“act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law”,Immanuel Kant
Behavior begets behavior. We all know this. We follow it both consciously and unconsciously. We follow it unconsciously when we find ourselves liking what ever clothing is in style. We follow it consciously when be make rules for ourselves to not telephone someone too late in the evening, because it just isn’t done.
There are people who don’t know that behavior begets behavior. There are people who not very aware. They usually have poor social skills. They look stupid, though they may be quite intelligent. There are also people who are very self-centered. That would be narcissists and near narcissists. Narcissists may genuinely believe there behavior is better than it is. On the other hand maybe they are in the first group and not very aware. Then there are young people. It is not their fault, but young people can usually be put into one or both of the first two categories. Other than those, we all know that how we act sets a standard that others will follow.
People are very good at forming tribes. We do it to protect ourselves from being prey and we do it so we are better able to prey on others. The larger the tribe the better it is able to do both. The ties that bind a tribe are loyalty. Loyalty is a form of love. It is what will drive a person to do something that is not in their immediate best interest for the benefit of someone else. For a tribe to be strong it needs to foster loyalty to the tribe. If a tribe wants to be a predator tribe an easy way to do that is with hatred of outsiders. This kind of tribalism has an inherent weakness.
The first weakness is that people outside of the tribe are free to hate those inside and they do. The tribe has made hatred of outsiders acceptable behavior. The tribe may encourage this. Being hated by outsiders helps to keep the tribe together. It is one reason why tribal leaders ask their people to dress different or talk different from those around them. It exposes tribe members to ridicule and even hatred. That drives people even closer to the tribe. Unless your tribe is very strong or lives among a very tolerant people it is a risky strategy.
The second weakness is that it frees people inside the tribe to act the same way towards members of their own tribe. And they do. The tribe may say they are against hatred of insiders. Behavior speaks louder than words. As soon as a tribe makes a rule that it is okay for the tribe to mistreat outsiders they make mistreatment acceptable behavior. Most tribes are ruled by an inner tribe that treats the rest of the tribe the way the tribe treats outsiders. The tribe can’t complain because the principle has already been established.
Some examples of how this works from recent events.
Russians are very patriotic. Even among Russians living in the West, who have access to news from Ukraine that is not controlled by the Russian government, support for the invasion of Ukraine is high. Right and wrong do not matter only the tribe. That attitude is what has allowed an inner tribe to control Russia. The war in Ukraine is going poorly for Russia in part because the inner tribe has a low regard for the lives of their own soldiers. The inner tribe is doing to the rest of Russia as Russia is trying to do to Ukraine. Who can complain?
Black Lives Matter is an organization that took up the noble cause of ending police brutality towards Americans of Sub-Saharan African descent. If anyone tried to say ‘all lives matter’ or suggest that the problem was police brutality towards everyone they were derided in the most strenuous terms. Then it was revealed that the founders of the organization were diverting funds for their own use. It was a perfectly foreseeable outcome. If you are going to favor a group based on a genetic connection then why not express more favoritism for a group that has an even closer genetic connection such as your own family. Who can complain?
If you don’t love everyone you don’t love anyone. That is why Jesus said to love your enemies. It is why he treated Samaritans fairly in his personal dealings and his teaching. They were closely related to his own tribe genetically and religiously and yet were hated by his tribe. He set out to change that. It is why he worked miracles for a Syrophoenician and a Roman.
On the topic of the Syrophoenician woman, (see Mark 7:24-37). Jesus followed the rule of caring about those who are near while still caring about those who are far. He tells her that he was sent to the Jews. She asks for some crumbs that fall from the master’s table. He grants her request. Jesus acted the way all of his followers are to act. We care about everyone. We care a bit more for those who are near than those who are far.
This is maybe the most important lesson for us from that story. Jesus gets criticized for being hard on the woman. Teachers are like that. They can seem hard when they are teaching a lesson. People who teach hard lessons can still have your best interests a heart. The most important thing you can give someone is good values. Jesus reinforced in her the values of humility, persistence and faith. She had faith in the goodness of good people (and if you believe Jesus was God then in the goodness of God). We can assume that his disciples learned from the incident too. Peter learned it and told it to Mark, who wrote it down, so we also should learn those same values.