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#tolerancemeans remembering the other person also wears socks

Abdullah Alkariemy, Undergraduate, Queen Mary University of London

November 23, 2023


As a student of political science and an avid reader of classical literature, I've come to perceive the social world as governed by certain laws akin to those in the physical world. Yuval Noah Harari, in his popular work Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, eloquently describes our innate tendency as social animals to divide humanity into "us" and "them" based on cultural, religious, and linguistic similarities. While this division might have served an evolutionary purpose, in today's pluralistic societies like the UK, it poses a significant challenge. 


Abdullah Alkariemy

To address the complexities of diversity, it becomes imperative to work with the existing laws of human nature rather than against them. Designing solutions without considering these fundamental aspects is like constructing a rocket without acknowledging the laws of gravity – destined for failure. The key lies in recognizing and celebrating what unites us, fostering tolerance, respect, and cooperation. 


In my university library, as I pen these thoughts, it's easy to succumb to the apparent differences between "us" and "them." Yet, after several contemplative moments, I discerned two shared elements: we all attend university, and we all wear socks. These seemingly trivial commonalities underscore a more profound truth – our shared membership in the human race. While this realization may not be groundbreaking, it is often overlooked in our daily interactions. Indeed, when politicians seek to foster division and intolerance, their strategy often involves dehumanizing "them." Instead of emphasizing our common humanity, they frame the narrative as "us" versus "them," casting labels like "immigrants" against "the people." 


This unfortunate reality became disgustingly evident in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas Conflict. I witnessed firsthand the repercussions of such divisive tactics when my friend was senselessly accused of being a "terrorist" merely because she covered her hair. In this narrative, she was deemed as not belonging to "us" but categorised as part of "them," opening the door to harassment. 


The question arises: Why should it matter if someone is also human? The answer lies in the profound understanding that being human means experiencing emotions, dreams, desires, and pain. Each individual, regardless of background, carries a unique narrative that should elicit empathy, even in the face of the most entrenched enmity. I will never forget the girl in my class who was judged for giving her mind to merciless drugs, when instead of labelling her a victim who was trying to forget her brother’s death, she was accused of indolence and pleasure-seeking. Yet this “junkie” was no different to me and you, she was hurt, and aren't we all. 


Ultimately, fostering mutual respect in society necessitates finding elements of ourselves in everyone we encounter. At the very least, a glance at their feet – a shared humanity symbolized by the wearing of socks – can serve as a humble reminder that beneath the surface, we are all fundamentally the same. Tolerance is recognizing our shared humanity and embracing it as the foundation for a harmonious and empathetic society.

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