Diversity & Identity

Today I happen to read a very powerful and interesting article on diversity on one side and the individual freedom on the other side. It made me to reflect on the relation between individual identity and diversity. In India, diversity is something celebrated (atleast we say so). No.. I can’t be so cynical, it is really celebrated in many (most) corners of our country. Synergy speaks of combining various individual creativities.

There are many aspects to diversity. One is the uniqueness of each person leading to diversity in the individual levels. There are class diversities based on religion, culture, ethnicities, nationalities etc. We say all these should be celebrated. Just as an individual can’t have absolute freedom, individual groups too can’t have. Their diversities are definitely not absolute (still there are commonalities between the individuals of different groups); where we will put the limit to their freedom?

In India, we have muslims and Jews who don’t eat pork, a section of Hindus who don’t want anything to do with beef and other religious too have their own peculiar beliefs. Occasionally, it comes into conflict and where is the demarcation to be drawn? Whether Hindus should allow others to eat beef by practicing tolerance or whether there should be a ban? It will be projected as a conflict between diversity and identity. Should we use either-or approach or both-and approach. It is pity that India and many eastern traditions who are followers of both-and approaches have so much struggles related to these areas.

508126349-quote-we-hope-the-world-will-act-in-the-spirit-of-enlightened-self-interest-atal-bihari-vajpayee-189236Another interesting point, which was also raised in the article was about individual freedom vs diversity. When they come in conflict, how we deal with the situation. Probably catholics is one of the few groups who can excommunicate one from them. Still that person can be a Christian. Any person can be a Muslim, Hindu or other religious (as they don’t have a central authority to excommunicate). More importantly he belongs a particular group/state by birth. If their is conflict between individual liberty/identity and group identity (we speak of preservation of that diversity), how we will draw the line. A completely rationalist approach will say, we should side with the individual freedom. But human (though a rational animal) are not a rationalist society, but more a social group/community. So the tension prevails…

We have different sorts of vices in different religions. How far it should be accepted? Caste discrimination of dalits, patriarchal privileges to men and so on. Probably in the human rights language(we don’t and can’t form a universal human rights code… still), they are oppression in some forms. Can in the name of diversities (freedom of the diversities), individuals given not appropriate opportunities to evolve?  

We might be living as a community with people belonging to different sections. In many places, there is a heart to heart connect beyond their own ethnicities. There are many Christians with extremely good Muslim or Hindu friends and vice-versa. The diversity definitely influences and enriches their identity. Such influences help to maintain a globalized society and to reduce the prejudices.

I tried to bring some aspects of the relation between diversity and identity. When I accept that both should be celebrated, we still need to figure out which shape the celebration should take up when conflicting scenarios emerge between them…(3 possible (many more may be there) options are dialogue, upholding individual freedom, arguing for preservation of diversity)… Before jumping to conclusions, do visualize different possibilities and after-effects of each of them…


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