Defined by Differences

As global citizens inhabiting this planet, all human beings should have more similarities than differences, right ? But that is a naive assumption, to say the least.

Even within a country, we are more defined by our differences. I am not referring here to skin colour or race, or even religion. The challenges we face today in a diverse country such as India are numerous, but these can be handled but for the differences we impose on ourselves and others. Same problem or issue appears to be different in the South as compared to North or West. An example is the imposition of punishment on young couples who marry out of their respective races, meted out by gram panchayats (village councils) in the Northern and North-Western regions of India. Such a treatment would be considered barbaric in the Western and Eastern parts of India.

In some parts of India, corruption is not an accepted practice to get things done. In most parts, it might be required practice. Similarities are eclipsed when it comes to comparison of behaviours and attitudes between different communities of India, and it becomes easier to point out the differences.

Why should people be defined by differences ? Are we all not the same ?

Difficult to answer, even for a single country, single race of people. Forget cross-cultural differences and cross-religious differences. Forget ideological differences. What is considered to be right in a particular community, religion or a country is sometimes totally unacceptable in another community, religion or country. Bridging cultures is possible, but argumentative positions on “required” differences can hardly be reconciled.

Take the example of Jammu & Kashmir, parts of which are disputed between India and Pakistan. Differences over the fate of Kashmir cannot be reconciled despite any amount of negotiations between the two countries, and diplomatic positions get hardened when one country takes a very public posture against the other. Indians and Pakistanis came from the same womb, but they are more defined by their differences than anything else. Similarly, the Koreas (South and North) are defined by their stark differences, than by the similarities of their race, colour and religion.

This is the unfortunate situation of the human race, and the only solution is to replace all humans by aliens as we have seen in some Hollywood movies and then obliterating all boundaries between countries. But that is just Hollywood, not really the reality.

In personal interactions and in business interactions, we sometimes consciously look for differences as we might try to complement each other. That is not wrong, and it might help two people to actually work together well. Imagine if everyone in a family or a company think and act the same !

Something to think about during the weekend, I guess.


Vijay Srinivasan
01 October 2011


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