Inequity – An Inherent Element of Human Beings March 26, 2007Posted by Georgete in Point of view.
A couple months ago, I was at Barnes & Noble doing my customary search for new books when I found “Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers,” by Thich Nhat Hanh.* Yep, I went back home with both. This book instigated my curiosity about spiritual leaders such as Siddhārtha Gautama and Mahatma Gandhi among others. I wanted to understand the commonalities of behaviors, leadership styles, causes, context, and personal traces. I also craved to learn if they shared the reasons that stimulated their first step toward an unprecedented change in their own lives and societies. Guess what? It was too complex and I was not willing to defend a thesis.
However, as I read their biographies and memoirs I kept asking myself why, after thousand years of human progress, we still find ourselves struggling with unfair treatment of people (on the basis of prejudice) and fighting against hierarchical distinctions in our society, as Buddha did in 560 BC and Gandhi in the 19 century. I’ve been in so many places worldwide, and I’ve heard that discrimination and social intolerance has it roots in the history and culture of a country. Honestly, I don’t buy it. Somehow prejudice goes across all human beings regardless their cultural and background differences.
Unfortunately, the hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups in societies are indeed human’s need. Men and woman will always find legitimate reasons for differentiating themselves from others. For example, this is not about rich versus poor. Even within underprivileged communities where everybody is in the same boat (no jobs, descent housing, nor education), you will find “prejudice” among them. The ones that have a pair of shoes believe they are better than the ones who have nothing. The ones with a pair of pants and shoes put themselves in a higher position over the ones with a pair of shoes.
My point here is: prejudice has always been a result of our imperfect nature as human beings. It is all about responding to our individual or collective need for giving ourselves the illusory sense of importance in detriment of others. How to change it? We may need to go through an inner battle as individuals, by watching our own atitiutes in a constant self-surveillance … An individual effort for the sake of own collectivity.
*Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, a poet, a scholar, and a peace activist. He founded the Unified Buddhist Church in France in 1969, during the Vietnam War.