Feeling Expansive; Hoping to Bring Down the Walls of the Ghetto Mentality

I wasn’t feeling inspired to write a fresh blog this week, life being pretty much same old, same old of late. Then before one of my friend Carol’s yoga classes three of us got to talking about how sometimes in our small community, instead of coming together and supporting one another, people, especially women, will ridicule and condemn one another. We speculated as to the reasons why. We identified the common suspects of jealousy, spite and a negative outlook. Lynn described it as a ghetto mentality, and my muse was inspired.

Ghetto mentality is used here as a slang term associated with people who, unhappy with their own situation in life, blame others. It refers to the behaviour of people in a community who feel they are disadvantaged and the way to overcome their feelings of injustice is to bring down those they perceive as advantaged. They usually compare what they have to what their neighbours have.  It is related to a perceived scarcity of goods, money, attention, status or other measures of self-worth or success.

I’ve written in other contexts about this kind of mentality in broader settings; Brexit and Trump are examples. Trump campaigned to make America great again, blaming current problems in the USA on other countries, other races, other political ideologies and other religions. Deflecting onto “the other.” Brexit blamed the EU for their economic challenges and immigration issues. This lack of taking responsibility is not only unhealthy, it isn’t helpful. In my opinion, the only way to make change is by empowering yourself, whether as an individual or society.

I’ve made a commitment to focusing on positive emotions and energy in my blog posts so I will move on to tackling how to bring down the walls of this ghetto mentality.

One possibility is to foster cooperation and collaboration rather than competition and separation. Barbara Gray defines collaboration as “a process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible.” Furthermore, Scott London attests that “collaborative efforts tend to be loosely structured, highly adaptive, and inherently creative.” Sounds like a positive framework.

His Holiness Pope Francis makes a compelling argument for collaboration in his Ted Talk: Why the Only Future Building Includes Everyone. Michael Green also gives a brilliant presentation on How We Can Make the World a Better Place by 2030. And it’s worth mentioning the Venus Project again, as it is an organization working towards an alternative vision of the future based on shared resources and equality.


Perhaps just tuning into Ted Talks once in awhile instead of watching the news or a sitcom on television could be a powerful tool in expanding your own mind-set. And while media can be inspiring, attempting to step away from all media and technology and getting involved in events in your community is a great way to feel engaged. It doesn’t always have to be serious. It could be taking in a spoken word or acoustic evening at a local pub/coffee house. It could be going to a festival for music, health, or spirituality. It could be inviting your neighbour over for coffee or a glass of wine and making a connection over conversation.

Story-telling can be a powerful way to invoke change because stories move us. That is part of my mission in writing musings of an emotional creature. In her Ted Talk If a Story Moves You, Act on It, Sisonke Msimang claims that stories can heal rifts and bridge divides because they make us care. They show us the bigger picture. Yet without action, stories don’t create change. You need to act on the emotions that ignite and inspire you. That’s where a lot of us get stuck.


Joining a group of like-minded people has the potential to offer support and volume to your voice. You can get involved in local branches of international organizations such as Amnesty International, World Health Organization, or various NGO’s.

If you are a feminist, you might want to check out http://www.globalsisterhood.com.

In Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST is focusing on creating and nurturing talent and the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) is prepared to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. “Around the world the image of the authoritarian hero-leader is being challenged, and the Middle East is no exception,” says David Altman, CCL EMEA’s Executive VP & Managing Director – See more at: http://www.iedp.com/articles/creating-collaborative-leadership-in-saudi-arabia/#sthash.aykg1x32.dpuf

In Canada, there are a plethora of organizations, depending on your passion. If you are an environmentalist you can get involved in Friends of the Earth. If science and health are where your skill set lies, LEADS promotes collaborating in research and development. These are only two examples to inspire you to google organizations based on your own interests.

In direct contrast, sometimes it can be powerful to befriend a person from a group that you are in opposition to. I watched a short clip on Now This where four people were asked to participate in a collaboration to build a bar together. Each of them was affiliated with a label; there was a sexist, a feminist, a transgender and a climate-change denier. They didn’t inform each other of their labels. As they worked on their project they talked. They were given several questions to discuss and during the conversation they built a rapport. Then their labels were revealed. They were given a choice, to discuss their differences over a Heineken at the bar they just built together, or leave. They chose to talk.


Making a friend with a person in a group whose ideology isn’t in alignment with yours breaks down barriers. As you get to know the representative from the group as an individual, you often discover you have more in common with them than the things you disagree on. You can then agree to disagree while working together, in harmony, to make the world a better place. Ted is at the forefront once again, with a great talk by Elizabeth Lesser titled:  Take “the other” to Lunch.


If you are interested in breaking down the walls of the ghetto mentality and are feeling stuck about how to act on it, here’s a summary of the suggestions put forth in this blog. Collaborate. Listen to and tell stories. Join a group of like-minded individuals. Befriend “the other.”

So yeah, I’m feeling expansive; hoping to bring down the walls of the ghetto mentality.

2 thoughts on “Feeling Expansive; Hoping to Bring Down the Walls of the Ghetto Mentality

  1. deborahbrasket says:

    I love what you say here and totally agree that this type of ‘”mentality” separates us and demeans us and causes us to demean others, and to hone in on the negative aspects of our lives rather than the positive and all we have to be grateful for.

    But are there not systemic structures of racism and privilege that do work to keep some in the poverty they were born into, and others in the wealth they were born into? Do not people who live in ghettos and see these structures which make upward mobility more difficult for their children, while the children of privilege more easily and swiftly ascend the ladder to success, do they not have the right and even obligation to denounce those systems and feel anger, feel wronged?

    I’m asking not because I disagree with you that they would be better off working with others to change an unjust system than being weighed down in anger and jealousy. But because I think sometimes we need to honor those naturally human negative emotions that actually living in a ghetto, or growing up in a foster care system, or a refugee camp would engender.

    What’s less understandable to me are those who grow up in privilege who snipe at each other and are jealous of their neighbors, as you note in your yoga class. Theirs is not so much a ghetto mentality as a privileged mentality–I’ve got mine and I want more, more, more.

    Sometimes within my own privileged life I think I forget too often those whose struggles are so much greater than my own, and I don’t give them enough credit for simply surviving their ordeals and for not allowing it to rob them of their humanity, for being able to love and be grateful for the little they have, when I in my abundance find it so difficult sometimes.

    Anyway, I like your idea of joining a group that we feel opposed to, or perhaps uncomfortable with. I’m grateful I found your blog and will be reading with interest your insights into human emotions.and how to live more courageous and loving lives.


    • musingsofanemotionalcreature says:

      Hi Deborah,

      First of all, let me say thank you for taking the time to read my blog and respond so thoughtfully. It meant a great deal to me and felt expansive to be in conversation with someone across the world!

      I agree with you that there are people who live in ghettos that are settings for many disadvantages and I have deep compassion for them. You are correct in identifying that I was referring to a mentality rather than a place. I also agree that is important for all of us, no matter what our life circumstance, to honour our emotions and express them, including gratitude. Even the poorest of people can feel fulfilled with love and friendship being abundant in their lives. And, as you stated, even people with privilege can feel overwhelmed when they are in the midst of a crisis or challenge in their lives, as we all face from time to time.

      I think the human condition is such a complexity, but the more we reach out and support one another through the challenges and joys of life, the better off everyone is. I appreciate the opportunity to share ideologies with you and hope to continue the conversation.

      xo Lynda


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