Last Sunday was a day of realization for me. In the morning, I was enjoying the enlightening words of Tolstoy from his famous work The Kingdom of God is Within You. The insights in the book proved to be thought-provoking. The time was around 11. Everything was silent and quiet.

Suddenly, there were some loud noises and cries. My 5-year-old nephew, Ephrem, and his friend Adwaith had started a brawl. Throwing the book down, I got in between them and separated the little rowdies. As it is customary, they started explaining without my prompt. Each was arguing that their Captain America action figure was better than the other’s. In fact, both were the same model.

The incident, though funny, made me think of underlying human nature. The children and their action figures are the perfect metaphor for us, who pride ourselves as adults, and our biased views. We not only consider our nation, our favorite team, even our opinions and presumptions of religion and politics superior, but also want everyone to accept it.

This ego-centric view is the root cause of many discords in the world. The disability to accept the difference in opinion, the otherness of the other, has segregated us, if not made us enemies. We tend to get dragged easily into fighting if our views are questioned.

Is there a way to escape from such a tragedy?

The Ubiquity of Diversity

Looking around in nature, we cannot help but appreciate the diversity in the animal and plant kingdom. Each being is unique and fulfills a particular role in the ecosystem. This plurality maintains the delicate balance of nature. If there was no diversity, mother earth will not have survived.

Similarly, diversity is one of the reasons for humanity’s progress. Our racial, physical, cultural, and ideological differences provided the warp and woof for our advancements. Yet, an instinct for identifying with a group and dominating others lie dormant in everyone.

However, we forget that each individual is unique. Many factors influence the formation of a personality. It is the social, economic, and religious environments that shape an individual. Moreover, the political views and the social conditions play their own part.

Even if all the factors remain the same, like in the case of siblings who grow up in the same house, people turn out to be dissimilar. This is a puzzle that psychologists are yet to solve.

From Stuborness to Fascism

Nevertheless, we desire uniformity. In gathering like-minded companions, we end up despising those with contradicting views. When we find groups that resonate with our opinions, we blindly follow them. It is at once ridiculous and intriguing how we try to create uniformity by wearing the same colored T-shirts, caps, and chanting rhythmic slogans.

Such activities incontrovertibly do more harm than good as it creates a rift in the society. When one group gets strong or has a majority, the others get subjugated. Racism, majoritarianism and inequality are the aftermaths of groupism.

Sadly, even the democratic system falls prey to this biased approaches. Around the world, elected governments slowly transform into totalitarian regimes, passing draconian laws to subjugate opposing opinions. Voices of difference are stifled, sometimes silenced.

Most such ego-centric groups enforce an oligarchical rule. Sooner or later, a leader with radical views, like Hitler, assents to power and starts ruling with an iron fist. This initiates forced conversions and cruel enforcement of the so-called right view.

Accepting the Other

Thus, because of the inability to accept the otherness of the other, we are becoming a fascist society. We simultaneously lose our high held values and stoop to the level of barbarians. The recent events in world politics point in this direction. If we need a change, we have to address this problem with urgency.

Everyone is entitled to their view. We do not have to agree on everything to have a good relationship. Differences in perspective should be respected, without taking it personally. Even if the other is wrong, we should not enforce our opinion.

Giving the breathing room for the other is the mark of true love. It surely is necessary for a good relationship. Because truly loving someone is accepting them with all their flaws and imperfections. This quirkiness and idiosyncrasies add color to relationships as cultural, religious, and political differences add plurality to a country.

Creating Heaven

When we lament that the world today is moving towards fascism, we fail to see the obvious. We discount the fact that we are also part of society and can bring the change we want. Hence the transformation should start from our relations.

Coming to think of it, the Kingdom of God is not one without different opinions. It is more a place where everyone respects the uniqueness of the other. It is a place where all the differences are accommodated without antagonism.

Can’t we create the Kingdom of love within us by accepting the otherness of the other?

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you. Please post your opinions in the comment box below.

12 thoughts on “The Otherness of the Other”

  1. Nice article.. just wondering if it should be accepting the otherness or respecting the otherness of others…

    1. Accepting the otherness is the first step to respecting the other. I think both are equally important. Thank you for reading and commenting

      1. Just trying to understand… maybe a person with extreme left or right views and me being center, should I really accept their view point to respect them ??? I would rather choose to respect their ideologies and still disagree with their view point…

        1. I believe it is not necessary conform with the views of others. But we can accept that they have different ideologies and respect the difference.

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