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The Narcissism of the Small Difference - Comments

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 1 by Bernard Hurley

"It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them."

This is not always the case as various forms of racism show. I think we are more likely to come into conflict with people we compete with for resources. More often than not that means people we live near. Very often the differences are small, but if a group can get some sort of advantage by playing on those differences, often they will. It is very unlikely we will ever hear of any conflict between the Uigirs and the Maoris but this is not because of how their customs and looks differ, but merely because they live in totally different parts of the globe.

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 03:28:04 UTC | #485338

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 2 by MAJORPAIN

Mr. Hurley, I think that is the point Mr. Hitchens is trying to make. When we live right next to each other and compete for everything we make the most out of the tiny differences that exist and exploit them instead of acknowledging that we're all in this together and should work together instead of compete.

That is how I understood it anyway. Of course different tribes from different parts of the globe aren't generally going to take issue with each other, at least until some of them move in next door and start making babies with "our" women folk.

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 03:40:23 UTC | #485339

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 3 by prolibertas

"Since we left Africa, we have diverged as a species hardly at all. If we were dogs, we would all be the same breed. We do not suffer from the enormous differences that separate other primates, let alone other mammals. As if to spite this huge natural gift, and to disfigure what could be our overwhelming solidarity, we manage to find excuses for chauvinism and racism on the most minor of occasions and then to make the most of them. This is why condemnation of bigotry and superstition is not just a moral question but a matter of survival".

This is the sort of quote that could be repeated a lot. Beautiful.

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 03:51:56 UTC | #485343

Wuht2Ask's Avatar Comment 4 by Wuht2Ask

Comment Removed by Author

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 06:37:15 UTC | #485367

besleybean's Avatar Comment 5 by besleybean

Another excellent article from Christopher. I am never in an intellectual position to criticise him. But under the current circumstances, I personally couldn't bring myself to.

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 06:41:37 UTC | #485368

jel's Avatar Comment 6 by jel

This is why, whenever I am asked, in a census, on an application form, whatever, what race I am, I always tick the "other" box and write in the comments section, "human".

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 10:46:48 UTC | #485418

Roger J. Stanyard's Avatar Comment 7 by Roger J. Stanyard

by Wuht2Ask says "However, millions have not left Africa and we have diverged substantially. We are animals of one species but not of one breed. These facts specifically cause many to suffer differently as medical texts delineate."

That's just plain wrong and stupid. Africans are not a seperate "breed". Breeds are a product of articial selection and Africans (and others) have not been produced by that. Yep, there are those who have proposed such slective breeding - eugenics is a form of it - but it's not been practised on any significant scale. There is at least one huge difference between natutal slection and artificial selection - the latter basically reduces the quality of the gene pool. Are you saying that Africans have inferior genes?

The genetic differences bwteen Africans and, say, white opeople, is miniscule, far lower that the genetic differencs bwteen idividuals in any one "race". Moreover, the gene pool amongst Africans is more diverse that amongst "whites", further providing evidence that they are not a sperate "breed".

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 12:24:49 UTC | #485441

Roger J. Stanyard's Avatar Comment 8 by Roger J. Stanyard

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS says "In ethno-national conflicts, it really is the little things that tick people off." Methinks Mr Hitchens doesn't understand what "deep ancient enmities" are. They are exceedingly easy to politically exploit even when hidden for years or generations. People see advantage in doing so. No society is exempt from them and they are not all to do with religion. Like it or not there remain ancient enmities between whites and blacks in the USA (and native Americans and whites as well). Most people in Europe have, somewhere deep in their pysche, fear of Germany.

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 12:37:32 UTC | #485445

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 9 by Stafford Gordon

I served in the army in Cyprus and subsequently did a television drama series about the North of Ireland; I recognized this trait in the two communities on both ocassions.


Thu, 01 Jul 2010 16:55:31 UTC | #485514

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 10 by bamafreethinker

Couldn't it be this type of thinking that created the human race through sexual selection? How else, but through sexual selection, could we have lost our body hair so thoroughly? Why is excessive body hair unattractive to most people? Is is because it makes us look more "animal" like? Why is a flat, monkey-butt a turn-off? Do you prefer long, slender legs, or short, stubby, bow-legs? It seems that the less we look like a monkey, the more sexually attractive we are - coincidence?

