It’s Dangerous to be Different by Norm Gillies© 2007

EXCERPTS from the forthcoming book, It’s Dangerous to be Different,
Copyright 2007, Norman A. Gillies, Clinical Ethnologist.

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year….
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
Oscar Hammerstein II

Being taught bigotry as if it were biology is not what fuels the mental stance that differences are dangerous. If teaching were the only source of acquiring mental functioning, our fear of differences could be deliberately — volitionally — untaught. Instead, you will discover in this book that attitudes are mentally absorbed by the child merely through the normal process of mental development from birth onwards, an undisputed characteristic of life. The following excerpts will elaborate upon these themes.

You may say that you are not capable of hurting or hating anyone. No doubt you believe that notion. That is until unbidden thoughts of bigotry towards your neighbour pop into your head. ‘What is this thought?’ you ask. You’ve been educated to love your neighbour and that all people are equal and that you shouldn’t be so judgmental. Yet you find yourself viewing your neighbour as if he were your enemy, a view totally against the teaching of love thy neighbour. Naturally, these antagonistic sentiments do not fit your philosophical, intellectual training.

What’s the problem?

The problem lies in the fact that intelligence and reasoning are not the problem. Instead, the problem is housed in your emotions. Your emotions emerge from the mental area of your non-volitional division of functioning mentality. Functioning mentality comprises both volitional and non-volitional divisions. The volitional division is one of logic and deliberation. Whereas, in the non-volitional division there is no deliberation of action; action is totally reactive and thus mentally automatic. The non-volitional division is the only mental source producing reflexive negative responses to ‘differences’.

For instance, as a Clinical Ethnologist with forty-five years of experience in the field of human behaviour and aberrant human behaviour, I have observed routine incidents whereby ordinary people accumulate reasons for hating. One family living on this hill creates reasons for needing to hate the family over the next hill. And vice versa. In America it’s the Hatfields and the McCoys, Appalachian families feuding over events that happened millennia ago. Similarly, in a macrocosm sense, in the nation of Northern Ireland the Roman Catholics say that they can recognize a Protestant a mile away. Protestants hold the same opinion when commenting upon the presence of Roman Catholics. From Tsarist times to Serbian cleansing of disparate cultures of people and throughout the Ottoman legacy prior to WWI, up to the more current time of the 1990’s, humans have operated from the mental stance that it is “dangerous to be different”.

Oftentimes this mentality occurs for economic reasons, but those reasons are not the only source for the negative attitudes people hold towards each other. As Ashley Montagu wrote in Man’s Most Dangerous Myth, ‘Race is the witchcraft of our time’.

Unfortunately, throughout past events, legislative policies emerge based upon the myth of race. For instance, in France, Count de Boulainvilliers maintained that there were two races: the nobles, who were descended from the Germanic conquerors, and the masses, who were the descendants of the subject Celts and Romans.

After the French Revolution, an elaboration of Count de Boulainvilliers’ attitude arises out of the theories of Count de Gobineau. Count de Gobineau’s theory advanced an updated version of the inherent differences between the nobles and the masses, perpetuating the fiction that some people were destined by God to be on this earth as slaves. In fact, this viewpoint goes back much further. Aristotle wrote: ‘Some people are born to be slaves, some people are born to rule.’ This philosophy served the slave owners of the American southern states in the years preceding the American Civil War in justifying their ‘non-people’ theories.

Also, we see the notion that differences are dangerous prior to WWI. Junkers like Bismarck and von Bulow believed that members of different nationalities, with different languages and customs, could not live side by side in one and the same state. Had Bismarck and von Bulow been your local plumber or carpenter, their beliefs would not have catapulted into institutional policies. In short, their beliefs would not have mattered. However, pre-German Republic policies of this sort proliferated later to support the theories upon which Hitler based his rationale for wiping out undesirables and Jews during WWII.

In T.L. Stoddard’s book Rising Tide of Color, his thesis is that there are higher races and lower races. The salient point is that the mixture of the races produces off-spring of a lower type; the downfall of great civilizations being due to the crossing of higher and lower races. Similar to Stoddard’s theme, Madison Grant in his book ,The Passing of a Great Race, offers the view that the United States was founded by Anglo-Saxon Protestants with democratic ideals and that the United States, therefore, should be reserved for those who fit that category.

