing simultaneously.

It is impossible to change someone's consciousness to higher by an external force. Any upliftment of conciseness is done out of one's good will for self improvement. So how to change consciousness? By changing your ontology.

You change thoughts by gaining new knowledge. Your knowledge of the world determines the scope of your thinking. Any how do you gain new knowledge? By going through new experiences. So to clear off all artificial boundaries between men, one of the necessities is extensive association with all kinds of different human beings.

Another quality of such human being is equal positive disposition towards all men. Real humanitarian cultivates goodness for all human beings. That's why he thinks in such way. This is how he sees all human beings as belonging to one humanity.


Enough old people need to die

People are not inherently racist. The only cause of "us versus them" is tribalism taught by older people, and this only works if there's a lack of direct communication to challenge what younger people are taught.

The internet is a profound leveller here. Youth culture is surprisingly resilient across continents where communication exists. The reason totalitarian states try to crack down on internet access and broadcasts from the outside world is precisely because of this communication - if young people see that what they're being taught is wrong and/or immoral, they'll fight against it.

While young people are young, they have little influence. Eventually though they'll become the leaders setting the agenda for the country. Some of them will have been indoctrinated into their parents' tribalism, but a fair number will have picked up a better code of morals. Over time, communication is winning.

It won't happen immediately, and it may take generations, but it's happening already. Vloggers in Syrian and Iran probably have more in common with vloggers from the US than they do with their political leaders.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ > The only cause of "us versus them" is tribalism taught by older people This is false, humans manage to make new tribes just fine. Sportsball teams? Marvel vs DC? Ideological stuff? Also, even if Syrian vloggers did predominately cater to Western views, that would probably have more to do with platform's content policy, rather than their views. Saying that Internet levels opinion-field is somewhat like saying like Jihad levels opinion-field. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Daerdemandt Marvel vs DC? Not something anyone goes to war over. Sports teams? The ones where "fans" become hooligans absolutely have learnt that behaviour from older hooligans. And all ideologies are learnt from older people. Sometimes younger people latch onto older people who are lousy examples, sure, but without exception those older people indoctrinate them to stop looking outside for a reality-check. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Daerdemandt Oh, and I'm not saying that it levels the opinion field, I'm saying that it establishes moderate alternative opinions as equally valid within a shared morality. This is the exact opposite of Jihad. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ Moderate alternative opinions within a shared morality are allowed after (and with) Jihad too. The morality is a tad different though. Also, I interpreted your answer as speaking of older generation. Ideology can spread through peers just fine. True, if we keep killing people from older to younger somewhere down the line there wouldn't be any communities left so no tribalism. Other than that, communities will still exist and so will tribalism. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ It's always fascinating how people don't see their own tribalism. "...old people need to die" This, too, is tribalism - setting the young against the old. Tribalism is old people's fault? Wait a few years, then you'll hear (some) young people saying you're the old person who is the source of the problems in the world. $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 19:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .