I’ve been thinking about societal cohesion because in Daermad Cycle (my fantasy series), the secret for overcoming the advancing Svard invasion is for the Celdryans to ask the Kin to join them in the fight.
I set that up in the first book The Willow Branch. “A healer must mend a fractured kingdom and bring two enemy races together before a greater threat can destroy them both.” Now I have to start bring it about.
The problem is that the Kin have every reason not to trust the Celdryans. The Celdryans pushed them off their lands into inadequate mountain enclaves and have maintained that exile by fomenting bigotry in Celdryan children for generations. Now that it is convenient and necessary, the Celdryans can’t expect the Kin to just join them and then later see themselves once more subjugated by the Celdryans.
That’s the problem with deeply divided societies. They are often divided because of entrenched mistrusts borne of a huge amount of disrespect. Yeah, maybe the Celdryans think it would be better for the Kin to join them in fighting the Svard because it gives both groups a chance of prevailing, but the existing division has worked better for the Kin than previous attempts at cohesion have. Demands for inclusion sound like demands for their subjugation, which makes them feel threatened.
It’s something we ought to be considering in the United States right now. Approximately 40% of the country voted like a minority group and swung an election. I had a guy on the Alaska Dispatch the other day ask me “What should Hillary supporters do to reach out to Trump voters and bring about unity?” Not being a Trump voter, I couldn’t really answer him. Instead, I suggested exactly what I’m saying in this post.
If you want cohesion with a group within your society that you have previously treated like crap, demanding cohesion (sometimes called “unity”) is not how to go about it. In fact, it’s probably counter-productive. Nobody wants to abandon their own identity to become someone “other” and submit to majoritarian dominance. Those who are now stomping their political feet and demanding that they be allowed to stay in charge after they lost an election are only making the divisions deeper.
Stop talking about unity and cohesion and try listening for a while. Try showing some respect to those “unskilled illiterates” in the “flyover states” who mine the energy that heats your home, grow your food, and provide so many things in your life that you take for granted. Get to know some of them as — gasp — equals. Walk for five minutes in their shoes. Get to know what is important to them and, more importantly, why it is important to them. Pause and ask yourself if you really know what the best lifestyle is or are you just clinging to your own social niche because it’s all you know.
If you really want to build a harmonious, unified society, take one for the team. Discard your anger, swallow your pride, and show out-groups unilateral respect and friendship. Let them teach you for a couple of years and then see where you stand on the other side. Your new friends might have come to accept some of your position and you may have come to accept … or at least understand … some of their positions.
Whoa, that sounds like “cohesion”.