There’s always an easy option and one that needs courage, patience and a strong will.
When I was a kid, every evening, I used to go out to play in a park nearby my home. We were a good mix of kids - boys from several communities and natives of different states. One day, two new kids showed up and asked us if they could play with us. What was unusual about them was that unlike us, they wore shabby clothes, looked malnourished and were visibly shy. For a group of kids who had known each other for years and were mostly from decent households, we had been trained since childhood to avoid playing with anyone who resembled these two newcomers.
But did we care? Absolutely not. We played together and didn’t give any damn to any of the differentiating factors. We were kids playing in a park and that was our identity. Till this point in this story, I believe I have everyone’s approval. “You did good”, “kids are so pure” and all that feel-good responses are probably what I would get if I ended it here.
But that would be the easy option. From this point onwards, you will start categorizing me according to your checklist of right and wrong.
The two kids were from a small community of migrants from Bangladesh and their father was one of the rare few from that community who managed to break free from crushing poverty by landing a good job. If you’re guessing their religion, yes, they were not Hindus, unlike the rest of our group.
And now, if you count all the differences we had between those two kids and the rest of the group - you’ll realize that differentiating is easy. It is easy to break down people into small groups. We all carry multiple identities all our lives - our name, the place we were born in, the language we speak, the job we do, the religion we practice - just so that people can differentiate us.
One could argue - all the factors I mentioned above are more about uniting people under a banner than dividing them. And that is true. The smallest and the largest wars in history have been fought only by uniting people under at least two banners. The World Wars saw multiple nations uniting into groups differentiated by ideologies. The world has seen genocides and prolonged oppressions done by differentiating people and uniting the group of people with the oppressing mindset.
What I wish to convey from the above set of examples is that every time we unite people after dividing them on any basis - we create a separation that people will protect, be jealous about and fight for. Not because they’re wrong - because they believe in the identity that separation provides them. Each person will guard that identity - some with words, some with art and some with arms. Wars will always be fought with all three - words, art and arms.
But let me not stray into the philosophy of wars and what’s wrong and wrong with them. Coming back to divides and unifications. Let’s look at the tougher option between the two - uniting people.
Why is uniting people the tougher option? Because it needs the courage to ask people to let go of identity, the patience to deal with the differences within the group and a strong will that needs to be instilled in each member of the group to want to be in that group, letting go of all the factors that can be used to feel different from the rest. We all, as individuals, strive to be unique, to be recognized separately and to be rewarded separately.
History tells us that every time a major achievement was made by a group of people - it was only after they reduced differences that broke them into smaller groups, came together and united to achieve their goal. These smaller groups had to come together, forgetting the small battles they have had with each other and form that larger group that moved the mountain. They had to learn to respect the differences of the other and find the unifying factor that they were more passionate about than the dividing factors. Every individual in that large group had to give up their most differentiating identities and associate themselves with a more general identity.
You might think that uniting is what leaders do best. True, that’s why they’re the leaders. Would be fancy to see a leader who doesn’t have a group of people united to follow him. Here’s a question though - are politicians leaders? My answer to it - sometimes. Not all leaders are politicians and not all politicians are leaders. While you may argue that both bring people together to do their bidding - either to achieve a goal or to get a vote, I differentiate them as such - leaders wish to unite people by letting go of differences while a politician tries to unite people by creating divides. A leader takes the tough option, a politician takes the easy one. What about leaders who were also politicians? We are not exactly in the age where leaders just raised an army and got things done.
Uniting is tough. Letting go of differences is tough. Accepting the other is tough. You have to be jealously human to not care about any other factor.
If you’ve reached this point - congratulations! You and I are likely on the same side of the ideological table. If not, feel free to bash me in the comments or think about all that I said. The former is the easy option and the latter being tough, will take your time and effort to constructively argue against my points. The choice lies with you :)