A popular slogan during the days of the Revolutionary War in America was “United we stand, divided we fall.” Unity implies togetherness and harmony, and peace goes hand-in-hand with joining together. We may think of the world as fragmented, divided between countries, religions, ethnicities, languages, and geographies. On TVs and the internet, news stories focus on a world that shows very little unity, but mostly division, disharmony, violence, and even conflict and war. Yet, the slogan that inspired early America colonists to rebel against the British Monarchy also expressed the necessary spirit that helped form thirteen separate countries into the United States of America.
But to create unity on a global scale, may seem a very difficult task. What make it difficult is the belief in separation. Separation implies a set of beliefs that humans are ultimately at odds with one another. It suggests that we are at war with one another around resources, food, land, religion, ethnicity, and morality. If we believed that people are constantly at odds and struggling against each other, then unity would indeed seem impossible or very difficult to attain.
Yet, let’s turn this idea around. If we are able to see our fellow humans as having the same wants and needs as ourselves then we would stop seeing each other as separate from one another. Though we each have physically separate bodies, our shared hopes and dreams unite us. Can we also see that serving our fellow humans, also serves ourselves? We may wonder how this could be possible, given our separate existences. Yet, we can’t deny our feelings when we help others. Good feelings wash over us and we feel connected to everyone and everything. This suggests that there is a cause and effect relationship between others and our own experiences. This simple, but fundamental change in perception could change the world. This change in perception could make unity possible, and by extension, create lasting peace.
Many of us have moved to a new neighborhood at some point in our lives. When we finally settled into our new home we may not have known anyone in the area. Many people were strangers to us as we were strangers to them. But over time, we may have gotten to know a few of our neighbors. Soon acquaintances and possibly even friendships formed. People who were strangers a few weeks earlier, became people we started to care about, and they began to care about us.
But how do we explain this? Only weeks earlier, we didn’t care about them, and they didn’t care about us. So what happened? We got to know each other. Getting to know others is a step toward unity. It doesn’t mean we understand them; but we see them as individuals like ourselves, not as strangers.
Let’s take this idea once step further, what if we moved to a different country? Imagine getting off the plane, and not knowing the language of this country and not understanding their ways and customs. But then a neighbor befriends us, and shows that they care. They explain to us the customs and even what some of the words mean. Insurmountable barriers broke down, and we slowly grasped this new culture. Over time we may even grow to love some of the people. We realize their desires are similar to our own. Perhaps we become aware that their desires for love, peace, happiness for their children, prosperity for their loved ones and their community are very much like ours. In our new neighborhood in this other country, we may even grow to like, even love, some of the people we once thought were so much different than us.
We don’t need to move to another country to connect with others who are different. We can see that what divides one people from another is simply a lack of knowing them and them knowing us. What divides us, then, may not even be oceans or continents, but simply a lack of understanding of each other.
Unity doesn’t imply sameness; it doesn’t mean everyone dresses the same way, or speaks the same language, or believes the same religion. It does, however, suggest there are shared purposes: such as wanting to create a peaceful world, or having a healthful environment, or producing greater prosperity for more people.
We may argue: that’s fine for people who are good-natured. But there are war-like, belligerent, angry people who choose violence as opposed to peace. Where do they fit into this concept of unity? First, let’s consider that these individuals are often relatively few in number. If most people want peace, and choose unity, then how can a smaller group sway the larger group into believing that separation is preferable to unity? It can only happen if the larger group gives its power over to the smaller group, by believing the smaller group is more powerful.
Humans have evolved over time to the extent in which more and more people have enjoyed more and more power. Only a short time back in history, a small group of leaders, whether monarchs, dictators, or oligarchs controlled mass numbers of people. As democracy has flourished throughout the globe, more and more people have participated in shaping their own destinies. As it turns out, democracy has the effect of making people want what is best for more people, because what affects one affects all. When one member of a democracy gains, so does the entire group. Gains benefit everyone.
Unity asks us to expand our scope, and value not simply those around us, but to value everyone around the globe. If we took this simple step, then peace would become our reality. If we saw starving children as everyone’s children, then we would end starvation. If we saw war as tearing into the fabric of the human community, then we make every effort to end war. If we saw violence as harming our friends on the other side of the globe, as well as our friends on the other side of the city, then we would end violence, and the circumstances that lead to violence.
Unity is the philosophical framework of peace, because only in unity is peace possible. What is shared deprives no one. Yet what divides people, creates suffering. History and even current events underscore this premise. Division allows us to accept the unacceptable. Unity allows us to only embrace what we would accept for ourselves and our families.
“United we stand, divided we fall,” is not just the slogan of a people from the 18th century, aspiring to create a new nation on earth. It can inspire a conflicted world into peacefully joining together. It requires us to know that people next door or on the other side of the globe all share the same desires for peace, love, and serenity as ourselves. When we tap into the spirit of unity, so we tap into the framework for creating peace.