We live in a world that is greatly disunited. There is a flaw in the system. Which one you might ask? Well most, if not all, because the most fundamental one is broken.
Brotherhood, unity, community, nationhood etc they all really boil down to one thing, society. Human beings are social animals. We need to belong to something that is bigger than us. Nobody wants to go through life alone. In fact it is impossible to imagine a life completely segregated from the rest of the society.
This is exactly what may be man’s greatest asset as well as his most crippling vice.
Our need to be a part of a larger entity is what gave rise to technology, science, nations, culture, philosophy and art. It is also what has birthed wars, extremism, racism, genocide etc. A bit far-fetched perhaps? Bear with me and judge for yourselves.
Society serves a purpose. In fact it serves many. The most fundamental one is belongingness and protection. Man as a social animal forms relationships with other men and them with other people and so on, giving rise to a multi linked society and over time social institutions, performing certain tasks for the society.
I won’t get into the details of the formation and history of the social institutions or society because that is besides the point of this article. But the value of these institutions should not be undermined or go unnoticed. As the famous phrase in animal wildlife studies goes- “Safety and protection is found within the herd” and it applies to herbivores who choose to live, roam and feed in packs or herds to benefit from the protection against predators that the strength in numbers provides.
A rough analogy, but the herd is, for all intents and purposes, similar to our society. Though in our case there are quite a few more benefits than just protection. Again I shall refrain from derailing from the topic at hand, and not go further into the benefits of society.
Human beings like to see themselves as part of something bigger. One likes to believe that they serve a greater cause, be it national pride, family or community stability and prosperity etc. We believe that the actions and decisions we make affect not just oneself but some bigger society and hence we strive to bring about betterment to our society.But exactly how big is the society we see ourselves as part of? That is my point exactly.
When we meet someone, a stranger at first, we gauge their societal proximity to us, depending on which we find them to be varying degrees of similar or dissimilar. We discriminate or, for a less negative annotation, judge others based on how similar to us we deem them to be. And on the basis of that we interact with them accordingly.
One differenciates on the lines of practically anything ranging from gender, religion, roots or origins, language, clothing, economic class, age and the list goes on. The more of these facets that two people share the more they feel closer to each other, or that they share a similar culture, or even belong to the same society.
On the other hand, the lesser the number of similarities, the more alienated two people may become. The less they have in common, the more they feel that they share a far less tangible society.
I want to make one point clear. No matter who the two individuals are, they will always belong to some common society. At the extreme if you consider we all are in one huge society, the human society if you will. The one with about 7000 million members spread all across the globe. But as I said that’s a fairly intangible society to associate oneself with. We associate ourselves more and more with smaller and smaller, more easy to associate with, groups of people or in other words societies.We call ourselves men or women, Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc, Asian, European etc. But why stop there? Catholic or Protestant, Indian or British or American and it can go down right till we reach the very roots of an individual.
I always felt adversity is the best means of illustrating what society’s virtues and vices are;Consider this, and alien attack on the Earth. In such a situation one could easily imagine that all the countries of the world would unite, under the banner of humanity or in defense of the human society, to starve off the attack.
Or for the less science fiction prone, a devasting natural disaster that affects thousands and destroys the lives and livelihoods of millions. We’ve seen such things happen before and we have also seen the unity of the human community to aide and assist in any way that they could, irrespective of country or economic means or religion etc.
Imagine a war is raging between two countries A and B. It is highly unlikely that you’ll find a person of country A fighting for country B. They’ll be drawn by a sense of nationalism or patriotism to defend their country as they relate to its society more than they relate to the common society (whatever it may be) that the two countries share.
Irrespective of the cause of the war or even whether or not it is publicly known, they will sacrifice as much as their own lives for their society for something which may well be as ridiculous as a kidnapped Helen of Troy.
We can’t do without society. Perhaps I should have led with that. But we must be honest with ourselves and see that society itself is not exactly continuous but segmented. We associate with and belong to different societies in varying degrees. The smaller the society the stronger our bond and affinity to it. Probably why family is and will always be at the forefront. The smallest and hence strongest of all societies.
In culmination and presumptuously the most important part, the message.
We belong to many societies, more strongly to some and lesser to others. Jesus once said,”Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” That’s a tall order. It’s not easy to feel closer to someone who is from halfway across the globe than to a neighbour who lives across the street. No one expects that.
But what we can easily strive to achieve is to be more tolerant and respect the dissimilarities of other cultures and societies. Bear in mind that we all belong to the same common society, humanity. People seem to have forgotten this. There is so much hate and misunderstanding in the world leading to extremism, terrorism, radicalism and other ‘ism’ s. All because of lack of tolerance and respect for societies we cannot relate to.
I swear to you every man and woman, every religion, every region, every possible imaginable culture and society has more in common than they care to know. Just a little bit of understanding, tolerance and respect will go a long way to solve many of the socio-economic problems in this world.
~ by DAVID D’SOUZA
About the author :
David is currently persuing Mechanical Engineering (B.Tech) in College of Engineering Pune (COEP). A book lover , keen observer and popular in his classmates for his own different philosophy.
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