Friday, 16 November 2007

On social conflicts

Recently I’ve come across an extremely concise post by an Indian blogger that hit a straight exclamatory (poignant too) note on frustrating impact of linguistic groupism upon the dynamics of social progression. I couldn’t simply ignore it as a matter of fact for two major reasons. Firstly, it has a deeper relevance to a multifaceted academic issue that has attracted a broad spectrum of intellectuals of diverse schools of thought to deliberate on it and has, in due process and demand, also involved scholars from almost every branches of knowledge—social scientists to historians, economists to political scientists, psychologists to linguists, and so on. Secondly, the writer has recently moved to Canada for pursuing her studies and has to experience a different social climate that may have been influenced upon in a different way by varied cultural, lingual and religious encouragements or even by ripples of ethnic impulses; and, for this fact, she must have some clips on human interactions arising in different social climates and how subjective those are under impact of incongruent social, cultural, ethnic or lingual judgments.
What is relevant to the context is not to dispute that the conflict subsists in such social environment, but to consider whether it exists only in such circumstances or does it encompass apparent homogeneity of groups that have similar social or lingual or cultural or national belongingness or does it concern to a sense of loss of inheritance of an individual human mind that connects to the society it feels to belong either biologically or ideologically? In any case, a group is primarily a collection of individuals who are not clones to others and it’s a natural phenomenon that some common pursuits of such individuals bind them together into a group that also tends to solidify a vision to reflect collective responses of its members. Theoretically it sounds pretty well-founded. But, what we could perceive of its practical representations does not often seem to agree to its set theoretical inferences. Group is a simple form of collection of individuals having a defined goal. Society is much a bigger and complex form having too many groups within. Still, society has also some common practices and intentions, and such practices and intentions have deep roots in groups it holds. These are the forces that bind the society to express its commonality before an external environment, but its constituent groups do neither disown its distinct practices nor do subscribe to intentions of other groups spontaneously until such are collectively accepted to be better options by its individual members. And till such point, neither a society nor a group is fundamentally dependent upon the geographical boundary it has, but, indisputably, it can neither be unconscious to general geographic features it is environed with in company with many other groups or societies. Apart from this environment factor, there may be some other natural influences like structural and genetic features (defined either in racial, ethnic or biological form), language (verbal, signs and gestures) and religious belief, which may lay open a prospective field for societies or groups to intermingle into one consolidated social form. In a more advanced phase it gives birth to a complex society. Nation is a further advanced form deeply bounded by a physical boundary having a potential political and administrative control.
In the midst of all these diverse parameters and complexities, an individual may either agree to some or all intentions and practices of some groups within a society, or may also subscribe to some intentions and practices of some groups of some societies irrespective of its relevance to national form or may also disagree in like manner. But, agreement and disagreement are averse to each other. An individual cannot be thrown out of the society for such disagreement. Therefore, without going into a case specific analysis it can be safely said that a society is always vulnerable to disagreement of its set intentions and practices by any or some of its members and expressions of such disagreement may either impel the society to amend, rescind or rewrite its existing intentions and practices or may fail to do so; but, in any event, agreement and disagreement must reside within the society. This builds the situation where the society is classified into a group of people having two distinct identities—an individual and a citizen. They are unique in its content, but discrete in its application. In a complex situation, these two identities may act separately in distinct groups depending upon quality of responses of individual or citizen mindsets. Thus, not only a society is vulnerable to discontent, but an individual mind is also susceptible to such vulnerability while compromising itself with the self and the society. So, the conflict ranges from an individual mind to a group, a group to a society, a society to a nation and a nation to entire mankind. Still, it is an integral part of social progression and a distinguishable form of human expression too. In his essays on Individuality and Citizenship, Bertrand Russell eloquently analysed every aspects of this issue and expressed himself in his natural flair:—
“The elements of knowledge and emotion in the perfect individual as we have been portraying him are not essentially social. It is only through the will and through the exercise of power that the individual whom we have been imagining becomes an effective member of the community. And even so the only place which the will, as such, can give to a man is that of dictator. The will of the individual considered in isolation is the god-like will which says ‘let such things be’. The attitude of the citizen is a very different one. He is aware that his will is not the only one in the world, and he is concerned in one way or another, to bring harmony out of the conflicting wills that exist within his community. The individual as such is self-subsistent, while the citizen is essentially circumscribed his neighbours ……….. The fundamental characteristic of the citizen is that he cooperates, in intention if not in fact.”
“If a man’s life is to be satisfactory, whether from his own point of view or from that of the world at large, it requires two kinds of harmony; an internal harmony or intelligence, emotion, and will, and an external harmony with the wills of others. In both these respects, existing education is defective. Internal harmony is prevented by religious and moral teaching given in infancy and youth, which usually continues to govern with emotions but not the intelligence in later life, while the will is left vacillating, inclining to one side or the other according as emotion or intelligence has momentarily the upper hand. Such conflicts could be prevented if the young were taught doctrines which adult intelligence can accept……………..The matter of external harmony with the wills of others is more difficult, and not capable of a complete solution. Competition and cooperation are both natural human activities, and it is difficult to suppress competition completely without destroying individuality. But it is not individual and unorganised competition that does the harm in the modern world………The dangerous form of disharmony in the modern world is the organised form.”
“A sense of citizenship, of social co-operation, is therefore more necessary than it used to be; but it remains important that it should be secured without too great a diminution of individual judgement and individual initiative.”
These were all written some seventy five years back. Maybe, it is more relevant to the present world than it was to be when he had thought of hat we can perceive is that the conflict is not so frightening act but its organised abetment eventually yielding to a burgeoning impact upon the civil society and in micro level, upon an individual.
An individual is only recognised in a society, he has his identity in such social climate; he can express his creativity, displays his uniqueness and presents his philosophy only before the society that recognises him. He has to thrive in company of others—friends or foes—keeping with himself those essential ingredients of citizenships—competition and co-operation; but both need to flourish on values. It needs to care for external wills—individual faith, ideology, religion, language, and any acceptable human aspiration. When it gets diluted it seeks a refuge of social pollution of organised hatred, aggression and intolerance. Individual expression has to meet a suffocating end when society fails to imbibe values in its collective expression; cause of death is immaterial, place of death is insignificant, we are to repent only for the tragedy. Someway, we could more clearly observe talons coming out of paws of those organised disharmony in a different social climate because it seems to offer mostly unknown practices than we are used to experience, but within our most known environment, where we claim to know names of every flowers that bloom around, if we look deeply, lift that beautiful painted veil, which bears an artistic presentation of fraternity, tolerance and humanity, we could also find some more talons that already have had some prey. Insensitivity has no fascination over origin of its victims; it only loves to have countless victims. Just to conclude I love to refer to Russell again:—
“The world has become so intolerably tense, so charged with hatred, so mixed with misfortune and pain that men have lost the power of balanced judgement which is needed for emergence from the slough in which mankind is staggering. Our age is so painful that many of the best men have been seized with despair. But there is no rational ground for despair; that means of happiness for the human race exist, and it is only necessary that the human race should choose to use them.”


