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Omar is an International Relations Student at the American University of Sharjah, with a passion towards politics and a devotion towards the rhythmic arts of poetry and prose.
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Article in brief: Joined by geography, yet separated by ideologies. This article explores how differences in mentalities cause rifts.
Artwork by Anood AlMulla (@AnoodAlMulla_)
I was recently on a flight from Dubai to Delhi, and much to my delight, I was seated near to the window. As I was indulging in my bird’s eye view of the world, I realized that the borders that we see in our geography books are non-existent anymore. When you see things from afar, you view them as a single body, with no major difference whatsoever. Peaceful. Tranquil. Calm. Mountains, seas and rivers are there, but they are not obstacles. They are tools.
Fast forward to my Indian endeavors. After having several conversations with the people I’ve met, I have come to know of its deep-rooted disputes with Pakistan, which have consequently led to “Indo-Pakistani Wars”, such as the wars of 1947, 1965, 1971, and most recently, the Kargil War of 1999 over Kashmir. Pre 1948, they were one country; a single body; one person. Now, they are two separate countries, in addition to Bangladesh, as per the Partition of India and Pakistan on 1947. Geographically joined, ideologically separated.
Similarly, let’s use a more relatable scenario. Your neighbor, who you have known all your life, recently planted palm trees across the wall separating your houses. The palm trees block the sunlight from your house. Instead of having a logical and rational conversation with him explaining your situation, you throw a tantrum. The palm trees remain where they are, and you no longer speak to each other.
Another example is high school clique divisions. The “bachak” hate the nerds, the nerds hate the football fans, and the football fans hate the bookworms. They all attend the same school and are members of the same community, yet they are more apart than they are together. They are an image of strangers, forced to live in the same house.
This scenario is prevalent in environments in which people of different ethnic backgrounds or ideologies are expected to peacefully coexist and contribute to their community, be it in bilateral relations, workplaces, or school. All the means of unity are in place, however, ideologies prevail.
What causes certain social groups to wish to behave in this way? Is it the desire to prove oneself, the love of competitiveness, or just utter resentment towards anything “different”?
To me, I’m somewhat uncertain, as I believe that a combination of those factors cause people to behave in such a way. It begins with the lack of confidence to experiment what is new, thus the inherent desire to prove oneself, which gradually develops into competitiveness between the opposing parties. The key to avoid such conflicts is to be thoughtful and avoid close-mindedness. To accept the new, while sticking to the old, and to rule out the possibility of major disagreements over slight differences in the wiring of our brains.
Extremism in any ideology or belief is a dangerous attitude. Shall you believe that you are better than your counterparts, they will similarly carry the same attitude and consequently, many, many conflicts will arise. However, if you lead a tolerant attitude and accept other ideologies AND give knowledge as much as you take, then geography will prevail. It will not be an obstacle to cross cultural understanding, but rather a tool. There will be no conflicts, no disputes, and no wars. We are all children of this big family. And as my favorite television series as a kindergartener catchphrase says; “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.” Lilo and Stitch.