A culture based on our separateness, one that highlights our differences and pits “us” against “them”, is not stable. A world that consists of unstable cultures is explosive.
When we isolate ourselves in groups whose members think, look, speak like us, when we limit our lives in that way, we must always be on guard, ever fearful that the “other” may somehow infiltrate us, poison our purity. For some of us, eventually, merely watching the walls for incursions isn’t enough. For some of us, the only way to be safe is to obliterate the other.
To add gravitas to our struggles, then, we say the others have “assaulted our values” or “declared war on us”. This language opens the door for our own “side” to escalate, to justify whatever means we choose to “do battle”. And, since we’ve convinced ourselves that we are at war, we become even more fearful of the “other side”. Even if — especially if — we find the other in our midst.
Explosive. And dangerous. Deadly. There are just too many hard edges, too many places for friction and conflict. And in their absence, we tend to create them.
A culture grounded in our similarities — and what deeper, more profound similarity do we have than our very humanness? — is stable. It is also open. The stone walls of our differences don’t exist. Instead, we celebrate our differences, learn from them. We don’t fear them, because we see that there’s nothing to fear.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is, and it isn’t. It is, because that’s all there is to it. It isn’t, because … well, because of us.
It isn’t easy to stop looking outside ourselves for answers to our problems. If only this were another way, or if only they would behave differently … but that’s not the answer, and it never has been. The answers — all of them — are within us.
Or, as I heard from one of my teachers very recently, “If you’re looking anywhere outside yourself, you’re looking in the wrong direction.”