Integration in an Era of Intolerance

Humanity today is captured by the shackles of the political and social climate that prevails in the world. This climate emphasizes difference, disunity and destruction, rather than qualities of unity and productive energy that are essential to sustain human societies.

Despite the immense diversity of creation, we must accept for a fact that there exists in nature a profound underlying unity and one must take the initiative of exploring this profundity, but the negative forces do not allow us to do so and alienate ourselves from the very roots of our existence.

When at school, the young students from what they learn at the morning assembles develop a naïve optimism and idealism about our country. They genuinely instill their faith in the cultural ethos of the country, because invariably – in these schools the Preamble of the constitution is recited and slogans of fraternity and ‘Unity in diversity’, echo in the assembly halls. On learning about incidents of insane violence and annihilation propagated by mindless bloodthirstiness of fundamentalism or illegitimate caste accusations or even futile regional disputes – the impact on these little ones must be unimaginable in magnitude. The faith in the system and surroundings that is shattered so brutally is hard to rebuild.

We are blessed to live in a multicultural society that provides opportunities for its members to learn more about each other, thus fostering increased awareness and understanding of diversity within the human community at large. There exists a colossal amount of heritage that each of our cultures possess. The increased promotion of cultural diversity has thus been accompanied by stronger feelings of attachment to ethnic roots, often causing conflicts among different groups. When the acceptance of diversity or adherence to traditional expression is perceived as a threat to preservation of ones own traditions, conflicts can arise. It is at this juncture that the masses play a vital role. It is our extreme misfortune that no one else but our ‘netas’ are the ones cashing on these differences by provoking and instigating the gullible ‘janta’. Very recently we saw a Minister in the state of Maharashtra fueling the fire of linguistic differences and suggesting that non Marathi speakers be ousted from the state. Similar Incidents can also be cited with respect to Tamil Nadu. What these ministers forget is that they are living in a country where the currency note flashes its value in 15 different languages revealing the inherent respect for diversity in the country’s value system.

Another challenge of this age is not only to find a way to live in harmony with people, who are different by traditions, but to celebrate the diversity and learn from it. Only a limited amount of knowledge can be gained from those who are similar to us, on the other hand there is a fortune of knowledge to be gained from those with different perspectives.

On a philosophical note, one can look at the beauty in diversity and learn a lesson from the vegetable creation. If you visualize a garden in which all plants were the same as to form, colour and aroma – it would appear to you reasonably monotonous and dull. The garden which is pleasing to the eye is the garden in which are growing flowers of every hue, form and aroma, the contrast of colours and shapes makes for the garden’s charm and beauty.

On similar lines it is the variety and diversity of our nation that characterizes its uniqueness.

Our goal must not simply be tolerance of diversity, but its positive nurturing, each culture represents an important, perhaps a crucial aspect of the national character. Traditions need to be examined in light of a changing world; an examination of cultural practices will reveal the reasons of its development and offer settlement to contemporary conflicts.

In recent times, sociologists and academics have had a standard view of the concept: Unity in diversity is the highest possible attainment of a civilization, a testimony to the noblest possibilities of the human race. I hope that this article offers a resolution to some extent to many of the concerns felt by those who are resistant to the spread of one particular cultural hegemony and those who fear that awareness of differences can lead to greater intolerance

Aditya Sinha

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