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Humans love to form ghettos

February 15, 2008

With this outsider vs insider issue that’s being discussed so hotly by the media, by intellectuals and by the common man, it reminded me of the fact that human nature is such that we love to form groups and leave others out. It doesn’t matter what our nationality, race, religion or colour is, the truth is that human beings love to form ghettos.

It’s a myth to think that once people of one religion live together they won’t exclude others. It’s a myth to imagine that once people who speak the same language live together they will accept all. Another myth that people of the same class won’t from groups and so on. We all know this don’t we. But despite knowing this we rave and rant against those who don’t accept us.

I had written a post on a similar topic (titled It’s a human need to reject others) early last year, but it was in response to the suicide of Srikant Mallepallu, a bright young man who studied in IIT. This boy, being from a different background, could not fit into the IIT culture and as a result found it difficult to make friends. Ofcourse, why a person commits suicide is known only to himself, but the lack of acceptance amongst his peers was a factor that drove him to increasing loneliness and despair, it led him to find a sense of belonging in the virtual world, and finally it led him to his death.

That is the key here. A sense of belonging. Everyone needs to find it and it’s easier to get it when there are others to exclude! In that post I had explained that this basic human need, the need to find a sense of belonging, works best when ‘others’ exist.

Remember Abraham Maslow? He laid out an hierarchy of needs. Primary amongst them are our physiological needs. But what happens when all these needs are satisfied?


We seek a sense of safety and belonging. We need to belong to a group. The need to belong is just a little less important than our primary physiological needs! This need happens to be more important than the need to achieve. And the need to belong is intertwined in a twisted way with the need to reject. The more we reject, the more we belong to those we accept.

Actually Maslow’s next need – Self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others – is also closely tied to this need for rejection. A page 3 type of person (In India the page 3 set is the glamour set) will probably experience an enhanced self-esteem if he/she moves around in “exclusive” circles.

And what happens when our physiological needs are being blocked by those we consider ‘outsiders,’ like in the recent issue in Maharashtra? It’s a powder keg waiting to be lighted.

To say that human beings shouldn’t feel a particular way is futile, because we do. It’s easy to condemn those who reject you, but what about them? Wouldn’t you feel the same if you were in their shoes?

A quote from my other post:

Human beings find all kinds to reasons to reject others. Social status, background, language, accent, race, grades, looks, manner, religion, sexual preferences, dress, colour, weight, intelligence or simply because of the person is new in the neighbourhood…

I am guilty too. I firmly reject those whom I believe to be dishonest or hypocritical. I also reject those who have very narrow definitions of whom they accept. In fact I go a step further. I think my method of filtration is the best 😉

Related Reading: Suicide rates of the world and why people kill themselves
Some reasons for the high suicide rate in India
Some tips on how you can help people manage their depression and grief
Humans like forming ghettos
About Euthanasia – even if it’s illlegal people want it

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2008 11:45 am

    Nita, there’s one exception to your theory – so-called “objectivists” do not form any groups since they believe in the individual. 😉
    (I’m just taking a dig at rambodoc here – all in good jest) 🙂

  2. February 15, 2008 12:03 pm

    Nita: Interesting post, but I have had too little sleep to comment sensibly today. I may return.

    However, that Page 3 reference that you make means very different things in different countries. In the UK, the ‘privilege’ belongs to a redtop (tabloid) which owns the .com domain name and the website is “dedicated to the topless models who have been brightening our day for 35 years”. (I thought this is worth a mention since you have an international readership.)

  3. February 15, 2008 3:17 pm

    Amit, It was fun wasn’t it, taking digs at rdoc! sadly, he is scarcely to be seen of late! Do you think perhaps that we humble bloggers aren’t good enough for him? 🙂

    Shefaly, thanks for pointing that out. I have made the necessary correction. funny, what different things mean in different countries. 🙂

  4. February 15, 2008 3:25 pm

    how about no reason for ignoring or rejecting?

    loneliness can drive people to extremes…but that again is a part of being a human being…being a extrovert/introvert maybe a way out…depending on the situation

  5. February 15, 2008 3:41 pm

    Vishesh, If a person has no reason for rejecting a particular group or type of people, then I would think that person has problems of some sort. there has to be a reason surely.

