In his post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog today, Jack used this quote – “There would be no society if living together depended upon understanding each other.” (Eric Hoffer)
Jack went on to write a little about Hoffer and explained that he predicted the current poisonous political environment over 70 years ago.
In order to really internalize Hoffer’s quote one need to deal first with the definition of the word “society” and then focus upon the word “understanding”.
- the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.
sympathetic awareness or tolerance.
“a problem that needs to be handled with understanding”
synonyms: compassion, sympathy, pity, feeling, concern, consideration, kindness, sensitivity, decency, humanity, charity, goodwill, mercy, tolerance
“she treated me with understanding”
sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.
“people expect their doctor to be understanding”
synonyms: compassionate, sympathetic, sensitive, considerate, tender, kind, thoughtful, tolerant, patient, forbearing, lenient, merciful, forgiving, humane
The concept of a society is usually based upon the mutual acceptance and agreement of the members to abide by a set of social norms – those things that are expected of the members and accepted by all as the way to act towards each other. Other than the earliest tribal clans, which may be viewed as proto societies within themselves, the various religions that sprang up among the tribes probably formed the first societies.
There have been various religion-based expressions of those norms, usually within the writings and sacred books of the religion. All regions have some set of codified rules that the adherents are expected to abide by. Many countries and their societies (including the United States) were founded, based upon many of those religious principles and norms. It should also be noted that when our American society was founded there was actually very little understanding or acceptance of anyone who ventured outside the accepted norms of the very restrictive religious beliefs of the time. That original society also accepted and embraced the concept of slavery and the thought that the slaves were somehow lesser beings than their owners.
Our society has been evolving ever since its inception in ways that force the acceptance of differences upon the society. Much of that evolution has been driven by the changes that immigration brought with it. The early settlers were joined over time by waves of new members of society, each of which brought different mores and traditions with them from different regions of the world. Society has always initially resisted those changes; but, the society eventually found a way to accommodate and subsume those differences.
We are still experiencing immigration driven changes that the society is trying to understand and accept (witness the influx of newcomers from the East and Middle-East who brought with them the Islam faith). Furthermore, new changes from within the existing society membership have involved differences in lifestyle or sexual preferences and have challenged once again the norms of the society. Neither understanding or acceptance has been quick to come with any of these changes.
Confronted with so many changes and challenges to the existing order of things, perhaps today’s quote is the best advice. We may never understand each other and what makes the other person so different from ourselves; but, we can work to accept them as they are and try to see how their different point of view can benefit our society as a whole.
So, let’s focus on accepting…
- able or willing to accept something or someone : inclined to regard something or someone with acceptance rather than with hostility or fear
- tending to regard different types of people and ways of life with tolerance and acceptance.
Notice that there is no need to understand in order to accept and be tolerant of others and the way that they dress or behave. We seldom think that the way that we ourselves dress or behave or the music that we like or how we talk may be offensive to others; but, there is often just as much tolerance required of others to put up with us as there is of us to accept them.
We are all together in this boat that we call our society. We may accept each other and support common goals for an orderly society or we can let misunderstanding, suspicion and fear splinter the order of our society and set us constantly in conflict with one another.
Perhaps the answer is to be found once again is the best of the founding fathers intentions when they stated –
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Those words form the base upon which our modern society was built and they don’t demand any understanding of each other, just acceptance that we are all pursuing those goals together. Let’s focus more on accepting and worry less about understanding.
Have a great and accepting week ahead.