The attitude that one category of people is superior to another forms in early childhood and is later institutionalized into adult conduct. For instance, the Social Democrats under Hitler instituted a classification system based upon a spurious notion called race. People in the German Republic were divided into two classificatory columns of Aryan and non-Aryan . If one were classified as non-Aryan, one would be dismissed from a civil service position. If a non-Aryan were qualified to practice medicine, law, dentistry or journalism, he faced severe restrictions in carrying out work of that kind. Non-Aryan implied ‘undesirable’.

In addition to vocational restrictions, one’s civic liberties were proscribed; witness, property restrictions and confiscations, deprivations of the rights of citizenship, and the prohibition of marriage between an Aryan and a non-Aryan.

In fact, Hitler’s misuse of the term ‘Aryan’ requires correction. The term applies to a stock of languages spoken by a wide group of peoples throughout the world and has nothing whatever to do with the misappropriation of the term as a political/cultural synonym for racial purity.

A pedagogical obsession with the subject of human superiority, second only to and intertwined with survival issues such as food collection and water availability, predominates throughout the history of mankind.

Like historians, various anthropological studies have focused upon the physical attributes of human beings while other studies have examined matters of cultural development and growth. These studies rank preliterate cultures on a lesser order than sophisticated Western cultures, the theory being that preliterate cultures represent the early times in the progression of human development. Consequently, the theory is that Western culture represents the advanced form of that progression. Thus, the theorists use this scale of human development to support their argument of superiority of cultures. Academia is tainted by the paradigm of the superiority of one group over another.


Racism is a belief in the innate superiority or inferiority of human beings.

‘It is alleged that something called ërace’ is the prime determiner of all the important traits of body and soul, of character and personality, of human being and nation’, wrote Montagu, citing the attitudes promoted by other writers. Montagu would say that the above statement is one of total nonsense. That this viewpoint is maintained and sustained by notables in science and human affairs is a further travesty, for the public is ill-served. The public relies upon spokesmen in academia and upon ‘experts’, blindly trusting them to deliver accurate and factual information and designating them as knowledgeable. It is unfortunate that the public places its trust so witlessly, for these ‘experts’ are but fallible and, even, corruptible human beings.

Let us examine what makes Homo Sapiens different from other animals?

1.) The educability of Homo Sapiens;
2.) Plasticity of personality allows for adaptability which is critical to human survival;
3.) It is out of the unique ability of Homo Sapiens to invent and to improvise within the physical surroundings leading to the birth of all cultures.

These features of inherent mental capacity in Homo Sapiens are universal whatever the form of the culture. This is how Homo Sapiens differ from other animals.

Cultural Conditioning As Seen By Montagu

‘All normal human beings are born as culturally undifferentiated beings; they become culturally differentiated according to the social group into which they happen to be born’, wrote Montagu.

‘…culture is a people’s ideas, sentiments, religious and secular beliefs, its language, tools and other material products, its institutions, customs, and ideals ñ because culture is something one acquires by experience…’, also wrote Montagu.

As well, Montagu wrote, ‘Race is a social construct, not a biological concept.’

Preoccupation With Physical Differences Supports Superiority.

The Race Hall in Vienna’s Natural History Museum ( now closed ) portrays the origins of defining and rating races in mankind and focuses upon people from Christian-Jewish families, who were called by the Nazis ‘Mixed Breed’. Emphasis is placed upon an hierarchical order of the human family ñ the core theme is the skeletal arrangement displaying superiority. The attempt is to demonstrate certainty regarding the physical ranking of human beings with its emphasis upon human superiority.

Differences in brain size have as much relation to intelligence and cultural achievement as differences in body size. Montagu points out that brain size in Neanderthal man was 1,525cc and that modern man’s brain size is less. Does that mean that Neanderthal man was far more intelligent than modern man?

Homo Sapiens, commonly known as MAN is a single species. Within this single species of Homo Sapiens exist biological subspecies named Negroid, Australoid, Mongoloid, Caucasoid. (The Caucasoid biological subspecies refers to ‘whites’. The popular media refers to whites in error as Caucasian. Caucasian, in fact, applies to peoples living in the regions of the Caucasus mountains). To repeat, these are biological subspecies within the single specie commonly known as human beings.

Biological subspecies bears no relation to culture. Biological subspecies are composed of a variety of cultures. Nor does the subspecies’ biological classification determine culture. They distinguish nothing other than their biological difference. Subspecies are merely broad physical descriptions. The physical form of these biological subspecies does not define the myriad characteristics, in their billions, of peoples belonging to these broad groupings. For instance, Negroid, Australoid, Mongoloid, Caucasoid fathers and mothers, alike, wish for their offspring to be better off than themselves. Parents hope that their struggle for survival improves the lot of their progeny. All human beings value progress in a family-community sense, whatever their biological subspecies.


