Okay. Nota bene: The “WE” in question has just one “e.” This is an important distinction, because in this case, size really does matter. The rest of this wee essay will explain why...
The smallest possible WE consists of that often unholy trinity—me, myself, and I. And as you may remember from the story of Jesus’ cure of the naked man possessed by thousands of demons who called themselves Legion (Mark 5:1-20), the absence of a true self may make space for occupation by a myriad of unclean ones. Or by narcissism.
Recently I wrote a blog about which flag an individual flies. I’m reiterating that same question here in different metaphorical terms. As I stated there, our personal circle of self-identity may extend from self to one’s family; circle of friends; kindship group; professional colleagues; school or college classmates; fellow villagers; members of the same religious congregation; inhabitants of the same state; members of the same political party or ideology; believers in the same faith; citizens of the same country; speakers of the same language or dialect; and/or fellow human beings. I’ve doubtless missed a few categories, but you get the idea: we talking here about increasingly wide circles of kinship.
The smaller the WE, the bigger the THEY. And vice-versa. Paranoia frequently occurs when an individual feels they belong to a lamentably small we over against a large, powerful, and probably unfriendly THEY. We generally conceive of aliens from another world as not only frightening-looking but also as sinister. Worst of all, they are generally thought to be incredibly smart and have knowledge, powers, and weapons that far exceed anything we have. Now, this response is sometimes based on reality, as when an African American driver, especially a young male, is stopped by a white male patrolman. The latter is armed, typically burly, and likely to suspect that something is amiss, even if nothing is. Say the officer is female, the power differential is still stacked in her favor, not the driver’s. Bad things don’t always happen, but often enough they do.
My spiritual guide, the late Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (d. 1987), taught that the inclusiveness of our we, our “family,” depended on the development of our soul. The lower its development, the smaller our we and the larger our they. If someone had a true human soul, for example, my guru thought that person would include all fellow humans as part of their kinship group. If one had an even higher level of spiritual development, they would, like St. Francis, consider all sentient beings their family. Of course, when indigenous North Americans pass the pipe and say “All my relations,” they go even further to include stones, plants, trees, insects, and animals. With inclusiveness like that, living respectfully on and with Mother Earth is inevitable. And so, dear reader (and writer of this blog), how large and inclusive is our WE. The world’s future may depend on our answer.