Saturday, December 2, 2017

Individuality.

Until a couple of years ago, my short temper was one of my biggest regrets and an understood weakness. A lot of times when I got angry over a difference of opinion, my mother would share with me a metaphor: "When the 5 fingers on our hands are different, why do we expect others in the world to be just like us?" That, or the daily recitation of the Indian National Pledge in school that reminded me how India's diversity is its strength and pride, instilled in me the value of every person's individuality, and the respect for the same.

For quite a while now, I have seen people (and Indians in particular) struggle with their identities. Especially since a single opinion you have can come to define your identity among a group of people. Support a particular political outfit, and you get branded with a name that is supposed to be an insult. Support a particular idea, and the you will be labelled with an associated leader and interrogated about their mistakes. A lot of these thoughts plague me with quite a few questions:
  • Is one opinion enough to identify an individual?
  • Why is one peculiar, unusual, unpopular, radical, conflicting opinion you have enough to worship, demonize, abuse or insult someone?
  • Why are others' choices of political leadership made abuses to ridicule them by?
  • Why is anyone's liberalism so hurtful to a left / right-wing follower, that he / she feels the need to insult them and their opinions? And vice versa?
  • Why has the conversation drifted from merits and demerits of an issue, to deriding people at a personal level?
  • Why shouldn't one voice their opinion for something that doesn't affect them, even if they think it is unfair?
It is ironic how even as the most diverse country in the world, in recent times, some of us have wanted to singularize a plural voice. One religion, one language, one diet, one belief system. Instead, why can't we celebrate our individuality, and in turn, our diversity? I would rather have one country that embraces every person for their individuality!

The most fascinating thing to me about individuality is that it is transient. We rarely ever realize it, but we change from one moment to the next. Our opinions and beliefs are influenced by those around us and the things we read, watch, hear. Some ideas take root and come to define us. Others, we come to hate. The strength of these opinions and beliefs isn't constant, either. Some are powerful, others weak. But the only constant is the sate of flux that empowers us to change our opinions and beliefs.

To illustrate, I spent years worshiping and then randomly announced my belief in atheism, before realizing I align more closely with agnosticism. I was convinced socialism was the right way, before understanding the merits of capitalism and consumerism. I didn't know about the unfair way our society treats women before observing it in public places and listening to first hand accounts from friends and acquaintances. I consider myself a liberal, while strongly voicing my opinions about the associated responsibilities that come with the freedom. I unequivocally support net neutrality, but I also read the other side to understand where they come from. Despite my disagreement with the government, I still believe in the power of democracy. And even though I have been burned a number of times, I choose to believe that people are inherently good at heart.

I choose. I believe. And through each of those choices, I have become who I am today. Each choice that I have made, right or wrong, has shaped me. And the choices you have made, and the beliefs you hold have shaped you. Shouldn't each one of us be proud of that? I also know that I may not hold an opinion I have today tomorrow, and I would rather be judged by my actions of today than yesterday.

You may not agree with me and I may not agree with you. I struggle day-in and day-out to accept opposing opinions about things that I feel strongly about. But, isn't that difference between us the very crux of humanity? The disagreement is exactly what allows for the thought process to never stop and in turn, helping us grow as individuals, through listening, debating, expressing. And as long as that growth in all of us doesn't stop, there is hope. The world is becoming a better place. Slowly, maybe, but surely.

Over the years, I have come to realize that every person, no matter how much they mean to us, how close we are to them, how long they have been with us, or how similar they look, are different. No two people are the same, and in our uniqueness lies the very essence of humanity.

Until next time.

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