Olga Khazan: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider's World

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By Keith Miller. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Did you know that pregnant women are scientifically shown to become more xenophobic—fearful of outsiders—during their first trimester? Turns out, that’s when they are most susceptible to infections so the body actually has what researchers call the “behavioral immune system.”

And there’s wisdom to get from studying how we do this thing that humans love to do which is divide people into groups…to label others as either safe or unsafe, friend or enemy.

In this episode of The Soul of Life I speak with Olga Khazan, a talented writer that covers health, gender and science for The Atlantic Before that she wrote for the LA Times and the Washington Post. And she just published a book called Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider’s World.

We talk about her personal experience as an outsider growing up a Russian Jew in widely evangelical West Texas and some of her interviews with people who don’t follow the crowd and it works in their favor, the way it did for a survivor of the Jonestown massacre: “I had this totally different impression of Jonestown. I thought people were totally brainwashed.”

Khazan chronicles the people who stand out, who don’t fit in, and so doing illustrates how loners and outsiders are not really alone.

“Even in a cult, you can have someone who’s like “I’m not going along with what someone else is doing.”

Olga’s a talented, award-winning writer and yet she cautions about letting ourselves be lulled into mistaking the stories and knowledge we consume for real action that changes people’s lives.

“I think it’s kind of a testament to the Black Lives Matter Movement, that they have been so successful at raising awareness effecting real change. But they didn’t do it through Malcolm Gladwell books. They did it through direct action, and protest in the streets. Not just ‘clicktivism.’”

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