I was lucky enough to have 6 beautiful children that have taught me and provided me biologically with a Mama Bear instinct so strong it overwhelms me.
Mama Bear experiences come from a place of familial protection or recognition of a person’s vulnerability. It requires a sense of responsibly. This sense of responsibility then moves you to defend and care for the person you feel responsible for.
Admittedly, I have an extreme case. I have been caught mothering and showing my Mama Bear in all kinds of situations for all kinds of people of all ages. It’s something my spouse and children make fun of me for. I’ve Mama Beared everything from wonky collars on strangers to adult bullies of children at parks to the members of my oldest kids queer club at college.
So when I hear politicians or prominent media personalities using words like “infestation”, “fake” or “not ours” to describe people, especially children, my blood begins to boil. Why? Because this type of language is meant to emotionally separate you from vulnerable people in desperate need of Mama Bears.
You see, when you hear about a mother hiding in thorn bushes at night to protect her children from lions as they make their way to a refugee camp or a father trekking with his children across a continent to protect them from gangs and give them a future, you (hopefully) connect emotionally and create a sense of empathy as a human being and possibly that of parent. But if you are constantly being told that these same people are “vermin”, “criminals” and “terrorists” you will both intentionally and unintentionally begin to separate yourself from them emotionally. You will no longer be able to experience empathy for them and will not have Mama Bear experiences when you see it and hear about then when they are in desperate need of one.
You may say, “but these people aren’t my family” or “I’m not responsible for these people”. To these statements I say, you’re wrong. Politicians like to use separating language for a biological reason. As part of the animal kingdom we still maintain a sense of protectionism over our species. But in the 17th century we began to start mentally separating our one species into many as a form of control by the ruling classes (before that point we mainly separated on the basis of social and economic class and nationality). We now call those mental separations races. These separations give us the mental permission to ignore our Mama Bear instinct because we see only the differences between us.
The biggest problem with this is that it’s a farce. Biologically we are still one race. One large population dependant on each other for biological success. Biological populations depend on diversity in the gene pool, without it they become vulnerable to a host of problems. The more diversity there is, the stronger the population is.
Since the time of Cain and Abel, found in the book of Genesis in The Bible, we have been asking ourselves, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The moral of the story of Cain and Abel says that yes we are, but scientifically we are as well. If I truly value my population, then I want what’s best for it. If diversity creates the strongest and healthiest population then I should want diversity. If my neighbor across the world or border offers genetic diversity, then I should want to protect them.
You may say that I am playing quite a game of mental gymnastics to justify taking responsibility for every person on the planet. Maybe, but even without all that science and philosophy my religion calls me to view everyone as equal and to love each person more than myself.
Either way, we’re all responsible for each other. This means that when we hear dehumanizing or separating comments we need to call them out. We need to prevent others for falling for the tactic used by ruling powers for millennia and help them recognize our sameness. We need to intentionally and artificially increase our empathy for each other. If you have access to people with different life experiences you need to engage and befriend them. If you do not have access (like living at the South Pole) you need to read biographies and watch documentaries and learn about what makes us great as a global population.
The world needs Mama Bears right now. For the refugees and immigrants. For the children in schools and victims of abuse. For the queer and differently abled. Mama Bears could save us all.