  1. Thats a very nice social commentary...
    Actually i my views on such issues may be immature...
    but i personally feel i cannot relate to any one group religious, political whatsoever...
    all groups have some flaws and cannot satisfy all its members...
    but since we are born into it we become the silent members....

    BTW.. you write very well and should consider it giving to editorial of some paper if you have not done it already...

  2. Dear Sidharth,
    Love your compliments !
    See what I have tried to explain is that a conflict is not so scary, be it in individual mind or in any collective perception, but swelling up of its organised abetment against which neither an individual nor a collection is immune. You or I can jolly well alienate ourselves from any group identity, but could we elude its impact upon the peace of mind that an individual mind aspires to possess to pursue good and deliver good ? Possibly not, and that's a crisis of greater dimension which an individual soul has to carry along !
    Nice to interact, friend !

  3. I never read this post! I am still reading it as I am posing this comment, so might come up with another one. :)

    Somehow, rationalism fails when there are circumstances to be faced. As Remarque said - death is not an adventure to those who stand face-to-face with it, might be a exagerrating analogy. I am Computer Engg in making so I probably don't understand the topic of Groupism. What I know and understand is the situation that stands in front of me.

    Living around people originating from various cultures, ethnicity, religions, is fun at times, sometimes a learning experience and tough at times. It is not the religion, it is not the nation, it is not the culture that bothers but it is the creation of group by people belonging to similar ethnicity that leads to isolation of people that don't belong to any group.

    I told about this to a very close friend of mine. He told me its not something to be faced in US of A or Canada. Linguistic groupism is someting he faced in India. A Gujarati getting isolated among group of people talking in Tamil (or any other language) of which he has no clue of. I knew, then, I could not blame it on western subcontinent.

    Groups will always be created, it is the basic human nature. And as he said " Don't waste your neurons on feeling bad for these things.There are things that will never change, this is one of them."

  4. Thanks, Shefali, for your kind appreciation of the issues!
    Within this short article, I have attempted to deliberate on only effects of organised abetment of conflict by groupism. There are other aspects too. And, with all pains around can neurons safely send signals "all quite...." and will death be an adventure?
    Thanks too for a brilliant quote from Remarque in a right perspective.