Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Together We Fall

When you're in school, you see a lot of groups. First there's the group of kids who play sport. Then there's the group of girls who giggle and gossip a lot. The studios group, the school captains and prefects, even the group of kids you didn't even know existed- they're all groups. Yes, you attend the same classes, have the same teachers and study the same curriculum, which means all the important things are the same for everyone, but once all that's over for the day, you retreat to your own friend circle which probably has it's own inside jokes and favorite topics of discussion. At the end of the day, it's only your group that matters. Everybody else is just a part of the background image, something which completes the picture of high school but doesn't make it exciting. And that's how the ideas of groupism are first planted in our heads.

As you grow up, the way groupism shows up in our lives keeps changing, but the key concept remains the same. When you go to college, you're already grown up. There's no question of forming groups by virtue of growing up together. So now, this is the scenario- there are people who keep telling you to 'participate' and 'interact', and if it suddenly seems like being shy or reserved is not an option. Then there's always some club or students' group or political party asking you to join them. They come to you and things like "We'll give you a unified voice" or "At the end of the day, we must all stick together" or "Look, somebody has to take an initiative to change things", and before you know it, you get drawn to these ideas and you become part of a group.

Then comes the 'job' phase of life and now you have this Doctor's Club and that Engineer's Club and some philanthropic club that makes you feel benevolent. But the things is that even if you do join some club, the groupism doesn't end there. Within the club, there are people who favor members who gradated from the same college as them or come from the same town, even if they've never met before. See how the need to form groups never really goes away. It's not a stupid high-school concept that you eventually grow out of; it's an idea that's so deeply embedded in our brains that we can never leave it behind.

In my humble opinion, groupism is not the same as nepotism. Nepotism is a system wherein we unfairly favor those we love or know. Groupism is when search for a superficial enveloping force for ourselves. We feel comfortable if we're surrounded by people who have something in common with us. We like things  to always be familiar. It's all human instinct- we find comfort in familiarity, we feel stronger when we're with other people. That's just the good parts. So what about the flipside? The part where we dislike someone just because they're different from us? Is being different a crime? is not being with any group a mistake?

I don't have the answer to any of those questions. All I know is that if we carefully think about it, we've all adopted groupism at some point in our lives. We've found ourselves irritated by people who don't speak like we do or dress like we do or talk about the same things. It's not like we do it intentionally. It just happens.

But you what could probably solve all the problems groupism causes? Acceptance. Maybe we should accept people for being different instead of judging them. If someone is reserved, accept that and act accordingly with that person. If someone's  the extroverted type, don't get freaked out by their openness. Instead try to understand where the openness comes from. I'm not suggesting that we confuse acceptance with forgiving every obnoxious person out there. All I'm saying is that if people weren't of various kinds, finding our friends and soulmates wouldn't be such a big deal. So what say we try to accept without judgement for a change? Maybe we'll find familiarity in places we never imagined.