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Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Disease of Division [4]

The subject of love causes our hearts to rise; it's a universal themality. Yet, we allow these thoughts and emotions - which have evolved to be so intrinsic to our reality - to be divided by the politics of religion, race and recidivism.

In 2013, a protest was held outside the Home Office of the United Kingdom, against the separation of families. Dozens of people came out carrying various banners against actions made by the government, asking for deported non-citizens to be brought back to the county and be united with their families.

Currently, sixty-seven percent of UK Visa applications are being rejected following the introduction of new immigration laws for UK entry. The effect of this not only impacts the individual refused a visa, but devastates family lives, and forces married couples apart. During the Divided Families day of action outside the UK Home Office, one banner stood out with its words calling for the repeal of the "nasty" law describing it as, amongst other epithets, anti-democratic, anti-humanitarian and anti-love.

But this "anti-love" protest only had dozens of protesters, not thousands. It's obvious we allow our heart to rise easily with love when that love resides in the imagery of words and pictures, but tend to be pretty cynical about the prospect of romantic love in real life enduring over time and through obstacles, or having the strength to bind people our culture of division has decided to categorise into unbridgeable races, colours or creeds.

This cynicism has leaked over to even those separatists that would want every little difference in life to be pulled out of their societies, where they can be left free to bicker with each other once the boredom sets in after they have sealed themselves in their eggshells. Carolyn Gregoire, in her article for the Huffington Post titled "The Psychology Of Loves That Last A Lifetime" writes that roughly fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, with 2.4 million American couples splitting in 2012. And among those that stay together, marital dissatisfaction is common.

Could this statistic be because as human beings born to love, we are born into cultures and societies based on division? Our relationships are micro communities and they are influenced and reflect our wider communities. But Gregoire assures us that the science says romantic love can last - and more than we often give it credit for. No matter how cynical we are about the prospect of life-long love, it still seems to be what most of us are after, and research has found it's correlated with marital satisfaction, and individual well-being and self-esteem.

Nevertheless, into this fundamental domain of human existence that still remains something of a mystery, we allow all too easily the division of politics and the fear and hatred it brings to infect our relationships. How can we legislate law for the movement of peoples that divides families, simply for economic reasons or to make public policy more palatable to a majority bred on divisive policies for generations? Yet, we do. And we will continue to do so, as long as we refuse to try new things together, to keep a communal passion for living and see life as a shared journey of beauty and fulfilment. Coincidentally, three things Gregoire says are necessary to keep romantic love alive for a lifetime.

Love lives down at the coal-face, not at high level behind political doors; we can't expect a bond we find so hard to get to grips with psychologically, scientifically or simply plainly in everyday existence to be understood by political practices that are as far away in ideology as the imaginary black and white standards they maintain.

It's the same mentality that prefers to instil the fear of a terrorist lurking behind every corner after a terrorist bombing on a plane. Thus we focus on ever tighter and restrictive airport security, rather than focusing on peaceably and gradually inspiring a society that creates a person willing to kill another with such impunity to act differently. For instance, every day has seen more examples of extreme violence and bullying in Mexican schools brought to light. Violence, bullying and poor teaching are rife in Mexico's schools. Wholesale reform won't come by destructive measures, however, but by educational and inspirational ones. Stories that make the heart rise, and make us want to rise with it.

If we act divisively, we'll continue dividing ourselves into nothing. In another article for the BBC, Tom Shakespeare is of the opinion that "if we were to go back to historical precedent for the basis of our political units, we would end up fighting medieval battles, not with bows and arrows, but with immigration rules and tax regimes".

We are already there in the UK, but Shakespeare ends his piece of worry with hope for unity. Although he confesses to being in love with his traditions, being proud of his regional English heritage, and pausing to consider whether the idea of bringing back the heptarchy of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England during the Middle Ages would be such a bad thing, he concludes:

My view is that we need fewer borders, not more. ... In the 21st Century, surely it's time to celebrate what unites us, not what divides us. If we are ever to overcome the problem of climate change, we [will need to] think globally and act globally. ... proud as I am to be an East Anglian, I think I am first and foremost a human being."

Again, the point isn't forcibly gathering everyone under the same banner; that leads to the other extreme side of the separatist coin. We have to get rid of the idea that differing groups or tribes have to dominate each other, or take on the idea of a majority that rules in the name of everything. This "my religion/political party/ideology is better than yours" mindset has to end.

If we don't attempt the tolerant unity Shakespeare calls for, this culture of division will just spread and spread. No one is immune. It affects even its most willing participants. The current British coalition government has politicians that can't get on with each other if only in the public eye; the divisions they're nurturing in society as a result of their policies is, for want of a better term, turning to bite them in their proverbial asses. Wanting to take England back into the Dark Ages, the Education Secretary has had a bitter public row with the Home Secretary over how the government should deal with Islamic extremism.

The row highlights how you can't deal with extremism with a different kind of extremism. If you speak a language the extremists "understand" then you just end up speaking the language of the extremists, replacing one sort of extremism for another. What do you do to stop a bomb from detonating? Do you defuse it, or just light a new fuse at the end of it? Or like the two ministers, blow each other up as you argue over which end is the best to ignite.

Clearly, we need to try something new. As those working at loving relationships will tell you, new things have to be tried together. Often it's not the easy way. The easy way is the way we've been on for centuries.

But if romantic love has taught us one thing it's this: love is like democracy, peace and freedom, you don't have to go all the way to find it, but you do to keep it.

Main | Part one | Part two | Part three | End of Part four | Part five | Part six

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