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We can all get along

I am a senator in the Student Government Association. Within our student government, there are divisions among various groups of students who represent different interests. Across campus, we have many student groups and organizations that cater to our individual tastes and interests.

What is remarkable to see is that among the groups that are most actively attempting to change hearts and minds, there is remarkable similarity in their end goals. Almost all of these groups are seeking to change humankind, or the campus at least, for the better. Why is it then that many of them seem to oppose one another so harshly?

A major reason is that it is inevitable that many of these groups have agendas that point them in contradictory directions. For one group, their ideal of a harmonious society requires that the goals of another group be halted. We know that both Republicans and Democrats want to remake the government and the laws to shape their own view of a productive and just society, but their respective agendas conflict.

The major stumbling block that many activist groups and student leaders face is that we seek to promote our own interests and agenda, but seldom actually go right to the level where it is important, hearing the views of not only students, but our opponents, too.

This is not the standard slogan that we ought to “listen to the voice of the students,” but a proposal of a different sort. When we interact with various people we should not view them in the context of our lives but rather in the context of their lives. We should meet people at their level, and precisely where they are. This is the best way to form bonds and friendships, and the most productive way to begin to resolve many issues.

Instead of seeking to place ourselves in a position of an adversarial nature, we should seek to see things as a fellow student sees them. If we are able to do this successfully, we will realize that we are not seeking different things after all. We can begin to work together for the common good.

There is still a major impediment here: why is it that many of us have supposedly found solutions to improve society and humankind, but that our goals appear to conflict with each other? The reason is that most of our initiatives are not addressing our fundamental human nature.

We want to find a special solution that will fix all of our social and economic ills, but these solutions are how many of what today we consider evil ideologies began. These ideologies were honest attempts to improve humanity, but what happened is that they did not take into account the immutable form of human nature. I realize that I am making a strong assertion here, but this, along with the reality of the existence of truth, are two matters that I will stand by to the last.

As much as we hope to create a new world where people are in harmony with one another, the stark truth is that we are a selfish species, and this is not about to change all that quickly.

We may engage in occasional acts of altruism when it suits us, but have any of us truely lived for our fellows? Doing so could easily bring harm upon us. We are built for self-preservation; there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this.

Before an objection is raised, we only have to take a look at children. As much as we like to think of children as pure and innocent, in reality they are often quite selfish. Even doing our best to minimize outside factors, it appears, at least anecdotally, that children will seek to possess toys. Without external forces, they will be reluctant to share. Children may be quite cute, but they seldom possess genuine altruism. Neither do adults.

The reason all of the ideologies fail is that they seek to transform things by an external means, by a legal code or a rulebook or by placing evil upon the other, but what is truly needed is a transformation from within, and a constant vigilance guarding against our underlying natures.

Even the Bible knows of this tendency, as Deuteronomy 30:6 teaches that it is the human heart that needs transformation, “And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you may love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your life.”

Eric Magazu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at emagazu@student.umass.edu.

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