This American Life had an interesting segment about children and about making a rule in school that kids are not allowed to tell other kids they cant play with them. In other words, making them kinder.
Adults generally arent as cruel on the surface as kids but even among adults, cliques still form. There are still people who are outcasts and still those who are not. I have seen this in every organization I have been a part of and I have always been fascinated with watching these groups form and the behavior of those in the clique towards those outside of it.
It is funny how people are too. I have watched people deny that cliques exist...that there is an "in crowd" or that people who are in the "in crowd" get advantages over others who are not. Usually it is people who are in the clique who cant see it or are unwilling to admit, even to themselves, that they get advantages from being in a particular group. They seem to deny it in the same way that many white Americans deny there is an advantage to being white or in the same way that many men deny that there is an advantage to being male...and so on.
I have seen people act like complete jerks and then accuse people of not liking them because of clique dynamics rather than because of their own behavior. I have overlooked such behavior in others if it was coming from someone in my own inner circle. That too is something I see over and over again. Bad behavior is tolerated much more when someone is "in" with us than when they are "out." This happens on many many levels too. Americans tolerate things from other Americans that they comdem in other nations. Republicans accept actions from Bush they would never accept from a Democrat and vice versa. People accept and overlook things in their friends that they openly condem in others.
This whole "us vs them" thing seems so inate and yet it causes a lot of trouble. From minor trouble like hurt feelings and broken friendships to much more major trouble like wars and genocide. One thing that scares me about this is that even though I often can see all of this very clearly, I find myself engaging in such thinking. I think of people as "us" and "them" all the time. I know I think more kindly towards those I consider in my group whatever it is. And it bothers me that even though I think of such thinking as dangerous, I still engage in it on some level.
But as a very wise friend once said to me "Awareness is half way towards solving the problem" So that is what I will do for now. I will try to be aware of this in myself.