On the question of absorbing from one’s mental surroundings while growing out of childhood, my experiential research finds that the rearing and parenting practices in cultures around the world are similar. One is the parents’ habit of admonition and warning while disciplining the young. This similarity is universal.

In the figurative “parenting manual” for all parents in all cultures, a self-preservation issue prevails. While in Western cultures there are many popular books attesting to the right way to parent, there is no actual manual. All these books are merely psychological opinions. In fact, the universal practice of warning and disciplining the young is integral to the ability to survive, originating with the birth of the species. It is this parenting purpose, focusing upon survival, which fosters and cultivates the chronic mental posture of ‘stay alert/watch-out’. This is the foundation of the mental attitude ‘life is a disaster zone’, a component of ‘differences are dangerous’. The mental frame of reference that life is a disaster zone is common to all cultures.

The Center’s research also finds an horrendous waste in human productivity based upon racial categorization.

Cultural and Religious Underpinnings of It’s Dangerous to be Different

Let’s look at a few examples of how the mentally conditioned item of stay alert /watch-out stemming from “life is a disaster zone” influences other facets of human behaviour.

Here, for instance, is a religious illustration.
The anthropologist Diamond Jenness noted in Indians of Canada that “Europeans, realizing the brevity of man’s earthly career, regard it (ëthe brief career’) as a training-school for another life to come, and seek in religion a guide to the thought and conduct that offer apparently the best preparation for the hereafter. Christianity teaches them to weigh all earthly gains and losses, all seeming good and ill, in the balance of eternity, and to forego many things that appear desirable here and now for a greater good beyond the grave.

‘The Indians of antiquity in North America pinned little hope on the uncertainty of the hereafter. They sought from religion help and guidance in this present life alone, and with full consciousness of the limitations in their own knowledge and power, they summoned to their aid the mysterious forces surrounding them in order to obtain during their mortal span all the blessings that their hearts desired. Long life and health, success in hunting and in war, medicine power, prosperity, fame, happiness, and the gift of happy children – these were the things for which the Indians prayed, these the blessings which they demanded from their religion.”

Many religions incorporate a third party to assist in dealing with life is a disaster zone. For example, the role of ‘intervener’ in spiritual matters wasn’t only religious in origin or representative of a nurturing ‘mother’ who was the protector, the emotional support and food source, the intervener turned into an actual person such as a priest or a member designated by the community and assigned the role of taking care of matters relating to the occult. All of this in service of the human doubts dealing with life is full of uncertainty. All of this is for purposes of warding off the evil demons and spirits, those that make life a disaster zone.

The anthropologist Phillip Drucker writes in Indians of the Northwest Coast about the community member, “…the Shaman’s task consisted in summoning his spirit helper or helpers, usually by singing their songs and dancing, until the supernatural assistant bestowed the power to extract the disease object, find the strayed soul or remove the contamination. The Shaman typically wore elaborately carved necklaces of bone, and had a special bone tube to blow sick-ness away and to catch souls. Haida medicine-men (Northwest Coast of British Columbia) usually accompanied their songs with carved globular rattles; some Tlingit or Tsimshian (Alaska Panhandle) used ëchief’s rattles’, carved with figures of the raven and the frog.

“The skill of these Indians in elaborating sensational stage effects was unsurpassed among the natives of North America. Many of the masks have movable parts, or are arranged to change their form. Under the long-houses, lines of hollow kelp stems were used as speaking tubes, causing performers’ voices to come from unexpected places, such as under the fireplace. Puppets and monsters flew across the house, over the ëspirit room ë; these were wooden figures strung from ropes.’

Philip Drucker, goes on to point-out, the “showmanship” feature of the religious “intervener’s” job. And I agree. In my opinion this aspect is not unlike the display featured in established religions via elaborate ceremonials and material accessories, the universal attempt to deal with life’s mysteries.

In Barbara W.Tuchman’s book, she touches upon the Chinese mythological feature of “feng shui”. “Stilwell, visiting an old teahouse, dating from the Ming dynasty, noted that the bridge leading to it was built in zigzag form to thwart evil spirits who, unable to maneuver angles according to Chinese belief, would fall into the water at the turns.” Stilwell further observed that the “…main point of religion in China seems to be an effort to scare away evil spirits who are continually trying to do them harm.” He had hit upon a central fact of Chinese life – fear of feng shui, in the form of demons, ghosts and devils who bring evil upon men.

