“Others” in my Highschool
I attended a small Catholic high school in New Hampshire that fostered a tight-knit community, all from similar backgrounds. This resulted in very little diversity. Most students were white, upper-middle class, and had attended private schools their whole lives. Additionally, most of my peers were sheltered in all aspects of their lives, from the conditions of many public schools to their exposure to people from different groups. This fostered a community pretty unaccepting to outsiders.
At my highschool, there was a strong culture of athletics, with almost every student, myself included, participating in a sport a season (3-sport varsity athlete). Athletics dominated the culture at the school, despite being small. Due to the sheer amount of participants in athletics, activities and most conversations centered around sports, the school put an emphasis on athletic involvement early on. Those who didn’t partake in sports often felt like outsiders, as friend groups were heavily influenced by the sports individuals played and whether they were in season.
This environment was beneficial for athletes, as it fostered strong bonds with teammates and other athletes in the same sport. However, it marginalized those who didn’t participate, relegating them to a small group on the outskirts of the social scene, labeled as the “others.” They were largely ignored, not out of malice but, due to a lack of perceived common ground. They main interest of most highschoolers, sports, was not shared. Non-athletic individuals were sometimes viewed as less valuable, despite dedicating similar time to extracurricular activities outside of athletics. Peers made assumptions about them, assuming they did nothing else outside of school and mocking them for prioritizing academics or other pursuits.
This dynamic of “self” and “other” within communities can be seen in broader contexts, affecting perceptions in international and domestic politics. This sense of “self” and “other” can be extended to international politics where certain nations or groups can be marginalized or perceived as “others.” This perception can stem from many sources, often, cultural differences, economic disparities, or historical conflicts. Just as non-athletic individuals were marginalized in my high school, certain countries may be marginalized on the global stage, leading to unfair treatment in relations. An example of this could be the Tigris-Euphrates water conflict where Turkey, with its ability to control the water flow can be seen as the “self” prioritizing its interest. Syria and Iraq, downstream countries who are dependent on the water flow, were marginalized as the “others,” facing water scarcity and environmental challenges due to Turkey’s actions. This unequal power dynamic mirrors the marginalization of non-athletic students in my high school, highlighting how perceptions of “self” and “other” can manifest.