I-it to I-thou (the journey of reconciliation)

Australian born Israeli philosopher Martin Buber speaks of two types of relationships, which are I-It relationship and I-thou relationship. When I-it could be seen as an subject-object relationship, I-thou could be seen as a relationship between two subjects. Traditionally, a just person might say that we should have I-thou relationship with other human beings, and I-It with the other creation. Definitely a part of the blame for this understanding comes from the wrong interpretation of Biblical ‘dominion over the earth’ as absolute domination of the earth. Pope Francis would say that we should forcefully reject such notions. In the present day context of excessive polarization (existing among or created among diverse groups) and ecological destruction, these themes of Buber could help us to make a journey.

Inter-personal reconciliation: Uniqueness of the person and subsequent differences among individuals are creative differences that are essential for the survival and progress of the human race and the entire cosmos. But created and growing differences based on polarization or various forms of inequality are a matter of concern. When the former exhibits creative potential, the latter is destructive. Polarization based on religions, caste, tribes, nationalities are being created in different parts of the world for narrow political gains. The World inequality report 2018 states that the income and wealth inequalities are increasing, though at different rates, throughout the world. The recent OXFAM report states that the 73 percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent, while 67 crore Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw one percent increase in their wealth. When such destructive differences are encouraged, creative differences in taste, language, beliefs are sucked into a monolithic whole. When the former build boundaries and walls, the latter has a potential to evolve into a harmony.

The inter-personal relationships take the form of I-it when the boundary construction thrive in the society. To transform them into an I-thou, it requires a conscious effort of reconciliation. The government and the other major stakeholders should become conscious of their responsibility here. It would invite politicians to treat citizens as citizens (not vote bank), authorities to treat the people under them as subjects (not objects to manipulated for personal gains), higher classes to treat the people from so-called lower classes following principles of egalitarianism and human dignity and so on.

Reconciliation with the Creation: Even when accepting the unique role of human beings within the creation, we don’t have a moral right to treat the entire creation only as instruments for human progress and development. Such an attitude has definitely given rise to innumerable ecological disasters. Sustainable development-based models consider the creation as subject and developmental formulations are made considering the uniqueness and the needs of the creation along with the desires of human community. These are effective ways of starting the process of reconciliation with the creation.

Polarization, Inequality, environmental degradation and many such menaces do consider the one party as the master (subject) and the other as the slave (servant) to be manipulated for the benefits of the master. A reconciliation between the master and servant only makes sense when such terminologies are destroyed and a relationship between two unique subjects are created. This newer reconciled relationship is sustainable only if the tendencies creating inequality and polarization are curtailed and with a creation of greater ecological consciousness.

A Jesuit interested to think and write; Loves philosophy, spirituality, politics…. Believes in God & well-being of all humans… Open to difference & newness..