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Michael Jackson

They

They are killers, They are thieves. They are exploiters. They are lazy.  They are stupid.  They are incapable of democracy.  They are ignorant.  They are uncivilized.

Who are “they”?

They are Americans, British, Arabs, Jews, Israelis, Palestinians, billionaires, communists, feudal monarchs, blacks, whites, Chinese, gypsies, Rohingya, ethnic minorities, Tutsis, Hutus, Muslims, Croats, and many more.

One thing is certain.  They are not we.  We are not they.  For the sake of consistency, I shall subsequently use the ungrammatical “they” for “them” and “we for “us”.

When one of they does a bad deed, it exemplifies the whole group.  When one of we does a bad deed it is atypical, it is a bad apple.  For example, among American Jews (one of my “we” groups), Madoff, the Sacklers, and Sam Bankman-Fried were bad apples.  American Jews think that these thieves do not represent the whole community.  For most West Bank settlers, Boruch Goldstein, the hilltop youth, and pogromists do not represent their movement.  This demonization of they and hallowing of we is an instinctive emotional reaction.  Being human, this emotional reaction is rationalized by allegedly fact-based justification.

In times of war, as in the current Israel-Gaza war, such emotions reach a boiling point.  We are justified in our actions; they in their actions are inhumane and dehumanized.

These thoughts of mine are not original.  Rudyard Kipling expressed them in “We and They” written almost a century ago:

Father, Mother, and Me

Sister and Auntie say

All the people like us are We,

And every one else is They.

And They live over the sea,

While We live over the way,

But – would you believe it? – They look upon We

As only a sort of They !

 

We eat pork and beef

With cow-horn-handled knives.

They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,

Are horrified out of Their lives;

And They who live up a tree,

And feast on grubs and clay,

(Isn’t it scandalous?) look upon We

As a simply disgusting They!

 

We shoot birds with a gun.

They stick lions with spears.

Their full-dress is un-.

We dress up to Our ears.

They like Their friends for tea.

We like Our friends to stay;

And, after all that, They look upon We

As an utterly ignorant They!

 

We eat kitcheny food.

We have doors that latch.

They drink milk or blood,

Under an open thatch.

We have Doctors to fee.

They have Wizards to pay.

And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We

As a quite impossible They!

 

All good people agree,

And all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We

And every one else is They:

But if you cross over the sea,

Instead of over the way,

You may end by (think of it!) looking on We

As only a sort of They !

 

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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