  6. Raj permalink
    February 15, 2008 5:26 pm


    I agree with you.Birds of a feather always flock together ! It is because we humans are “pack animals” and not “solitary creatures”.

    Let us compare lions and tigers.(I would prefer this to dogs and cats,because not only are lions and tigers genetically closer than dogs and cats,but some persons may be offended if I compare humans to dogs and cats).Lions are “social animals” or “extroverts” and they move around in groups while tigers are generally “solitary creatures” or “introverts” and move around alone.There are advantages and disadvantages for both these big cats in the wild.

    Lions have the advantage of being in groups while tigers do not.Or we can also say that lions are cowards when compared to tigers because they do not believe in their own strength and instead believe in “strength in numbers”.But this does give them an advantage while stalking and hunting prey.Also the lion cubs have a better chance of survival because there are a few lionesses and one or two lions to protect them from any kind of danger.Compare this to the poor tigress who not only has to hunt for herself and her cubs but also single-handedly ensure that her cubs stay away from danger,sometimes even from their own fathers.This gives the tiger cubs a poorer chance of survival in the wild.

    But tigers have the advantage of living in an unstructured society,if we can call it that.There are no “packs” or “families” among tigers.Every tiger (or tigress) fends for himself (or herself).While this does result in a disadvantage for a tigress when she has cubs,at other times,she does not have to live under the control of any male.The poor lionesses on the other hand,always have to live under the domination of the chauvinistic,lazy male lions who not only do not help in hunting prey but also get the first (and the lion’s) share of the meal.Also since it is every tiger for himself/herself in the wild,tigers become genetically stronger through the “law of the jungle” called “survival of the fittest”.

    Mother Nature created lions and tigers differently to find out if “extroverts” or “introverts” were better but Her plans have almost come to a grinding halt because of the actions of the most deadly dangerous beasts on our planet-humans ! 🙂

  7. February 15, 2008 5:48 pm

    hmmm….i feel thats what is happening in our country people don’t have real reasons,they think they have a reason..the reason they give is the problem….so when so many of our country’s people have a problem,then we need a solution…i have been think nita…i have tried put what i feel here…

    i think we need someone,who will see beyond everything..but unfortunately that person should understand what really is happening…I can talk for people of my age group…only thing people think about is studies…end of the day whatever we do,it is those few numbers which matter and decide our lives…The frustration caused by too much work,leads to few people being hurt unintentionally…and well when people are feel that sort of pain very young,the “virtues” change…then there are the everyone’s dreams of being a sania or a dravid or narain or even anand,SRK etc..
    but they all get lost because of “marks”…Yes it is possible to do well while into sports,but there again there are people who have to stop playing because of bad marks…

    and the nation…well it is something which most don’t even think about…if i even put a question,like what do you think can be done i will be well thrown back with amazing volleys of insults…of course there are a few…but how can we matter? And inbetween if we get leaders like RAJ thackery…well donno we all might move to some other country with a big fat salary…

  8. February 15, 2008 8:10 pm

    I think its more of people with similarity getting adjusted to each other more than the other one getting rejected.
    For example, when people speaking the same language, when a new person joins our team, he generally observes the kind of people he would enjoy with, he would then join the group, its not that the other one rejected him, its just that he thought he “belonged” to a different place. Now given this, it is so easy for an insider to misuse this and try to force others to see, it was him who rejected the group, and hence he is a outsider.

  9. wishtobeanon permalink
    February 15, 2008 8:17 pm

    Its so true, Nita. Yet, when we (I) see rejection of others or ourselves, we do accept it.

  10. wishtobeanon permalink
    February 15, 2008 8:17 pm

    Oops, I meant ‘we do not accept it’.

