EITHER WE ALL GET ALONG AS BROTHERS AND SISTERS, OR WE MAY ALL PERISH
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© February 2011, The Center For Development
These words are attributed to the late Dr. Martin Luther King. They may be paraphrased, but the sentiment is clear. They express the essence of Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violent change through peaceful means.
WHAT IS MEANT BY GETTING ALONG WITH EVERYONE?
It means the following:
Š Not wishing death upon anyone.
Š Willingness to negotiate and compromise on everything, if needed.
Š Willingness to lay down your weapons and talk rather than fight with those whom you disagree with.
Š Willingness to see the other’s point of view and not just your own.
Š Willingness to acknowledge that the position of other people has merit, even if you do not agree with it.
This is the essence of getting along with others, as defined in this article. It does not mean you must live with all people in the same neighborhood, community or even nation. It does mean, however, that you acknowledge their right to exist and to live peacefully.
WHAT IF OTHERS WANT YOU DEAD?
This is an important question. For example, many Arabs want to see all Israelis and even all Americans dead. How can one “get along” with those who only want to see you dead?
The answer is cautiously. In other words, America and Israel, in the example above, must keep their defenses up, but at the same time they should and must negotiate with their enemies as much as possible. This is difficult because their enemies really are not interested in negotiating at all. So extreme caution must be exercised. However, the principle remains that one should try to get along with everyone.
WHAT IF OTHERS DO NOT AGREE WITH YOUR POSITION AT ALL?
This is also a difficult situation. How can one negotiate and compromise with those who are not willing to compromise? Here again, the answer is cautiously. One can still negotiate and compromise, as the Israelis do all the time, for example. They arrange prisoner exchanges, they give back land they won in wars in return for promises of peace, and so on. It has not worked out for them, but they continue to try to compromise and negotiate a peace with their neighbors. However, This question is a difficult one.
The deeper answer is that compromise is not really possible if one side is completely intransigent and set in their demands. Anyone knows this who has been in a relationship or even a family setting. Both parties must give a little, or the relationship tends to break apart,
WHAT IF ONE PARTY IS SO SET IN ITS WAYS THAT IT CANNOT CHANGE WITHOUT ALTERING ITS FUNDAMENTAL BELIEFS?
This is another serious problem. In the case of the Arabs, for example, many simply believe that Allah is god and no one who is not a Muslim should be allowed to live, basically. This is an ancient tribal belief system that simply is not tenable in a world as sophisticated as our world today.
Some Israelis are also limited to a degree by their belief system. At least they do not wish ill on anyone. However, some Israelis believe that Israel is the land of Canaan spoken of in the bible, and it should be theirs, no matter who lived there before them and who had rightful ownership of the land before they did.
These belief systems set up an intransigence and bitter conflict that so far has not yielded to any negotiations. Other groups of people, however, have “seen the light” and have backed away from their rigid positions, allowing compromise solutions to the problem. This could easily occur in the Middle East as well, but so far it has not happened. We hope it will. There is plenty of land in the Middle East that is sparsely inhabited, there are plenty of natural resources to be tapped, and there are plenty of people who wish to build homes and raise families. Right now they are held hostage by their beliefs, or at least the beliefs of their often corrupt leaders, some of whom who thrive on mischief and misery in the people.
One day, this must change. When it does, cooperation will occur, people will be moved to areas where they can live peacefully with their own groups, and people will be allowed to get on with life, instead of fighting with each other over a small sliver of land in the midst of an enormous region of the world.
Cooperation will come, in time, because people may get tired of fighting, and tired of wasting their energies and their lives in bitter conflict when there is really no reason for it. Cooperation will also come to this region of the world, and to others as well, when people decide that life is more important than death, that all men are created equal in the sight of the Almightly, however you conceive him or her to be, and that life is a right for everyone, not just a chosen few or a particular group.
