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Even When We Differ, We Can Afford Civility, Can’t We?

by litfeed
2 mins read

By George Kimando

“Now that you have brought me to your family, you must understand that i belong here and am not leaving, even when we differ. And if it comes absolutely necessary that one of us leaves, then it has to be you”

We exploded in laughter.

This was from a man giving us the reason he was this day, last December, celebrating the golden anniversary of his marriage to his wife.

The quoted words came from her on the first day they visited his family after their wedding in December 1971.

Over the years, they of course differed. As a consequence, he told us, she made amendments to this rule.

“You and i must understand that none of us is going anywhere. So before things get out of hand, can we have the good sense to sit and resolve whatever issues we are differing about?”

Fifty years later and counting, he admitted, these simple rules have held them together.

They resolved that whatever challenges they faced, they would face them as a team and from the same side.

On her side, she talked about purposeful commitment. And that they have more to keep them together than apart, that indeed their differences were so minimal and paled in comparison with what they celebrate as milestones together.

She was insistent that generally, human beings focus on the few negatives about others and take for granted the many positive things that could easily melt away our points of conjecture.

This occasion came back recently when a platform spearheading peace initiatives in Kenya ahead of the upcoming general elections asked my advisory on messaging that would reflect the true spirit of Kenya, and what one key message can capture our resolve to stay united before, during and post elections.

They were very amused by this approach.

Like this couple, we need to have a fundamental agreement, and perhaps merge their two resolves:

“That since we are here to stay and no one is vacating their place in Kenya, can we have the good sense to resolve whatever differences we think we have, when we differ?”

As a country, we have more that holds us together than what divides us.

I have posited in this column before that our differences have never been ethnic, but socio-economic. And that Kenyans are not inherently tribal; that’s a fallacy created by the political class for survival purposes.

Did you know, for instance, that over 40% of marriages in urban, peri-urban and cosmopolitan regions in Kenya are interethnic?

If that does not debunk the myth of Kenyans being deeply tribal, i don’t know what will.

It’s all about managing the few things that makes us different and seeking unity in diversity as opposed to diversity in our differences.

What makes us different anyway? Or more importantly, what makes us different to an extent of eliciting hatred and acrimony?

Nothing!

Why would even a couple having different political opinions be a point of conflict? After all, won’t it be a secret ballot process?

A very distinguished gentleman am privileged to know recently gave me a very interesting insight in human relations and managing differences.

He is not just Catholic, but a very staunch Catholic. His wife is not just Muslim, but a very staunch Muslim. Figure that out.

But listen to this.

They respect each other in their differences, and have raised a family that has lasted decades (they are now grandparents).

He has read both the Bible and the Quran. He supports her in her Islam practice, including fasting with her during Ramadhan. She supports him in his Christian pursuit, including fasting during Lent.

I don’t want to go to too much details (he is a reader of this column na sitaki kesi baadaye, ahem!), but if you can figure out what has glued them together despite their different orientations, you are not far from being a universal human being.

That is a human being who takes in other human beings for who they are: human beings like themselves.

With all the differences, we are still humans, and are better off together than apart. We have more to gain in unity than in diversity.

And since none of us is going anywhere, can we sit and have the sense to resolve whatever differences we perceive to have?

After elections, we still have our families, friends and neighbours to contend with. Whoever one supports politically, that’s their right; let them be.

Even when we differ, we can afford civility, can’t we?

Have a unity in diversity day, and a great week ahead.

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