One would normally consider the taking of sides as being counter-intuitive to the idea of development. Whatever resources we have, we would want to use them in a planned, organized, and united effort to get the best possible results. There is a number of examples of this. In a family, when the father, mother, and children are able to work together toward maintaining peace it helps everyone. In a classroom of students, it only takes a few to disrupt the session for everyone. Those who do are deprived of the answers, and those who wish to learn are also deprived of their opportunity. Furthermore, it brings no joy to the teacher or lecturer to have to focus on disciplining some students and be distracted from teaching. When surgery is being performed, is that the time for nurses and doctors to have arguments over anesthesia or surgical instruments? There are many examples that prove that success or development depends upon unity.
Taking sides on specific issues is what breaks down unity
Each of those examples given in the introduction makes general, common sense. Family unity means peace, a classroom of disciplined students promotes learning, and a focused team of medical professionals can save a life in the ICU. Let us take only the first of those examples to understand what is happening to society.
There is not enough salt in my food
A meal has been fixed. The family has sat down for supper. Dad is tired but, happy. Mom is glad that her kitchen work is almost complete. The children – 13 and 16 – are now about to finish their day, and finally help with washing the dishes afterward. Appears to be a very united family.
Now, dad casually remarks that he feels, there isn’t enough salt in his lentil soup. That is what his son, aged 13 had also felt but decided not to say anything. Being close to dad, he immediately chimes in and sides with daddy’s opinion. The 16-year old daughter who is closer to mom and has seen her fix the meal decides to defend her mother. She says, “it’s fine. Anyway here’s the salt.” Then she passes the salt-shaker to her dad, and then dad to his son. End of story!
Now imagine that the father gets on Facebook or on Twitter and posts: “Tonight the meal was good as usual. Thanks to my wife, Martha. Wish there were a little more salt in the lentil soup.” Ten of his followers have opinions about the soup they never tasted, but trust James’ opinion. Three of those followers found too much salt, and two found too little in some of their food today, and three days back. They discuss the quality of food, the weather, why China and Russia and the United States should focus on trade relations and why India should take concrete steps for sustainable economic growth while considering the environment. Then, they all go to sleep.
The next day, one of James’ followers on Facebook complains of food poisoning. They had not fixed a meal at home but rather decided to order some food from outside. Today, the discussion has turned sour. China and the USA can probably never get along. One cannot trust the other. Period!
(Thus far, Martha has not logged in to her social networking accounts) 🙂
We are in the simplest and the most complicated of times together
It is amply clear why these are the simplest of times, and why they are also the most complicated. The ease of communication is unmatched, and so is the possibility of error. There is also the possibility of great comfort and solutions. It really depends from moment to moment, and from person to person. The only reality we cannot deny is this: We are all in it together. We all stand to be affected…eventually.
There is one practical thing we can do. We can focus on improving ourselves personally. Like the wise ones have said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Of course, with the improvement, we wish to also be in a position to offer assistance to others where possible. We do not want to be the sort who find our own strength, peace, and security and then forget about others who are still suffering. Maybe it is in our power to offer some assistance, even the smallest possible.
The same thing is true in international relations as it is in personal relations. Why can we say that with greater confidence today? It is because we have reached a level of simplicity wherein, we have direct access to the very person who is elected or in some other way empowered to make decisions on the behalf of his fellowmen. Of course, we prefer the elected to the self-willed, narcissistic tyrant, for as long as it is possible. Who are such ones, and where they come from, and why they exist are different matters!
Respect for authority
Now if we have a democratic or republican system of government or a combination of these philosophies, it still comes down to the respect for authority. Respect does not mean surrendering one’s freedom. We can all be free whether other people acknowledge it or not. We are free by virtue of what is God-given, and by virtue of our courage. However, freedom alone is not the greatest gift, especially if it is not balanced with a sense of responsibility and a sense of duty. This is true for all – Martha, James, the 2 children, the President, the Prime Minister, the professors, the singers, the artists, and all the anonymous people on Twitter or Facebook.
For peace and unity to find a place, respect needs to find a place. Respect for others, especially authority, is a personal choice. All disagreements and even the harshest criticism can be tempered with respect. This is possible. It is evidence of character. It is a choice.
More can be said, but it is enough for now. There is sufficient reason to think and come to our own conclusions. The rest is up to us individually!