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What Was the Most Important Thing People Learned in the 20th Century?

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What was the principal take-away from the 20th century?

Atomic energy? DNA? Penicillin? Or, something from the world of art or philosophy or psychology? The title question leaves plenty of room for debate.

My answer is that the most important learning of the century was disabusing ourselves of the notion that some people are inferior. Put the other way round, the most important misconception of the last century was the belief that some people were superior.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the existence of superior individuals and groups was widely accepted. Although there were some who disagreed, far more were eager to believe that their own kind were exceptional, and they were willing to degrade and exploit those whom they saw as their inferiors. Belief in the validity of such judgmental comparisons underlay much of the manmade suffering for which the 20th century is rightly known.

Well into the last century:

* Imperial powers believed themselves superior to the peoples they colonized and exploited.

* The doctrine of White Supremacy took many forms, including Jim Crow and Apartheid.

* Gentiles deemed Jews an inferior race.

* Ethnocentrism was the norm.

* The rich looked down their noses at the poor.

* Male supremacy and patriarchy were all but universal.

* Dominion over the Earth was defended as a God-given right.

* Co-religionists typically believed their faith superior to others.

* Heterosexuals regarded their moral superiority as self-evident.

* People with physical or mental disabilities were stigmatized.

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...made any difference in how we approach living o... by Robert Fuller on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 1:04:31 PM
The second half of the op-ed gives evidence of the... by Robert Fuller on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 2:21:55 PM
I love this article and the ideas it proposes. Yes... by Rob Kall on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 1:07:25 PM
Yes, I have often thought of this perspective as t... by Robert Fuller on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 1:32:04 PM
was learned in the 20th Century is that the masses... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 3:57:32 PM
...it is IMPERIALIST...... by Anita Stewart on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 4:31:48 PM
When you own the means of livelihood and you contr... by Michael Collins on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 6:00:57 PM
Seems to me that Vietnam was a turning point befor... by Robert Fuller on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 6:28:32 PM
If certain acts of violation of treaties are crime... by Lance Ciepiela on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 7:15:57 PM
Agreed Mark, that the masses have been intentional... by Deborah Dills on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 10:07:32 PM
We've learned of the true face of democracy, free ... by Ad Du on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 5:20:30 PM
I don't understand your position well enough to re... by Robert Fuller on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 6:24:33 PM
... the powers that be, perpetual defenders of the... by Michael Collins on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 6:03:40 PM
part 2 follows.Thoughtful and engaging essay and I... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 7:35:41 PM
Just BP's oil spill, and the tepid governmental re... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 7:40:14 PM
I don't dispute your facts or disagree much with y... by Robert Fuller on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 8:58:37 PM
Are younger folks, clearly more tolerant on sex an... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 9:50:52 PM
All your concerns are ones I share. Still, I think... by Robert Fuller on Thursday, Jul 4, 2013 at 10:42:13 PM
but that's more a matter of temperament than logic... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 12:30:55 AM
...and that the masses, unfortunately, can be fool... by Guglielmo Tell on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 3:38:55 PM