By Gil Yehuda – Contributing Editor
- People have an uncanny ability to create “us” vs. “them” categories.
If I tell you I’m human, then you might say we have much in common. But the more I tell you about me, the faster you’ll find a difference.
I was born on Earth. You, too? Sure. In the US. You, too? Possibly. In Cleveland, OH? Probably not. I’m male, white, Jewish, in my 40s. You might not be.
The more I say, the more we’ll find a difference. And once we do, we can quickly define each other in some category — we’ll be in two different thems. Of course, I’ll call mine us; but still call yours them. You’ll do the same, but the other way around.
Now, it takes just a bit more thinking, and we can find many ways that we are more alike.
There are an uncountable ways we can see each other as being similar. I bet we like some of the same foods, probably enjoy some of the same movies too. We both want to be appreciated, and we demand to be respected. We both get hurt. We both feel a bit more compassion for people who are more like us, and less for people who are different. We both have dreams and cherished memories. So you and I — are we part of the same us, or are we divided into two thems?
I came across these thoughts when looking at this commercial:
People really hated this commercial. Why? I realized that eBay tapped into a very odd sense of prejudice — the prejudice against people who are not as current on the latest technology. eBay created a new “them” — and crowned Pete as the stereotype. Pete is a loser because he does not have the latest tablet computer. Not that he’s poor, disadvantaged, intellectually inferior, stutters, or has a non-Hollywood body type — no, he’s OK on all those characteristics.
But he is inferior in the one sense that he is “back in the 16th century” and even his mom knows how to video-chat. I bet Pete has a VCR at home, and it still flashes 12:00. Viewers of the commercial resented this kind of prejudice. It no longer speaks to our values as a society. We’re better than this.
To me, Everyone Matters means there are ways we can create an us with any two people. Creating thems is easy, but we can do better. Of course we can find differences between us — and that’s good. I’m happy to be me, and happy you are you. I don’t need us to erase the differences. But I do want us to see past it, and to see more similarities too. It’s slightly harder to do, but imagine how rewarding it feels to know there is an us between you and everyone else, an us that is even more important than the them that divides you.
eBay’s unfortunate commercial revealed a bit of Silicon Valley elitism: That the people with the gadgets are just a bit cooler than the “noob”s. And the backlash against this video reveals that the rest of the country does not care for this elitism.
Imagine if one compassionate person at the table said “Here, Pete, let me help you order one of these tablets from eBay, in the meantime, you can borrow mine, or we can use it together.”
Imagine when you work with a team of people who see each other as part of the team.
Treating people in a way that shows they belong to a shared us is much cooler than any gadgets or apps you get from eBay.