28 February 2014

In this journey of life, we are all fellow passengers, even though we come from different backgrounds.
I HAD occasion to fly on three very bumpy flights recently and had a macabre thought: even though everyone on the flight was a stranger to me, my destiny then was tied to theirs.
If we arrived safely at our destination, our shared destiny was to survive. If not, then… well, I would not be here writing this.
It got me thinking that however briefly, all the passengers on the flight, and on any flight, are united by this shared destiny.
Whatever happens, will happen almost equally to every single one.
If an accident happens, different people may have different fates but none of them can actually avoid going through the accident and none of them can be privileged enough to ensure a better outcome.
For instance, no one on the plane can insist on a different fate because they are of an elite class or race or religion.
Just because you’re seated in first class doesn’t mean that you will be spared any injury in the event of a crash.
I’ve never heard of anyone escaping unscathed just because they belong to any particular faith.
So basically, all passengers on the plane, regardless of who they are, where they are from or what they believe in, are united by their shared fate.
Our country is like that plane too.
All of us are on the same plane and our destiny is a shared one.
Some of us may be sitting in the front of the plane and most of us will be at the back.
But we’re all hopefully going to the same place.
If the flight gets bumpy, all of us will feel it. If it is smooth, we can all take a snooze.
The concept of unity espoused by some people, however, puzzles me.
First, they think that all the people on that plane should be entirely the same.
I suppose you can charter a plane to take you somewhere but if something happens to that plane, it leaves behind lots of people who aren’t the same as you.
Secondly, if everyone is the same on that plane, what could possibly be new and different to talk about on the flight?
One journey would be all you would need and then you basically remove any need for any more flights ever again.
Whereas if you had lots of different people onboard, then there would always be something to talk about – where to go, how to get there, what to do once you’re there – so you give yourselves many opportunities to fly to all sorts of exciting destinations.
Some people seem to mistake uniformity for unity. Everyone would not only look the same but also think and act the same.
I don’t know of any country where everyone is forced to be the same that also develops in a forward-looking way.
North Korea would be the best example.
Other countries like Japan or South Korea may look homogenous but in fact they are not.
That’s why they can be very creative. They also have no qualms about borrowing ideas from other countries and improving on them in their own way.
Their people, however, do understand that they’re all on that same plane together.
But over here, some people’s idea of unity is for half the country to come together and the other half to dumbly sit back and wait for scraps.
Or to belabour that airplane analogy, half the plane is first class while the rest are in cattle class.
But I read somewhere that the front of the plane isn’t necessarily the safest place to be if anything should happen.
What’s more if you have an unskilled pilot, or one who is asleep in the cockpit, then everyone’s fate depends on what he does or doesn’t do.
Even if the most advanced jets today can virtually fly themselves, they still need human brains and hands to land them safely.
So the passengers can argue all they want but none of them will be able to fly that aircraft.
So we need to be clear about what unity means, and that the reason we need to have unity is because we have diversity.
That diversity is a given and we can’t wish it away no matter how much we want to.
But diversity is actually an asset because it is in managing our differences that we learn how to negotiate, compromise and respect one another. No innovation ever came out of uniformity.
We, therefore, have a choice. Get onboard the flight together and accept our common destiny. Or fight over where you’re going to sit and who’s going to get the best food.
Buckle your seat belts please!
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.