The revolutionary concept of unity in diversity

Calls for unity often make activists cringe, but that's usually because it's a cover for uniformity. Nonviolence takes a different approach.

This story is adapted from the June 17 edition of  The Practical Idealist, Metta Center’s bi-weekly nonviolence newsletter.

The word ‘unity’ can make some people cringe. It can make it possible to overlook the experiences of those who have been systematically oppressed, ignored, and forgotten, for one. In this sense, the term is usually a cover for “uniformity,” perpetuating the unfortunate notion that we have to be the same to not be in conflict. But that’s the kind of so-called unity perpetuated by the violent worldview. Can nonviolence offer us something different?

Well, it’s more urgent than we think!

For democracy to be possible, Gandhi maintained, it has to be built on a foundation of unity, not “in uniformity,” but unity-in-diversity. This revolutionary concept is based in the vision of a human being as body, mind, and spirit. On the physical plane, diversity is not only natural, it’s desirable. It’s the expression of the infinite complexity and creativity of the universe.

On the level of mind, we strive for mutual understanding, which can only come from the recognition that on the level of spirit, we are not fragmented, not existentially and forever separated from one another–on this level we are one, and in order to realize it, paradoxical as it may sound, diversity must be embraced and honored on the surface — things like physical appearance, wealth, etc., and even our opinions.

Experiment in nonviolence

Where do you see a tendency in yourself to impose uniformity onto others or your environment? If you could do one thing to incorporate a greater appreciation for the order of unity-in-diversity in your life, what would it be? Let us know in the comments or an email.

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This story was produced by Metta Center for Nonviolence

We provide educational resources on the safe and effective use of nonviolence, with the recognition that it’s not about putting the right person in power but awakening the right kind of power in people. We advance a higher image of humankind while empowering people to explore the question: How does nonviolence work, and how can I actively contribute to a happier, more peaceful society?

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