As I was walking today, I passed a church. It had a big sign in front of it inviting anyone to come in and be “ONE.”

It made me think.

This is what we all want to be: “ONE” – To be integrated as a family, as a community and even as a person; to stop the struggle with those who disagree with us and to stop the debate we often have between our ears.

But what does it mean to be “ONE”?

I believe that for many it means that there are no more differences.

That is what drove the inquisitors to have an inquisition.  That is what is driving the behavior of many fanatic religious people, not only the radical Muslims. That is what drove communism and fascism too: no more diversity – Be like me or be damned.

How many people died or suffered because some regimes, religions or political movements were trying by all means to achieve this most desirable goal of “oneness”?

Lofty goal and to be appreciated but the means of achieving this goal have been tragic.

It occurs to me that we might want to reframe what we understand under the word or concept of “ ONE.”

Look at your hand. Different size fingers working in unison as a hand.

We need to think that we can be one and not necessarily the same.

That there can be unity in diversity.

How?

For unity in diversity there must be a common denominator that unites the diverse components without undermining their uniqueness, their differences.

What is that common denominator?

I believe it is MT&R: Mutual Trust and Respect.

Mutual Trust, meaning that people believe that they are in a symbiotic relationship, where each participant in the interaction will benefit from contributing its difference, each contributes what they have a competitive advantage in and each one benefits of what the other one offers that they cannot have as easy by themselves (For those of you for whom the concept of competitive advantage is foreign to them, read Paul Samuelson’s book: Introduction to Economics, how a country that is better in growing oranges, by exchanging oranges for cars that another country is better at producing, both benefit.  What holds for countries holds for people too). If there is mutual trust, differences enrich rather than endanger ones position.

Mutual Respect means that the diverse components are open to learn from those that are different from them. Again, with mutual respect people benefit from diversity rather than get stymied by it.

In economics terms, mutual respect means to me open markets, no barriers to trade. Mutual trust means one does not exploit the open trade to benefits itself AT THE EXPENSE of the other.

In interpersonal relations it means not just tolerance to diversity but nourishment of constructive diversity – we appreciate what diversity contributes to the system and to each one of us.

Diversity based on MT&R enriches all those involved: they learn from each others differences and thus know more than what they would have known together cumulatively but without interaction, and they benefit from the increased wealth they have created together.

Without MT&R, diversity causes disintegration, a break down of the system.

What holds us back from reframing our thinking that oneness should not mean sameness, that it is integration, not fusion, is fear, fear from the unknown, from differences we do not know how to control.

Sameness, the usual interpretation of “ONENESS”, gives a sense of being in control – the components of the system are known and their behavior predictable.  But that brings bureaucracy, eliminates creativity, innovation and thus economic growth and well being.

What is most controllable is not necessarily what is the most desirable.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes