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Old 2013-03-04, 10:55   Link #1
Achillobator
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Ambivalent about anime

Hello AnimeSuki,

I joined these forums a few years back since one of my online friends posts in the Naruto section occasionally (he is the one called MysticNinjaJay, if you're curious), but since I am not a hardcore anime fan I haven't visited this place in ages. However, a lot of kids in my generation, including some more people I know, have a strong interest in Japanese animation and comics, so I wonder if I should look into the stuff myself.

Unfortunately I have a pretty ambivalent (at best) sentiment towards anime. I haven't sampled a large and representative sample of it, but what I have seen so far doesn't impress me very much. The animation seems choppy, the characters seem to switch between drawing styles the moment they experience certain emotions, and the plots weird me out. The only Japanese animation that I can recall liking was Princess Mononoke, because of its tribal-people-and-animals vibe, but even then I found myself liking it less the second time I viewed it. I know on an intellectual level that I can't write off an entire tradition of animation based on a small sample size, but my first impressions have definitely not been favorable.

That said, what bothers me even more about the whole anime/manga subculture in Western youth culture is that I see it as symptomatic of a larger Western, or at least American, tendency to single out Northeast Asians as the "model minority". If American kids ever show any interest in cultures outside of Europe, the vast majority of them pick the Asians, especially the Japanese. We idealize Asians as this wise, studious, and beautiful race of people who are culturally superior to other non-whites, most of all Africans. Even hardcore white nationalists and "race realists" (i.e. the likes of J. Phillipe Rushton and Arthur Jensen) may put Asians near the top of their racial hierarchies just below Europeans, although of course Africans lie at the very bottom.

Mind you, I have no problem whatsoever with anyone individually showing special interest in any Asian cultures, finding Asian women especially attractive, or whatever. I myself feel a certain fascination with African cultures and a physical attraction towards African women (I am Anglo-American if you must know). Actually, that has something to do with my distaste for the American idealization of Asians. Picking Asians as the exotic culture to study has gone hand in hand with the devaluation of Africans. We wouldn't call Asians a "model minority" if we couldn't favorably compare their economic progress to that of African and Afro-Diaspora people. The implicit message is that if people of color like Asians can prosper in today's world, African people have nothing holding them back but their own "inferior" culture or genetics. Our current Asiaphilia phase is on the other side of the same coin as Afrophobia.

I realize a lot of the above rant doesn't touch on anime specifically, but the topics I raise do lurk in the back of my mind whenever I think about anything to do with modern Japanese culture in general, and I needed to vent the whole subject out somewhere.
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Old 2013-03-04, 10:59   Link #2
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Interesting thought.
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Old 2013-03-04, 11:12   Link #3
Kirarakim
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I really don't see this obsession/fascination with Japan or anime as much as you do. Anime is still very much a niche in the West. It had a sort of boom is the early 2000's but that has sort of waned. I would love if kids were more interested in anime especially going beyond the few titles on American TV (like Naruto) but it is what it is.

I also don't think there is anything wrong with kids being fascinated by another culture whatever that culture may be. That should be encouraged even if you yourself think there are more important cultures out there. The whole idea of a "model minority" seems really silly and even a bit racist to me (I am sure you didn't mean it that way but I am just saying)
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Old 2013-03-04, 11:27   Link #4
Achillobator
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
I really don't see this obsession/fascination with Japan or anime as much as you do. Anime is still very much a niche in the West. It had a sort of boom is the early 2000's but that has sort of waned. I would love if kids were more interested in anime especially going beyond the few titles on American TV (like Naruto) but it is what it is.
Anime appears to have a large following on the art sites I frequent, such as DeviantArt. Maybe they are less representative of the general US population than I thought?

Quote:
I also don't think there is anything wrong with kids being fascinated by another culture whatever that culture may be. That should be encouraged even if you yourself think there are more important cultures out there. The whole idea of a "model minority" seems really silly and even a bit racist to me (I am sure you didn't mean it that way but I am just saying)
Mind you, I am not saying there's anything wrong with liking Asian cultures by itself. It's the larger social trend to single out Asians as a subject for fascination that concerns me.
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Old 2013-03-04, 11:48   Link #5
TinyRedLeaf
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Is this thread in the right subforum? Maybe the General Anime subforum is a better fit? Just a thought.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
Mind you, I am not saying there's anything wrong with liking Asian cultures by itself. It's the larger social trend to single out Asians as a subject for fascination that concerns me.
Is there? I'm not actually challenging you on the point. I have my own reasons for coming back to anime in the mid-2000s. I never really thought about why so many Westerners apparently seem fascinated with anime. I have heard a variety of reasons, and many seem to come down to just an interest in something very different, in terms of subject matter, philosophy and culture. In this sense, it's no different from your own professed interest in African culture and aesthetics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
That said, what bothers me even more about the whole anime/manga subculture in Western youth culture is that I see it as symptomatic of a larger Western, or at least American, tendency to single out Northeast Asians as the "model minority". If American kids ever show any interest in cultures outside of Europe, the vast majority of them pick the Asians, especially the Japanese. We idealize Asians as this wise, studious, and beautiful race of people who are culturally superior to other non-whites, most of all Africans. Even hardcore white nationalists and "race realists" (i.e. the likes of J. Phillipe Rushton and Arthur Jensen) may put Asians near the top of their racial hierarchies just below Europeans, although of course Africans lie at the very bottom.
Can't say I've ever encountered this view before. So, like Sumeragi, I find it interesting. Asians being idealised? Really? I can't tell, based on the amount of vitriol hurled at the Chinese over here.

Ah, but I'm being flippant. More seriously, I'm of the opinion that yours is a unique view that may not be as widely representative as you think. But don't take me at my word, because you're speaking for a Western perspective that is not my own. I'm just curious what made you think that way.
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Old 2013-03-04, 11:52   Link #6
Achillobator
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In all honesty I'm a little obsessed with racial justice issues, maybe unhealthily so. Ergo, I may perceive certain racial undertones in places where most other people don't see them at all.
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Old 2013-03-04, 11:53   Link #7
Jaden
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Japan and to some extent South Korea certainly have the kind of culture that appeals to the 21st Century Digital Boy.

Whether that's making us consider asians the master race, I'm not so convinved about. I hope that's not the case, as that would be racist. And racism is kind of lame.
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Old 2013-03-04, 12:09   Link #8
Achillobator
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To clarify, I don't mean to accuse anyone in this community of racism or any other kind of malice, and I understand that many, probably most, anime fans get into the genre for purely inoffensive reasons. It's just that my paranoid mind, badly scarred by a personal history of debating with white supremacists and other racists elsewhere on the Internet, can't help but make connections to larger racial issues.
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Old 2013-03-04, 12:17   Link #9
kyp275
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
Unfortunately I have a pretty ambivalent (at best) sentiment towards anime. I haven't sampled a large and representative sample of it, but what I have seen so far doesn't impress me very much.
Anime is no different than any other types of media in this case, it's all about your own personal preference. Some people like a particular genre of movies or music etc, while finding other genres utterly uninteresting to them. Maybe anime just isn't for you.

Quote:
That said, what bothers me even more about the whole anime/manga subculture in Western youth culture is that I see it as symptomatic of a larger Western, or at least American, tendency to single out Northeast Asians as the "model minority". If American kids ever show any interest in cultures outside of Europe, the vast majority of them pick the Asians, especially the Japanese. We idealize Asians as this wise, studious, and beautiful race of people who are culturally superior to other non-whites, most of all Africans.
I'd say that's because many Asian countries are also big producers of pop culture. You can get kids and teenagers interested in cartoon/anime characters and boy/girl singers/band, but you're not gonna get too many calls about traditional African culture (or for that matter, traditional -anything- culture ). It also doesn't help that much of Africa today is still busy with killing and pillaging each other, which leaves little for the general population to get interested in outside the occasional news headline, which is usually bad news.

Quote:
Actually, that has something to do with my distaste for the American idealization of Asians. Picking Asians as the exotic culture to study has gone hand in hand with the devaluation of Africans. We wouldn't call Asians a "model minority" if we couldn't favorably compare their economic progress to that of African and Afro-Diaspora people. The implicit message is that if people of color like Asians can prosper in today's world, African people have nothing holding them back but their own "inferior" culture or genetics. Our current Asiaphilia phase is on the other side of the same coin as Afrophobia.
I find this to be rather misguided. This is not a zero-sum game, where 10 people that are interested in Asian cultures means 10 less that will be interested in African culture. What I'm getting from your post is that you feel Africans are discriminated more because Asians are viewed relatively in a better light, which IMO missed the main point - when it comes to discrimination, the source of the problem lies with the bigots.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
It's just that my paranoid mind, badly scarred by a personal history of debating with white supremacists and other racists elsewhere on the Internet, can't help but make connections to larger racial issues.
Why would you do something like that? even ramming my own head repeatedly into a wall would be more productive and enjoyable
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Old 2013-03-04, 12:25   Link #10
james0246
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A decade ago I would tend to agree that Japanese/Asian cultures were more "acceptable" to reference or mimic for a Caucasian majority. Currently, though, with a Black President, and the rapid growth of the Hispanic culture, I do not see there being any real "model minority". Like most things in America, this issue has become even more polarized with one large segment becoming even more accepting and one large segment becoming even more unaccepting. The middle ground has vanished quite quickly.

That being said, focusing on a specific medium that has variations across the world doesn't really fit any discernible mode of discourse. Maybe the title should be changed to some more appropriate to what you really wish to discuss.
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Old 2013-03-04, 12:50   Link #11
Achillobator
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Originally Posted by kyp275 View Post
Why would you do something like that? even ramming my own head repeatedly into a wall would be more productive and enjoyable
Let me explain how I came to care about this racial stuff.

A long time ago (I think back in junior high), while browsing the Internet I stumbled upon several white supremacist webpages arguing for the intellectual and moral inferiority of African people. Some of them were your stereotypical dumb rednecks throwing n-words and other comical slurs all over their posts, but the really scary ones were those who put on a civil veneer and claimed to have scientific or statistical evidence for their sentiments. These guys, who styled themselves "race realists", would cite studies which they claimed showed that African people had smaller brains, lower IQs, higher testosterone (and thus aggressiveness and sex drive), and less beautiful physical features. Ultimately I found that they were always misrepresenting, misinterpreting, or selectively citing this data, but at the time it was really unnerving to find people in the present day not only advocating anti-African racism, but also justifying it with science.

These "race realists" additionally insisted that pre-colonial Africans never produced any complex societies we might call civilizations. They either put down every historical African kingdom or attributed it to Middle Eastern or "Mediterranean Caucasoid" immigrants. Their greatest fixation was on Kemet (ancient Egypt), a civilization that has fascinated me since second grade. One day I did a Google search asking whether ancient Egyptians really were "Mediterranean Caucasoids" as the race realists claimed, and I found data from physical anthropological studies that contradicted this belief. Undoubtedly the most persuasive articles were those by the bio-anthropologist SOY Keita, whose research has shown skeletal affinities between ancient Egyptian remains and those of so-called "Negroid" African people. More recently, a genomics company called DNATribes has found genetic ties between King Tut's family and more southerly Africans, using DNA data obtained by Egyptologists like Zahi Hawass.

Armed with all that evidence, I got into a lot of arguments with the racists over whether or not the Egyptians really were African, and invariably they have proven too obtuse to concede anything. Nowadays I rarely even bother, but my obsession with racial issues has never abated. However, over time I have grown interested in modern-day institutional racism as studied by sociologists in addition to the old-fashioned overt bigotry. It's not a fun topic to consider by any means, but it's hard to sit back and relax when there's so much injustice in the world.
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Old 2013-03-04, 13:10   Link #12
kyp275
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Bigots will be bigots, no matter what veneer they may put on themselves. Sadly the best thing you can really do is to ignore them.
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Old 2013-03-04, 13:19   Link #13
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Not all of us worship Japan and want to become Japanese, and thank goodness for that.

I enjoy some aspects of Japanese culture, such as their respect for the elderly, extensive use of trains and railways, and appreciation for cute things. And of course, I enjoy lots of anime and Japanese games, although they don't reflect Japanese culture that well.

At the same time, I find many parts of Japanese culture absolutely disgusting. Their work culture is horrible and oppressive. Many salarymen never get to spend quality time with their family because they work several hours overtime and are obligated to attend after-work drinking parties with coworkers. The education system is inefficient and the teachers discourage discussion and student-to-teacher interaction as they rant on and on in their one-sided lectures. And I'm generally ticked off by the whole stupid humble and self-depreciating "polite" facade Japanese people like to put up in order to be accepted by others: for instance they always try to "decline" a gift from someone that they actually want, hoping for the other person to insist they accept it, instead of just accepting it and saying "thank you." In fact, I tend to avoid Japanese people I see in real life, because their general behavior tends to make me irrationally angry.
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Old 2013-03-04, 13:44   Link #14
Achillobator
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Every culture has its problems, I think. Asian, African, or Western, no one is perfect.

I do apologize for bringing up the Egypt issue earlier in this thread. I wrote that post in one stream of consciousness and didn't have time to reword it. While the Egypt debates really have played a pivotal role in my online life, I don't think they are germane to an anime forum (unless there are still Yu-Gi-Oh fans hanging around here).
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Old 2013-03-04, 13:44   Link #15
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I personally don't even like to think in terms of race. I find the entire notion antiquated. Genetically speaking, Africa has the most diversity on the planet. All humans are descended from Africans. Africa is home to a huge swath of different cultures that have little in common. Were it not for the Bantu migrations about 1000 years ago, the languages would be even more diverse. Race is a convenient term for simplifying things and has been important historically, but I think we need to start shifting our focus more towards ethnicity if we want to discuss groups of people.
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Old 2013-03-04, 13:46   Link #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
That said, what bothers me even more about the whole anime/manga subculture in Western youth culture is that I see it as symptomatic of a larger Western, or at least American, tendency to single out Northeast Asians as the "model minority". If American kids ever show any interest in cultures outside of Europe, the vast majority of them pick the Asians, especially the Japanese. We idealize Asians as this wise, studious, and beautiful race of people who are culturally superior to other non-whites, most of all Africans. Even hardcore white nationalists and "race realists" (i.e. the likes of J. Phillipe Rushton and Arthur Jensen) may put Asians near the top of their racial hierarchies just below Europeans, although of course Africans lie at the very bottom.
Though, I must say. The women in the region... oh sweet mother of mercy. But y'know what?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
I myself feel a certain fascination with African cultures and a physical attraction towards African women (I am Anglo-American if you must know).
Whatever floats your boat. I'd say -- y'can make one fine black lady feel mighty lucky, if you know what I mean.

===

If you were to ever argue the prospect of other countries making "anime" -- you will see one general response:

Spoiler:


Thankfully, this forum is less stringent on that doctrinal statement, than some other anime related communities. In addition, the love and infatuation with things Japanese is summed into one word: "Japanophilia". But that's a whole 'nother argument, by which, I might actually consider your conjecture.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempester
Not all of us worship Japan and want to become Japanese, and thank goodness for that.
I have to make a confession though. I fell into that spell; and I happen to be Asian myself; but one of a more tropical variety. In fact, I managed to snap myself out of it, with the "Can white people make anime?" question. At times, I wonder: Do these northern Asians view themselves as "white"? If I were to make an example out of Tamako Market... I will answer that with a "yes".

Spoiler:


The "brown" girl is characterized as a foreign national with tropical origin. Note, her skin is brown, compared to the whiter, main character - Tamako herself. So, yea, they see themselves as white, as they color their own characters as white. The real irony - white people will never see the Japanese (and Korean) as white. Likewise, any white person will never be viewed as Japanese, even if they managed to learn the culture and even live in Japan for many years.

Where am I going with this? By this point, I don't even know anymore.
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Old 2013-03-04, 13:51   Link #17
Achillobator
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Originally Posted by ChainLegacy View Post
I personally don't even like to think in terms of race. I find the entire notion antiquated. Genetically speaking, Africa has the most diversity on the planet. All humans are descended from Africans. Africa is home to a huge swath of different cultures that have little in common. Were it not for the Bantu migrations about 1000 years ago, the languages would be even more diverse. Race is a convenient term for simplifying things and has been important historically, but I think we need to start shifting our focus more towards ethnicity if we want to discuss groups of people.
Race is indeed an arbitrary social construct, but as I understand it, ethnicity refers more commonly to certain subdivisions within a so-called race. For instance, people may speak of the Yoruba, Amhara, or Samburu as ethnic groups within the African or "Negroid" race. However, neither race nor ethnicity are taxonomically precise. Depending on whom you ask, Native Americans and Asians may either be distinct races or part of the same "Mongoloid" race, and people sometimes speak of whole religions like Judaism as ethnic categories.
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Old 2013-03-04, 13:57   Link #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
A long time ago (I think back in junior high), while browsing the Internet I stumbled upon several white supremacist webpages arguing for the intellectual and moral inferiority of African people.
Well, the Chinese entertain grandiose ideas of their cultural and intellectual superiority too, while secretly thinking that everyone else should just be content to be subservient followers. And, being Chinese, I must say I partake in said cultural chauvinism.