Cooperation will also come when people learn to be grateful for what they have, rather than to be hateful and envious about what they perceive they are lacking. This may be the greatest key to cooperation. If everyone were grateful for all that they have, even if all they have is their poor, tired, sick body, then they would not focus on getting what others have, killing others in the name of religion, and many other silly things. They would be too busy thanking and praising Allah or Yahweh, or Christ or whomever, for all that they are and all that they have. This sets the stage for cooperation, sharing, giving to others and giving to the self as a reward in gratitude for all that has already been given by the Creator, however he or she is perceived to be.
Cooperation will also come when people really see “the face of Christ” in everyone, even their bitterest enemies. They will simply realize that at the highest level of mind and spirit, I am of the same spirit or have the same divine Father as all people. Thus, If I wish ill unto another, I am really wishing it unto a part of myself. This is a great law of the universe that will someday be appreciated. It is as though each individual is a vital piece of a large, complex jig saw puzzle. Each part is somehow needed and required for the wholeness of the puzzle. Therefore, hating or wishing ill upon another is the same as hating a part of ourselves. It is quite simply destructive – self destructive – and it makes no sense, just as it would make no sense to hate your right little finger. It is part of you, so why hat it? It is better to love it, as best you can.
When this realization dawns, one lets the anger and hatred go immediately. When one sees deeply enough that we are all one at the level of mind and spirit, then it makes no sense to wish ill upon anyone for any reason. Instead, one seeks to comfort, console, educate and inform the ignorant ones about the truth, and the problem of ill will and wars over silly boundaries of land and other things will end for good.
AN INFORMATIONAL AND ECONOMIC RATIONALE FOR COOPERATION
Norbert Weiner, and many others, in fact, have written that there is an advantage to cooperating with others. A common slang way to express this idea is that “two heads are better than one”. Many would say, two heads or ten heads are 100 times better than one”. It is all the same idea, that by cooperating, all will be better off than if they do not cooperate.
In economics, this advantage is sometimes discussed under the heading of the advantages of division of labor. The idea here is that by yourself you can do all the jobs in society, and then you will not need to cooperate with anyone else. However, mankind has figured out that if the labor is divided, so that one person raises the food, while another builds the homes and still another becomes the doctor or nurse, then by some strange mechanism that we do not understand well, society and all involved benefit far more than if each person does all the jobs himself and herself.
To practice this division of labor, however, absolutely requires cooperation and compromise. In other words, one gives up total control over one’s life, and perhaps one does not even bother to learn some trades and some knowledge. Instead, one focuses on one’s own work and knowledge, and trusts others to do the same. Then one trades one’s own knowledge and the fruits of one’s labor for the knowledge and labor of others. This is, in fact, a profound level of cooperation that we take for granted, but it occurs every day in the world.
As stated above, humanity, at least wise humanity, has figured out that division of labor offers a significant competitive survival advantage. This, by the way, is one of the main reasons why capitalism and free market economies are so much more productive than socialist, so-called command and control dictatorships. When people are allowed to trade freely, learn freely, educate themselves freely, produce freely, and keep most of what they earn, they spontaneously begin to trade among themselves. Then this mysterious cooperation effect, advantage or synergy occurs, and prosperity grows by leaps and bounds in very unpredictable and unusual ways.
In other words, cooperation wins the day because it works. It is practical, in other words, not just some vague social science theory.
Buckminster Fuller often spoke of this “unseen hand of the market” in terms of what happens when you mix certain metals to make an alloy of metals. For example, when one mixes together the right amounts of chromium, molybdenum and iron, one creates by some magic an entirely new product, stainless steel. It has amazing new properties of strength, flexibility and durability that none of its component metals have. This is a crude example of what happens on a practical level when cooperation is encouraged and allowed.
The informational rationale or basis for cooperation can be taken much further, but this is its essence - that somehow cooperation or working together causes waves of vibration that enlarge and expand the wealth, joy and abilities of all persons involved.