When the protagonist of the movie Avatar says to the heroine.”I see you”, the heroine retorts back” I see you too”. Like the movie itself, the dialogues may contain many layers of meaning. When they say to each other “ I see you” that means, “I see you as you are, stripped of the psychological conditioning brought out by the society. I see you as a unique individual not to be judged based on your family, social, national, or planetary background”. Or else, how could two different minds from two different planets meet?
As I have mentioned in my article ‘Living by the motto‘, by virtue of my association with some wonderful organizations, I have got the opportunity to interact with a wide spectrum of people from the Indian and global diaspora. I have learnt to see everybody as a unique individual. Sometimes, persons in a particular group may show some similarities in some aspects like way of thinking, food habits, pronunciation etc. However, It does not mean every one of that group would confirm to those characteristics. The reality is that, two persons speaking the same language and living under the same roof can be diametrically opposite in many aspects. Similarly, two persons living in two different parts of the globe may show similarities in many aspects of their character, attitude and life.
Often I come across people who have a stereotyped image of an ex-defense personnel and the ideal way he should behave. On many social gatherings when I refuse to take alcohol or non-vegetarian food, this comes as a surprise to many. “How come”, they would say, “you being an ex-defense personnel do not drink or take non-vegetarian food”. Even though the person himself may not be exhibiting all the group characteristics of the group he is part of, it comes as a surprise to him that somebody does not behave in line with the group image he has formed in his mind.
“Judge not, for ye not be judged”, says the Bible. However, you and your work are constantly being judged, most often prima facie, by people who do not care to learn a little more about you. The height of such prima facie judgement happened when I took up the current job. There was another ex-serviceman who had joined that office one year back. At the age of 47, he was still a bachelor. There was this lady colleague who asked me the moment she came to know I am an ex-serviceman, “when are you going to get married?”
When a whole society or group develops bias against another group it leads to social and political unrest. In its extreme form this group bias may manifest as racial discrimination, or still worse communal violence, terrorism, genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Even though the differences with regard to the way we dress and speak may be slowly vanishing due to frequent migrations, globalization and other factors, our biases with regard to other cultures and religions still remain a matter of concern. The only way to overcome these biases are to learn more about other cultures and religions with an open mind. May be the day we learn to see a person as he is or she is, without drawing premature conclusions based on his family background, position of power, caste, religion, sect, language or nationality, will be the day that heralds the end of all group conflicts and forms extremism.