by Kishan Parekh
We have all heard of the famous quote above by Aesop, and even though it is ancient, the meaning behind it still rings true to this day. Over the centuries, it has played its part in countless wars and battles. Today we can see it in full force; Tunisia, Egypt, the Middle East and most recently, Libya.
Even in small groups, it is clear that success is not easy to come by when the group is divided. Many a time I have experienced this, in my school cricket team, in a lab group or even in the country I lived in. Is it so difficult to live in unity or work in unison? Why does a small event always trigger a rift in a group of people?
I believe the answer lies in the fact that not everyone thinks the same, not everyone has the same beliefs, and barring identical twins, there is definitely no one person who looks exactly like another. There is still discrimination in this world, if not against colour, then beliefs, religion or social status. Racism still lingers in most parts of the world, and through personal experience, I can tell you, it’s pretty bad. What makes all this worse is that people fight because EVERYONE believes they are right. There has to be a universal moral line to cross before conflict arises.
As a Hindu, I truly detest the caste system that is so morally wrong, sometimes I wonder how it survived for so long. It has done much greater damage to more people than slavery or disease, and for a longer period of time too. If you have been fooled into believing that it was part of Hinduism, then do not spare, there have been countless others who have too. Ancient Hindu scholars sought power, and when it was achieved they just couldn’t let it go. So they invented an ingenious social hierarchy that made them the very top and everyone else to rely on their whims. Thus they maintained their power and “religious” significance to the people.
I support the view of staying away from people who are untrustworthy or not hygienically clean, because it matters in today’s society too. Hinduism is heavily laden with the concept of mental and physical purity, so it was normal for it to happen then as it is today. But to classify people from birth or family history was just wrong; if you were born into an “unclean” family, you and your family remained “unclean” for eternity. I may be missing a whole lot of other reasons for the system, but it does not account for the fact that people had to live like outcasts all their lives.
At one point the system was as colour discriminated as the apartheid regime in South Africa. In fact, the Sanskrit name for the caste system was “varnashrama dharma”, meaning a system based on color. I am glad to say it is on the way to eradication in India, greatly helped by independence and the success the so called “untouchables” have.
At some point in time, people cannot take the unjust actions on their lives, and this is what causes the uprisings and civil wars today. People they trusted and elected to power became corrupt or just forgot about them, they just cannot let go of the power. Power is what drives men crazy, and throughout the history of mankind, it has been shown to full effect. How can we stop this? How can we prevent people from making the same mistake twice or more when it comes to power?
I don’t think anyone has the answer to this yet, and not for a very long time too, society would disintegrate. The presence of power is so built in that it cannot be forgotten easily. Some may say that moral values may bring about the good in our leaders, or even religion. But when powerful figures in almost every religion have turned out to be so corrupt, it is not very convincing as the right solution. I believe if we can accept each other’s beliefs and live harmoniously, there would be less of the fighting we see today.
As Condoleeza Rice once said, “We need a common enemy to unite us”.
What or who the enemy may be is still to be found, but for now, I guess tolerance and equality is the key.