The interveners’ job carries a stamp of commonality: Human beings, since the origin of the species, have been preoccupied with the matter of interceding in their future. Interfering in their surroundings to bend mysterious circumstances to the will of human beings has been an on-going and serious endeavour. In my opinion all human beings, innately self-centered as they are, obsess over issues of living longer, living lustier, living richer. Obviously, this attitude fosters the perpetuation of negativity as a legitimate component of all cultures.


Racism stems from noticing differences and then inadvertently judging those differences negatively.

The reason why children absorb the judgment of differences negatively is because their parents project differences in this way. In short, parents establish a mental atmosphere and their children absorb it. For instance, children register alertness to whatever persons or issues about which their parents exhibit approval or censure. I have experienced that children invariably approve of me if their parents approve of me and the opposite if the parents do not approve of me. Parents approve or disapprove in accordance with the legacy of their forefathers. This legacy places the parents in the role of transmitter vis a vis their culture. That is, children become, from birth onwards, the product of their cultural group. In short, it is culture which produces functioning mentality rather than the reverse of functioning mentality creating culture.

The role played, world-wide, by mental reactions illustrates that human reaction systems contribute powerfully to events in the community of human beings. When individual reaction patterns combine, they form a collective will, a similarity of view point and frame of reference, taking on a formidable character and force. This force becomes evident when the welfare of the community is threatened. Witness the Hatfields and McCoys in America and the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. However, before we proceed further let’s refresh our memory about specific human characteristics that play a role in this matter.


The Universality Of Mental Absorption

Mental items of personality have always been absorbed by the children of one generation from parents of the proceeding generations. That is, “kids” inadvertently mentally absorb (as in mental osmosis) attitudinal material from their parents. This is what Oscar Hammerstein meant in his ditty, ‘…You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late; Before you are six or seven or eight; To hate all the people your relatives hate….’ In this way, the absorbed material later serves as some of the ingredients in one’s emotional pattern, destined to be taken on by the next generation. Mental absorption, rather than intellectual analysis and learning, is the vehicle through which children acquire myths, such as the myth of race and its mental precursors of ‘life is a disaster zone’ and ‘differences are dangerous’. Thus “kids,” when they in turn become parents, automatically operate from a mental base resembling that of their own parents. This process has been going on since the beginning of human history.

Universality Of Mental Conditioning

Mental conditioning determines the ingredients which comprise one’s functioning mentality.

As an example of universality in mental processing, each child starts mentally fresh at birth. The human tableau for that child is the adult(s) from whom the child will absorb mental ingredients. Consider for a moment the mental ingredient ‘annoyance”. Because its character is absorbed by the child, it will be featured in that child’s mental behaviour throughout his/her life. He/she, forever, will reconstitute the emotion in the way it was absorbed. What was absorbed is now inherent in the character of one’s mental conditioning. His/her mental conditioning determines which emotions will be displayed. Contrary to popular mental health theory, emotions are NOT genetically or constitutionally derived. They are derived through mental conditioning.

Operant Mental Systems


A point about human behaviour emphasized in the book Emotional Self-Management: The Art of Tranquility in the 21st Century is that all human beings follow individually precise and easily identified mental pathways in mental acts stemming from their early mental conditioning. Therefore, behaviour produced by emotional activity is not haphazard in origin. Behaviour produced by mental activity is a product of mental conditioning. In other words, the difference in behaviour between that created by mental volition and behaviour created by mental non-volition is this: The former is readily identifiable and knowable, but the latter is reactive and illogical and, therefore, is illusive and difficult to comprehend.

An observer of the behaviour of another person does not understand why behaviour exhibited by that person makes no logical, cognitive sense. Indeed, the point is this: emotional material from a patient’s non-volitional system cannot be examined through the practitioner’s lens of logic and reason. The viewer does not realize that the behaviour he is witnessing has its own internal mental logic. In all cases whereby a therapist eventually gains familiarity with a patient’s non-volitional system, he/she comes to recognize the inherent “logic” of the ingredients making up that patient’s emotional system. So, too, does the patient.

