The Question of Comparison
Comparing two aspects is a very common trend in human life. Comparisons can be useful, helpful, neutral, or dangerous. Jacques Dupuis, a famous Jesuit theologian said in the context of inter-religious dialogue,
“We need to stop comparing the best of Christianity with the worst in a religion like Hinduism; instead, we need to compare the best in one tradition with the best in the other and the worst in one with the worst in the other,”
I think this principle can be generally translated into any relationship between persons, religions, cultures, political parties, ideologies, etc. At the same time, finding the best and worst of a culture or religion is not completely an objective phenomenon too.
During the time of elections, political parties attempt to compare the best in their own with the worst in the others. Occasionally the best and worst are stretched so much that one becomes Godly and the other becomes devilish. One example of this was seen in the election of 2014 in India. (Sadly many people realize it much after the elections). The corruption of the UPA-II government (which is a reality, but it is the worst of them) was not even compared to the best of BJP (they might argue that the Gujarat model is their best), but with an imaginary illusionary model (Aache din). Sadly this trend is not limited to politics, but to all other fields.
Few interesting examples can be,
- The best of India will be compared with the worst of Pakistan or vice-versa as it suits us. (This is not only used by Indian or Pakistani Politicians, but those ruling all such countries where there are serious conflicts).
- When one religion or culture judges another religion or culture. Recent good examples can be Love Jihad debates, Accusations of forced Conversion, etc. There might be some forced conversions; there might be some marriages done on the basis of faulty religious beliefs etc, but they are the worst in those religions and definitely not the option of the majority of people professing that faith. When these injustices should be condemned, we can’t compare that with the goodness existing in another religion, so that we can easily label one group as devilish.
- Another simpler example is the Western society criticizing caste in India and Indians criticizing racism in the West. Both are the worst in both of the societies. You can’t use the arguments against the evil in the neighbor to claim your superiority or better-human rights record and denying the evil at home.
- This can happen in personal relationships too. Parents can compare the worst in their children with the best of their neighbor’s children; children can do the same with parents. It’s equally applicable to other personal and professional relationships.
What is the way out? Do we have a perfect solution? I don’t have any such solution. Though some pointers could be given
- Accept the reality that comparisons will surely happen. Much of the human progress, especially in Science and Technology, happened also due to comparisons between various factors. So it has several positive benefits too.
- Use comparisons to grow and not to put the other down. Some of our conceptions of growth are too capitalistic or neo-liberal, that we know to grow only by putting others down.
- Be conscious of one’s strongest beliefs. They can become like an ideology or fundamentalist trends (and I consider my ideology to be perfect), no comparisons can be sensible. It will only be done to defend my superiority rather than to understand and grow.
- Being conscious of the struggles, difficulties, weaknesses of my own thinking, culture, religion, family, etc, and accept them. This will help us to look at the worst in others with a little more comparison.