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 17:25:30 UTC | #485520

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 11 by Dr. Strangegod

According to my New York friends, all people from New Jersey suck. In Indiana, I grew up being taught about how inferior residents of Ohio were. It's all so stupid.

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:12:57 UTC | #485546

MickeyDroy's Avatar Comment 12 by MickeyDroy

Hichens has been to N Ireland - so surely he knows that it has always been an economic and power war there, nothing to do with religion. He hints, with out saying it, that Religion is teh main cause in this things - something which is nonsense - the underlying fault lines strengthen the religious differences, not the other way around.

He is smart enough to avoid saying something palpably false, but nasty enough to let people think he has said it. Shame on him.

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 20:51:49 UTC | #485588

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 13 by Steven Mading

MickeyDroy - shame on you for deliberately ignoring the fact that the entire reason for there being two different groups in the first place that don't intermingle their populations is religion. A fact that makes it so that any disagreement between those two groups is religion's fault regardless of what the disagreement is over. It's religion's fault that there even ARE two groups that haven't merged into one yet. Religion is the reason Northern Ireland hasn't had a melting-pot effect occur. For there to even BE economic disparity between catholics and protestants requires first of all that "Catholics" and "Protestants" be properties that cause people to be divided into two categories in the first place. Without religion it wouldn't be "us versus them" - it would be "some of us versus others of us".

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 22:00:26 UTC | #485597

besleybean's Avatar Comment 14 by besleybean

Mickey, as Christopher is a British citizen, I assure you he is fully aware of all the issues surrounding the Emerald isle.

Fri, 02 Jul 2010 07:35:57 UTC | #485691

quarecuss's Avatar Comment 15 by quarecuss

@Steven Mading.

You got it! You only have to look at education in N. Ireland to see where the "difference" is carefully nurtured.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 01:08:38 UTC | #486117

quarecuss's Avatar Comment 16 by quarecuss

Here's a comment from a cousin (a Kelly Catholic) of mine in Northern Ireland on the Irish paragraph in this narcissim article ...

"Hope he does well, [in his chemo] but that's balls, balls and absolute balls.
We Norn Irn Kellys are fucking clan McDonald, for Christ's sake! As far as the Scots and Gaels are concerned we are in other and through other like a dose of salts. Visible differences, if any, are much more related to posture, dress and facial expression - all culturally rather than genetically determined. And I would guess that the 'instinct' related much more to accent than to appearance."

Christopher Hitchens gets more Irish people worked up than anyone else! He must be doing something right, but my cousin is right too. In his Belfast days Hitch did NOT see differences in appearance between Catholic and Protestant but subtle body language, accent, speech pattern differences, all cultural and attitudinal differences to which Northern Irish observers of their neighbours are finely attuned, unlike an English-born drinking tourist/journalist like Christopher!

Best of luck with the chemo, Mr Hitchens.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 13:45:57 UTC | #486201

besleybean's Avatar Comment 17 by besleybean

Yes, wonder how he's getting on with it? My sister was so ill with the chemo, they could not even give her the full course. Yet her friend, who had the same treatment, was perfectly fine with it. I guess it doesn't matter how bad he is with it, as long ad it does some good. Christopher appears to be still giving interviews, at the moment.

Mon, 12 Jul 2010 07:47:09 UTC | #488111

gatotk4c4's Avatar Comment 18 by gatotk4c4

I think Hitch raised an important - or at least very intriguing issue here -- that it is not major differences (which conveniently, does not really exist anyway) that annoys homo sapiens most, rather small differences (implicitly among mostly similar people) creates a very large / overly cruel reactions.

Now, after we digest this nugget with the ample servings of tutsi-hutus serb-croat and turks, how do we read the origin of castes in India? Or the very strong concepts of "us vs them" in Chinese (Japanese, Korean, most Asian) cultures?. Note that most of these culturally induced (not-quite politically correct) classifications are based on physical differences.

We disdain those who are similar "but different" most likely in an effort of upmanship, but how about total strangers with clear cut physical differences ('round-eyes', 'white-devils')? Outsiders to the brahmans, to the Hans? One Chinese word for those outsiders actually is the same word for 'undead' (demi-ghost or para-devil, basically non-human human-like beings).

Well, like I said the paper is intriguing ...

Tue, 03 Aug 2010 15:29:15 UTC | #495429