What's With This Unity Thing?T. SHER SINGH
Friday, June 29, 2012
What’s with this 'unity’ thing?
Everywhere I turn, the excuse Sikhs give for their failures and shortcomings is the lament that we are not united.
“If only we were united …!”
It’s a blanket justification used by many to hide personal laziness - both intellectual and physical. And cover their cowardice, or incompetence, or just a basic lack of passion, commitment or even talent and skills.
You think Christians, the largest religious grouping in the world today, are united?
The other day I came across a document, produced by a Christian Church, which cites 41,000 Christian denominations that exist today. That’s the exact number they have come up with through their research.
“If only we were united ….!” they cry.
There are as many Jewish groups as there are individuals in the community, many will tell you. Those on one end of the spectrum won’t even speak to those at the other end. Some would rather kill the others than be caught dead in the same room with them.
Muslims? It began with Sunni and Shia. Now you have a thousand splinters.
Buddhists? Have you ever been to South-East Asia? There’s a whole world of variations … more shades of saffron than you can imagine.
Hindus? Well, each of the billion of them seems to have a very personal deity, some of them not even dead yet. India gets a new President soon. Then, those who worship the Walking Shroud will switch overnight to the new Great Mumble-Jumble. Each has a personal animal, vermin, plant, rock, planet or politician to worship. The only thing that unites them all today is greed.
I don’t know, but I keep on coming across people from every faith imaginable who tell me: “If only we were as united as the Sikhs, we could …!”
The first time this happened was when I was about 10 years old, and it was the Hindu editor of The Indian Nation newspaper saying that to me in Patna; the last time I heard it said, in identical terms, from a Jewish Rabbi in Toronto no more than a few weeks ago.
The world sees us as united, stuck together like glue, and resents us for this unity.
They look at our small numbers, and they take note of how we have as many as 14 gurdwaras in Toronto alone, for example. And each is attended by thousands every Sunday. And every evening too. Across the road, churches get visits from a few dozen for an hour on Sunday mornings, and then they are neatly locked up for the rest of the week.
And each member of the Sikh congregations seems to be gainfully employed. All look far more affluent than the national average.
Others who see us marvel how we fight for our rights relentlessly … until we win.
There’s never been a time I can remember when some nitwit somewhere didn’t come up with, “No, you can’t wear a turban here, because … you know, because, well, because we never have …!”
Or one of a million variations of this deeply thought-out observation.
And each time we have won, even if it meant going all the way to the Supreme Courts.
Even while our billion detractors in India beat themselves in a frenzy, crying, “No, don’t, No, don’t, they are violent people!” we have used due process, democratic and legal avenues, and never violence, more efficiently than anyone else we know, and always won. Even if it took years and millions of dollars. Even when the power of the state opposed us, or the weight of the mob.
“If only we were as united as you are …” they tell me.
They can’t figure out how we dare to wear our turban crowns in every land, on every street, in every corridor of power and influence, and do it with a smile and a swagger, while Christians hide their crosses under their shirts when it becomes unfashionable or inconvenient to do so. Hindus have chopped off their chotis, and drink their urine only in private, and fawn before the lingam only behind closed doors. Jews hide their yarmulkes when identity does not work in their favour.
But Sikhs … well, Sikhs do public turban tying competitions where mothers of little children bring them in and demand that they be taught to tie a dastaar like a prince!
So, what’s this unity thing that everyone keeps clamouring about?
Are you united within your family, at home? Do each one of you see eye to eye?
Do all of your friends and loved ones vote for the same party?
I thought one of the strengths of our community is that we have leaders in every party. As a community we are not a monolith - thank God! - we are encouraged to think for ourselves. Being human, not lemmings, we have divergences of opinion. Vive la difference!
So, does that make us not united?
I think unity, like peace, is a pipe dream.
It ain’t gonna happen.
Not the way most people envision it. Not here, nor there. Not with us, nor with any other grouping within the homo sapiens.
But I know what you want, what you’re looking for.
And THAT is going to happen, not by muttering over and over again “Let’s have Unity!”, but by getting off our butts and doing what we would like others to do.
You think we should make an epic movie on Ranjit Singh?
Put a bundle of money on the table - any amount, even $10,000, if you can’t afford more - and see how it multiplies. Add the yeast of personal action, and by the next morning, it’ll be a loaf of bread a hundred times the original size!
You want to counter the propaganda spewed out by goons hired by India’s corrupt politicians? Put your money where your mouth is!
You lament the loss of our heritage and culture? Start supporting Sikh writers, playwrights, dancers, filmmakers, journalists, TV & radio programmes …
You are being discriminated at work? Help build our advocacy institutions!
THIS is unity!
It’s not a train that will choo-choo into town one day and bring in the militia.
Unity is within each one of us to discover. Once we unite the miri and piri within ourselves, all other unity will follow.
Next time you're looking for unity outside you and around you, remember, unity is not a first step or a tool ... it is an end product.
Conversation about this article
1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), June 29, 2012, 10:24 AM.
In Sikhi, the unity we need to strive for at all times is our personal and spiritual unity with the Guru's teachings ... the rest follows naturally.
2: Hardeep Kaur (Canada), June 30, 2012, 2:21 AM.
I think you're right ... I'm one of those people who use the lack of unity as an excuse. This article has made me think a lot deeper. Thank you for sharing this :)
3: Sukhvinder Singh (Walsall, United Kingdom), July 04, 2012, 8:49 AM.
I totally agree. We are obsessed with 'Unity,' but yet cannot explain what we mean. The strength of Sikhi is in its diversity, but with all owing allegiance to Guru Granth Sahib. In the UK and working with organisations throughout the world we have achieved unity by working together on common issues and each respective organisation using their resources to lobby on that issue with a common purpose and goal, yet keeping their organisational identity. For example, the Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar case, the case of the Sikh 'hijackers' in Switzerland, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana case,the Dastaar and airport issue, wearing of the 5Ks, etc.