My dear son,
Affiliation, as I have come to realize, is an odd concept. So comforting in the security it offers; and yet at the same time, so suffocating in the boundaries it creates.
From the moment we are born we are affiliated. To someone. To some things. To some place. To social constructs, we don’t know even understand. To ideologies, we have been handed down. I cannot, and will not, rule out the luxury of having that affiliation, especially during our formative years. It certainly makes things easier. To carve an identity for ourselves is a heavy burden to bear. And we need to be strong enough first before we undertake such an endeavor. But every man must undertake it, nevertheless. And the fact that so few bother to anymore, is I feel how the world has landed up where it has; a sorry state which keeps getting bleaker with every day’s news headline.
Everywhere I look, unfathomable rifts seem to be splitting our world wide open; with the few bridges that we have left being burned away fast and few bothering to build new ones. The smoke from those fires is fogging everyone’s views and judgments. Blinded, they are running amok; running into each other, knocking someone down or being knocked down in the process. Starting up fights they never meant to. Suddenly everyone’s at war. Everywhere. With everyone else.
A lot of this can find its roots in the ill-defined concepts of ‘us’ and ‘them’; and the notion that all that relates to ‘us’ is good and venerable, and all that relates to ‘them’ is bad and hate-worthy. Factionalism, to a certain extent, is expected when the world is as large as ours is. And so it has always existed – on political lines, on religious lines, on linguistic lines, even about things that were meant to serve as pure entertainment, like which sports team is better and who is the real Bollywood superstar. But what’s gripping our world, currently, isn’t just some mild variant of factionalism. This is something far graver, far scarier. This is people forming cliques based on issues ranging from the most prejudiced to the most inane; and calling everyone else whose thinking is not in tandem with theirs, wrong. It is an epidemic of “If you’re not with us, you’re against us”; permeating to the smallest of issues one can think of.
The world is increasingly becoming binary. Definitions are being so tightly compartmentalized, that if you’re not ‘this’, then you must be ‘that’. You will be told that there are no in-betweens; there are no on-the-fences. That there are no atheists and agnostics in the existential matters of the world anymore. One simply must pick a side and fight for it. All these tactics are nothing but a way for them to build the walls around you, to make sure you never peer over to the other side.
So the best thing that you can do for yourself, my son, is to not to let them build these walls. They will try. Oh yes, they will. Brick by brick, word by word, prejudice by prejudice; they will try to ingrain in you how you are different from ‘them’. We eat this and they eat that. We live here and they, over there. We believe in this and they, in that. Knock down every single brick as soon as they put it up, before the cement sets in for eternity. Always keep looking over the wall; familiarize yourself with ‘their’ world as much as yours. Familiarization doesn’t always breed contempt. Au contraire, in this day and age it breeds comfort and empathy. And that’s what we need. To be comfortable with whoever is different from us and learn to empathize with what we do not yet fully understand.
Remember, affiliation with one, doesn’t need to become the reason of alienation with another. ‘Family’ can be a very flexible concept, if you let it be. And ‘stranger’ is just a powerless word; a bubble you can burst away with a touch of a hand.
So, reach out. Understand. Feel. And bond.
That is how you will make a real family. That is how you can make sure that no one is a stranger. And when no one is a stranger and everyone is family, wouldn’t all the fighting finally stop?
Love, now and always