Dignity of Diversity: How can we be One when we are all different?
There are about 6,900 languages spoken in the world today. However, all the natural human languages share what Noam Chomsky, who is often referred to as ‘the father of modern linguistics’, calls the ‘deep structure of grammar’. This means that the English language and the Chinese language, for example, are essentially the same. Therefore, any typically developing child can grow up to speak any natural human language, regardless of the language of their biological parents.
In terms of race, most anthropologists recognise four or five distinct racial groups. Again though, all races share more than 99.99 per cent of the same genetic material, which means that division of race is largely subjective. That is to say, as the UNESCO Statement on the Biological Aspects of Race states, there is no biological basis for racial classification.
There are 196 countries in the world. Within those there is an even more expansive list of varieties of culture. Culture is the full range of learned human behaviour patterns. There are over 7.5 billion people in the world, and at any one time, no two people will be thinking the same thought or have the same idea in the same way. However, there are commonly recognised learned behaviour patterns that are shared by all of humanity, collectively. These include:
• Communicating with a verbal language
• Raising children in some sort of family setting
• Distinguishing between good and bad behaviour
• Some sort of body ornamentation
• Artistic expression
• Leadership roles for the implementation of community decisions
There are about 30 major religions in the world. Yet, the ethic of reciprocity is found in the scriptures of nearly every religion.
• You shall love your neighbor as yourself – Christianity
• Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself – Islam.
• Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence – Confucianism
• This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you – Hinduism
• Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful – Buddhism
• What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary – Judaism
In 1989, the Brahma Kumaris, as part of the project, Global Co-operation for a Better World, carried out a survey of values in 88 countries. The result was the ‘The Global Vision Statement’. Whether royalty, road sweepers, housewives or prime ministers, all cultures from all parts of the world were united in their values: Joy, dignity, integrity, equality, love, harmony, respect, tolerance, goodwill, honesty, cooperation, peace, sustainability, freedom.
Our differences of ideas, opinions, beliefs, ways of life need not divide us. Dignity creates harmony and freedom. Freedom to be myself and to allow others to be who they are meant to be.
Dignity is the most precious thing that a human being can have. It comes from the Latin dignitas, meaning worthy. Dignity resides in our hearts and minds; in our attitude towards ourselves and towards others. Dignity lies in knowing that I am an eternal being, a soul, with eternal qualities of peace, love, wisdom and joy. Dignity lies in knowing that we all belong to One Supreme Being.
By maintaining my own dignity, no matter how difficult a situation may be, I will not be influenced by the opinions of others, in a way that will take me away from my conscience, often called the still small voice within. A dignified person will always seek to give, rather than to take. To listen to understand, rather than to prove themselves. Therefore, there cannot be true compassion without dignity. Otherwise even the most charitable acts can be self-serving, needing recognition. An act of kindness brings blessings from the hearts of others.
I can grow my dignity in inner silence. This allows my mind to connect to my own humanity and to a higher Divine Being, who is the only One who can unite the whole world. This inner silence holds within it the power of transformation. It is this transformative power that can take us beyond the barriers of culture or religion to the understanding that we all have our own, very special role to play in this world.
B.K. Jayanti is a senior Rajyoga teacher and the director of the Brahma Kumaris’ services in Europe.