Sunday 9 July 2023

Unity essential in holding together diversity (The Sunday Guardian)

 It is the responsibility of educators and historians to ensure that awareness of the common core of belief in the unity of the nation is within every citizen.

Were an extra-terrestrial to land on Earth, he or she may regard the planet as a quarrelling Babel. with little knitting together humankind except a common ancestry in the African continent. On the surface, this may be accurate, but just beneath that are stories of failure and success co-existing with each other. Examine what is happening to two countries that were formerly part of the USSR. What a difference there is between the present condition of Georgia and that of Ukraine.

Both have endured slices of their territory effectively coming under the control of the Russian Federation. There are the Nuland school of policymakers in the US and the EU who must have urged the Georgians to launch a hybrid war against Russia in 2008, but luckily for the citizens of that picturesque republic, such calls went unheeded. The Georgians are aware that any future unity would not be the consequence of the kind of kinetic or hybrid warfare now being resorted to by the Ukrainians. It would come only through the carrying forward of a process of enhancing contact with the breakaway territories, rather than creating a mental Berlin Wall between the two sides. Unity could come through the steady accretion of confidence in a breakaway region that the rest of the country was prepared and indeed eager to respect their rights rather than seek to dominate them. In any country, were a section of the population to consider and to behave as though they were superior to the other sections, that would be a pathway towards instability. The reason why the majority of those living in Scotland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom was not coercion from London, but the fact that across Britain, the Scots are as much an equal part of the life of the entire country as the Welsh or the English are. Brexit has of course introduced a new complication in the situation, and this aggravation would substantially increase were the fire-eating Tories clustered around Boris Johnson to succeed in either deposing or emasculating the pragmatic Rishi Sunak. For Boris Johnson, politics is showtime, which is so much more enjoyable than the humdrum business of government, and in this the former UK PM is exactly like Donald Trump. The problem is that showmen have far more appeal in several sections of the electorate than plodding realists who understand that governance is not about pyrotechnics but performance. Fortunately for the Labour Party, the majority of its members seem content with the present leader, unspectacular but hard-working Keir Starmer, than his rival for the job, Jeremy Corbyn. Emotion is always a much more enchanting spectacle than reason, except that the hangover from the aftershocks of governance by such a personage is likely to be long and hard, something that most members of the Labour Party appear to understand, unlike those in the Conservative Party who yearn for the return of the excitement of the Boris period. Brexit would work best for the UK provided there were, in effect, open borders with the EU on both the Northern Irish and Scottish frontier, a fact that hard-core Brexiteers seem to be opposed to accepting, harmful though their stance is to the economic security of Britain.

Of course, it must be admitted that the UK has handled the issue of restive parts of the country far better than Spain has. Madrid is adamant about not going forward with a Scottish-style independence referendum in Catalonia, and several Catalan nationalists have been imprisoned. Even those Spanish citizens seeking an independent Catalonia need to be treated with the respect shown to those of divergent views in a democracy, rather than be placed in prison. Whether it be in Spain, Germany, Italy or France, the absence of a migration policy within the EU that deals with its external borders has resulted in waves of migration illegally landing up on the shores of several European countries. As India has discovered in the case of the millions of illegal migrants it has long hosted from some neighbouring countries, sending back even a few thousand of the millions who have arrived is a monumental task. The UK is discovering that as well, now that the hastily-contrived Rwanda option has been deemed illegal by the courts.

Unfortunately, within the post-2011 migrant communities in Europe, those holding leadership positions are reluctant to facilitate the dissemination of modern education within the younger segments of the population, leading to a disconnect between what they actually study and what they need to study in order to do gainful work in the country they have moved into. Most of the leaders are themselves unconfident of being able to absorb modern learning, hence their resistance to such being made available to the rest. The consequence is the ghettoisation and the other-isation of migrants, repeatedly leading to conflagrations such as what Paris or Marseille have recently been witnessing. While diversity is a plus and should be celebrated, yet there ought simultaneously to be a common core of attitudes that unite the different strands of the population and prevent them from flying off in diverse directions. The common civilisational DNA in the Subcontinent was termed “Indutva” by this columnist in the 1990s. Denial of this fact was the prime mover behind the “Two Nation” theory that was used to justify the vivisection of India in 1947.

It is the responsibility of educators and historians to ensure that awareness of the common core of belief in the unity of the nation is within every citizen, so that those who act as though there are not just “two nations” but multiple nations within a country fail to shake the stability of the country. Which is why the entire and not just the relatively recent history of India needs to be learnt from school onwards, so that the full tapestry of the civilisation of the world’s most populous democracy is admired, understood and experienced. The present tensions and societal dynamics in the EU, an entity that refused to adopt a policy in the 1990s that prioritised talent wherever it came from and instead sought to erect geographic and ethnic barriers to entry irrespective of capability, is becoming a cautionary tale to the rest of the world.

Unity essential in holding together diversity

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