Human history is the story of an ever larger us

From bands of hunter gatherers to chiefdoms. From city states to kingdoms. From nation states to global diasporas and the first photographs of Earth from space.

Now, we’re finally on the verge of seeing ourselves as an Us that includes everyone. 7.8 billion people. Other species. Future generations of both. All of us.

But the last century has also seen some of our darkest hours. Genocides. World wars. Poverty amid the greatest plenty we’ve ever known. Countless species gone for ever.

This is what happens when we fall into them-and-us thinking.

When we see ourselves as separate.

When collectively we forget what Martin Luther King, like many other messengers of a brighter future, knew:

That we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny, and that what affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

We’re up against the biggest challenges we’ve faced. Ecological collapse. Wars and disasters leading to more refugees than ever before. Inequality on an unheard of scale.

If we slide into them-and-us dynamics – polarisation, conflict, othering, hate – then we have next to no chance of solving them.

Because that would take us into a breakdown loop driven by the political impact of psychological harms, and the psychological impact of political harms.

But there’s an alternative: a breakthrough loop. One driven by the psychological impact of political positives, and the political impact of psychological positives.

This could all go either way

Powerful forces – from internet trolls and social media giants to populist demagogues and conspiracy theorists – are feeding on breakdown loops, amplifying them-and-us dynamics as they go. Things could get much worse.

But they could also get better, faster than we dare hope. Because more of us than ever before are seeing ourselves as a larger us – at every level from neighbourhoods to nations.

Now what we need to do is find each other, get organised, and change the world.