Because the patient, alone, is the sole repository of his own emotional experiences, C-CTherapy® maintains that the only way to gain familiarity about matters pertinent to the patient is to treat that information respectfully. That is, the patient’s report is the truth, the whole and nothing but the truth — from his viewpoint as one of the many billions who populate this earth. On the therapist’s part, he or she can only gain familiarity with the contents of a patient’s non-volitional system, not feel or reproduce the patient’s own thoughts and sensations; those are his and his alone. The C-CTherapy® clinician bases his/her treatment plan upon what is reported by the patient to be his viewpoint concerning his mental stressor.

The Concept of ‘Self-Betterment’.

In the one matter of “parental aspirations for off-spring”, our findings at the Center are conclusive: All parents want their children to have an easier life than they have experienced. It matters little from what part of the world, or under what cultural dictums the parents were raised. The parent in a Phillipine barrio, the Bangaladeshi farmer, the Detroit auto-worker, the London banker, devoid of their cultural, national carapace are mentally similar. The only variation is in the way each expresses his/her individual aspirations through behaviour.

Mentally, all humans share a pre-occupation with “self-betterment”. Indeed, if it were not for language differences and the common attitude of the superiority of one group over another, human similarities would be so stark that one would instantly appreciate their universality. Human behaviour is the common human denominator, no matter the variations upon the theme created by cultural origin. C-CTherapy® mobilizes common and inherent characteristics instead of dwelling upon differences.


In the real world of human behaviour, no human being is a victim of his environment in any meaningful or actual sense. If he is victimized by anything, it is by his own early mental conditioning. My patients constantly affirm this phenomenon of the real world. They discover that as people mentally develop, they collect experiences along the way. This is the normal process of mental maturation. This process, both of mental maturation and of collecting experiences, determines the composition of all human emotional reactions. Since mental reactions are an inadvertent, reflexive activity, it is possible for us to be “victimized” by the automatic workings of that mental function.

Additionally, no human being possesses the ability to process the thinking which goes on inside another person’s head. The commonly heard accusation, “People are messing with my mind”, makes no actual or literal sense. The statement, in fact, is only a figure of speech, regardless of the mental image it represents. In the real world of information comments such as these convey nothing other than the speaker’s own personal opinion. Unfortunately, in world-wide human behaviour, opinions take on the guise of absolute truth.

Lastly, it is impossible for a person to disregard the presence of others. Because it is not possible to disregard the presence of others, it is equally impossible to ignore one’s own reaction to them. Thus, because emotional reactions are spontaneous and reflexive, it is impossible to legislate how one will react to their presence. For instance, in an exercise of telling oneself to “just stop getting upset about matters”, one will discover great difficulty in mentally sustaining that plan. No human being can inaugurate mental change in his/her own reaction to other people without possessing the means of doing so. Thinking differently will not accomplish that goal.


A multitude of clinical theorists maintain that the basis of human mental/emotional behaviour is “genetic” and, therefore, constitutional in origin. However, those who hold to this theory have never specified the particular gene creating this behaviour. Research at the Center, based upon experiential data collected since 1967, has NOT indicated even the slightest hint of a “genetic” base for mental/emotional behaviour. Therefore, I have to conclude that evidence for a “constitutional” basis for human mentality does not exist. Never have I, myself, witnessed a “constitutional behaviour” walking down the street. Instead, like my fellow observers, I see people going about their daily business. A constitutional, genetic basis for human mentality must exist, therefore, only in the minds of theorists.

What we witness, in going about our daily business, is the mentally produced behaviour stemming from the many personal ñ mentally conditioned ñ styles of human behaving. One encounters less “fuzziness” of thought when dealing with actual experiences. Idle speculation or personal imaginings cease when one deals with hard information. Observed proof prevails, because it neutralizes theorizing and speculation. Fortunately, one discovers through experiencing life that human behaviour is not a theory!


Ashley Montagu, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth, Harper and Brothers, 1952
Lawrence K. Frank, Society as the Patient, Rutgers University Press, 1950
Bucklin Moon, The High Cost Of Prejudice, Julian Messner Inc, 1947
Gore Vidal, Sexually Speaking, Cleis Press Inc, 1999
Bronislaw Malinowski, The Dynamics of Cultural Change, Yale University Press, 1945
Douglas Starr, Blood, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999
Phillip Drucker, Indians of the Northwest Coast, The Natural History Press, 1963
Diamond Jenness, Indians of Canada, National Museum of Canada, 1955
B. Berelson & G. Steiner, Human Behavior, Harcourt, Brace, 1964