  11. February 15, 2008 8:53 pm

    please delete my earlier comment; I couldn’t really word my concern properly

    Research shows that the need hierarchy doesn’t generalize very well to other countries. There are differences in relative importance of different needs for other countries like India. So, we need to view India’s socio-economic and psychological needs in relation to an “adopted” framework of Maslow’s model. There are lots of other deficiencies- sometimes, all the five needs are not present and sometimes the actual hierarchy does not always comform to Maslow’s model, and the need structures are more unstable and variable than the model would lead us to believe.

    If you’re interested in Motivation models like these, you can also take a look at ERG theory, which is a further refinement to Maslow’s model and has three basic need categories- existence, relatedness and growth. It also includes a satisfaction progression component and a frustration-regression component, which is absent in the Maslow model.

    I think you’ve over simplified the issue in this post.

  12. February 15, 2008 9:03 pm

    Very good post, Nita. It’s very true to people like to flock around with people they are similar to. And I appreciate the fact that you have written about what is rather than what should be.

    But I do think that the mentality can change. Slowly, but it can. As world changes and develops people become increasingly similar in many of the basic traits. The things that make us different, slowly, will become “man-made” : like religion, or state of origin, or political belief etc. If there was a significant push from powers that be about tolerance , this can change. But then, powers that be, won’t be the powers. So, oh well.

    I like reading your blogs. Keep up the good work!

  13. February 15, 2008 9:11 pm

    Ruhi, let me address your comment first. As you said I deleted the other comment, without really reading it properly.
    Look, this my original thinking, that’s all. this is how I see it. It may be a simple way of looking at it, but that’s typical of me! 🙂
    I think though that I made a point. The main point being that a sense of belonging is very very important to human societies and I have also explained how this sense of belonging works (in my own way!). Yeah, a simple way of looking at it, cannot deny that!

  14. February 15, 2008 9:25 pm

    raj, i know very little about the habits of lions and tigers and therefore cannot quite comment on your comment!

    Ankur, yeah, Nita’s Law! Well, not really, not a Law, just an interpretation. But I can proudly say my own!

    vishesh, thanks.

    Rambler, that’s an interesting point and I can relate to it. I have rejected a group precisely because they rejected me! I was more than willing to join the group, and willing to adjust (although admittedly i was very different) but they were not willing to. Therefore soon I started to reject them as well!

    wishtobeanon, yes, when another group rejects us, we feel they are wrong! there is a tendency to blame while we tend to rationalize our own reasons for rejection.

    thanks Parth. I agree human beings should try and change. this reminds me of tagore’s poem…and let me quote the first few lines here:

    Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
    Where knowledge is free;
    Where the world has not been broken up
    into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

  15. February 15, 2008 9:53 pm

    Regardless of what model you use or which psychological theory you’re going on, your point is well taken. A great deal of people’s sense of self is dependent upon where they feel they “fit.” I think it is also true that the less evolved/mature a person or indeed a society is, the more easily-threatened people’s sense of belonging tends to be by people who do not conform to the group, or who are outside of the group.

  16. Guqin permalink
    February 15, 2008 10:12 pm


    What a coincident, I wanted to quote the above poem several times here since in it I saw both India and China. Especially the very last phrase, it nearly set me into tears.

  17. February 16, 2008 1:42 am

    Very true. Human organization is much like property rights. The right to exclude others is the most prized of them all. Only totalitarian regimes mandate inclusion and forced equality, as it is not natural human behavior.

  18. axinia permalink
    February 16, 2008 4:33 am

    unfortunately you are right ;( at least for now.

    People do like to form groups and to exclude others…We say it is “natural” – I guess it comes from our “animal” past, this is something where humans are so very close to the rest of the nature. I like the quotation on dharma which says that a tiger will behave like tiger, a snake like a snake, but a human being can behave like all animals together!

