Repugnant Cultural Others

This is an excerpt from a book I am currently reading. The book is How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs. He teaches at Baylor University and has a number for books including The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. He also was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Mockingbird Conference this past April.

In this excerpt, Jacob talks about the idea of how many people in our culture refuses to be open to studying and listening to differences—and more specifically, listening to other people. He takes the term Repugnant Cultural Other (RCO) from Susan Friend Harding.

Jacob writes:

This is a profoundly unhealthy situation. It’s unhealthy because it prevents us from recognizing others as our neighbors—even when they are quite literally our neighbors. If I’m consumed by this belief that that person over there is both Other and Repugnant, I may never discover that my favorite television program is also his favorite television program; that we like some of the same books, though not for precisely the same reason; that we both know what it’s like to nurse a loved one through a long illness. All of which is to say that I may all too easily forget that political and social and religious differences are not the whole of human experience. The cold divisive logic of the Repugnant Cultural Other impoverishes us, all of us, and brings us closer to that primitive state that the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “the war of every man against every man.”

[You can purchase Alan Jacobs’ book here: Amazon]

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