It has been suggested that human relationships – whether intimate or distant – are based on the idea of the Other. It starts when a mother holds her infant up to a mirror and says, “Look, that’s you.” This is said by some to be the point at which an infant realizes it is an individual among other individuals and that the mother is not a part of the Self.
This then is said to carry on throughout life and often gets expressed on a societal level, as well as on an intimate level, in negative ways. For example, in cross-cultural exchanges, whether they be first contact situations, international political relations, or anything in between, humans can conceptualize the Other in abstract terms because they are different; they are not the Self. Even within a single culture, a similar dehumanization occurs with the apathy so many people display to societal problems. A rich businessman or politician can decide to cut jobs or programs without guilt because when he does so he does not conceive of the reality of thousands of individuals suffering because of this decision. They are not, in fact, individuals to him. They are the Other, the poor, the unemployed, a statistic. They are not the Self.