    I believe that ultimately, when human being will develop spiritually, they will be able to go beyond (as for the Spirit there is truly no difference), but it seems to be a long way ahead 🙂

    Our subconsciousness (instincts, animal-like beahviour, etc.) keeps us tight in its arms, in our genetic past. When we are in the present, we can enjoy every moment without thinking much of the differences and that would be really great to achieve!

  19. February 16, 2008 5:43 am

    @Raj: Lions aren’t very easily labeled as “social” animals. This is because, there exist a large amount of nomadic members within the species. Including females.

    The groups (Prides) you talk of, are usually a few males (whose Primary function is to reproduce and prevent intruding members, whether other lions or other animals). However, you make a HUGE mistake about the survival of the fittest. A pride of lions also follows the same principal. The male member of the pride is possibly the strongest male in that period to have come across each other. It has DEFEATED all the other males to get possession of the pride. It is the current STRONGEST member.

    As for why the male lions are “lazy”, I have my own theories (which could range from logical to absurd). For instance, the sex ratio of a pride is highly unbalanced. There are usually 5-6 females in a pride, with one or two males. So, a male has a lot to lose if he goes to hunt. He may get injured, in which case, not only does he die, his young ones that will be borne by the females of the pride will be killed by the eventual successor! I say successor because I don’t have a better word.

    Anyway, the point I am making, is that the gender roles are well defined. And if the male did not offer the females anything, they would be dispensable, and a different male as worthy as another.

    The law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, is not selective. It is absolute and impartial, except to the able! I refrain from using the word strong, because that does not describe anything. A strong man can die if a car fell on him! However a weak man might survive if he didn’t have enemies throwing cars on him 😛

    @Everyone: I can’t relate to the spiritual talk over here (I find it absurd, though I mean no disrespect). But the point I would like to make, is we keep looking to man, the “pack animal”, which doesn’t do us any good. It denies us the benefit of evolution. I am sorry for those people who think the world was created a few thousand years ago, because for them, this is as good as we are; This is the epitome of human existence.

    Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say (in a roundabout way) is that man no longer needs his “pack” to hunt! He does not need the co-operation of men for survival (though we can debate that, saying all our interactions have some basis in a give and take, and you would be right). So our social units are far beyond our physiological requirements, which is exactly the case for all the other animals.

    I don’t know if I am making any sense in this, and if it sounds anywhere in the comment that I mean humans are superior to animals, that is hardly it. They are here by the same means that got us here, except for a different pathway!

    P.S. I have used men a few times in there, and I hope the rationalists realize what I mean, and to the PC, a big, hearty…

  20. February 16, 2008 8:09 am

    David, Johnny, thanks. 🙂
    gugin, you are welcome.
    Axinia, if you ask me, I think that animals are more ethical than humans.
    DD, I am not sure what you meant, but yes you will find that in highly affluent people the groupism is far more. There is far more cooperation in slums because they need each other…

  21. Raj permalink
    February 16, 2008 8:14 pm

    The Depressed Doormat,

    Yes,I am aware that solitary lions (especially males) are always there.But I did not label all lions as “social” creatures.I was only trying to point out the fact that among all cats,big or small,lions are the most social creatures.

    And I missed out a crucial word “better” when I was referring to tigers becoming genetically stronger.Though lions too have their own methods of becoming genetically stronger,I believe that the tiger as a species has a better chance at this.Of course we can debate about this endlessly…infact I think it is precisely because of the fact that Mother Nature Herself did not know which was the better method,she created the two biggest cats in a different manner.Sadly,we humans are going to put an end to Her plans 😦 There can be no debate about this though.I am sure that neither of the biggest cats will be left in the wild in a few years from now.And the ones that will be present in the zoos after that would be cloned creatures 😦

  22. Anthony permalink
    July 8, 2011 11:27 am

    I dont reject others…should I be doing that to be normal? I have a hard time fitting in sometimes…maybe thats why?

    You got it Anthony! It’s only those who have already fitted in somewhere, belong somewhere, who try to keep out others. When they do, their group identity gets stronger! – Nita


  1. Humans love to form ghettos « Melmcguinness's Blog

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