But life, I think you'll find, is not so easily divided into black and white. There are multiple shades of grey in between. I may at times revel with inordinate pride in my cultural heritage, but friends who are more familiar with my idiosyncrasies know better than to take my mutterings seriously (after all, how "prideful" can someone who doesn't actually read or speak the language well be? ).

What I find is that the more threatened and isolated an identity group feels, the more strident their claims to uniqueness or "supremacy" becomes. It's a pattern that repeats itself across the world. I felt it myself when I experienced life as a minority for the first time while studying abroad. Where before I never felt anything special about being Chinese — I was merely who I was, more or less the same as the other 70+ per cent of my country's population — while in Britain, I felt an unconscious desire to assert my physical and cultural difference.

Because the difference clearly marked me out for who I was; I can't hide the fact that I am Chinese (by the way, when the British say "Asian", they generally aren't referring to people from East or Northeast Asia; they're typically referring to South Asians instead, that is, Indians). Since I couldn't hide my identity, nor disguise the fact that I'm a foreigner, somewhere along the way, I subconsciously chose to relish the uniqueness that made me "special".

In a society that is as easily polarised as America's, such distinctions become that much sharper — arising as it does from most individuals' need to feel "cherished". There is probably a deeply felt peer pressure to make one's membership of any one identity group ring out loud and clear. Hence the ugly expressions of racial denigration you come across — it stems from deeper insecurities, whose root cause probably has nothing to do with attitudes related to skin colour or culture.

Rather, I think that such speech comes after the fact, to justify certain beliefs a group of people desperately want to make "true". That's my theory, in any case. If I were sociologist, it may make for an interesting dissertation.
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Old 2013-03-04, 14:06   Link #19
willx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
Race is indeed an arbitrary social construct, but as I understand it, ethnicity refers more commonly to certain subdivisions within a so-called race. For instance, people may speak of the Yoruba, Amhara, or Samburu as ethnic groups within the African or "Negroid" race. However, neither race nor ethnicity are taxonomically precise. Depending on whom you ask, Native Americans and Asians may either be distinct races or part of the same "Mongoloid" race, and people sometimes speak of whole religions like Judaism as ethnic categories.
The idea that race is an arbitrary social construct is still up for debate. Here's a quote from the ever useful wikipedia:

Quote:
The theory that race is merely a social construct has been challenged by the findings of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics as "Genetic Structure, Self-Identified Race/Ethnicity, and Confounding in Case-Control Association Studies".[114] One of the researchers, Neil Risch, noted: "we looked at the correlation between genetic structure [based on microsatellite markers] versus self-description, we found 99.9% concordance between the two. We actually had a higher discordance rate between self-reported sex and markers on the X chromosome! So you could argue that sex is also a problematic category. And there are differences between sex and gender; self-identification may not be correlated with biology perfectly. And there is sexism."[115]
Basically how genetically different you are typically lines up with what "race or ethnicity" you think you are. (eg. I think I am of Chinese Han descent, Mongoloid, I have a particular tendency to turn red when I imbibe alcohol and I'm more likely to get certain diseases and cancers and less likely to get others.. and ho! It's relatively accurate!)

Here's another thought -- when we think of "Race" in human terms and "Breeds" for dogs, what's the difference? Well here's an amusing comment from a science forum I sometimes follow:

Quote:
Actually, the distinction between "race" and "breed" may be made only in English. In Spanish "raza" means both breed and race. Same for the German "Rasse."
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Old 2013-03-04, 14:08   Link #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Achillobator View Post
Race is indeed an arbitrary social construct, but as I understand it, ethnicity refers more commonly to certain subdivisions within a so-called race.
As people, we have the natural tendency to apply categories and groups (sub-categories and sub-groups). That's just how we think. If you take a group of just about anything, people will find ways to group them. Doing so makes it a lot easier on the though processes. Within each category and group, there are various characteristics, by which many and all share. Nevertheless, there would always be the exceptions. Thus, this brings about the concept of the stereotype, which is prone to many exceptions.

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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
What I find is that the more threatened and isolated an identity group feels, the more strident their claims to uniqueness or "supremacy" becomes. It's a pattern that repeats itself across the world.
Hmm. I read this... and immediately think of today's version of US Republicans.
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