Complementarity: Together we are stronger

The west is again becoming aware of the fact that all members of the human family need and depend on each other. In my opinion, solidarity entails finding the right balance between oneself and one’s social environment. Individualist behavior, in my view, is one that is triggered by a false sense of security that results in a lack of self-respect. A person is respectful of himself when he recognizes his abilities and limits. When a person neither acknowledges his abilities nor his limits, he can suffer from a fear that shuts himself off from other people.

I personally distinguish between two kinds of social language attitudes. A person driven by a language of individualism seeks happiness through his own means and therefore disregards any contribution from others. An attitude presuming that nobody, except oneself, can help in one’s development inevitably leads to seeing people as limits to one’s personal or collective fulfillment. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. believed “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” Sartre went even further claiming that “hell is other people.” One can infer from the above-mentioned claims that an unhealthy competition arises when people see each other as an obstacle to achieve their own self-realization. Competing individuals ultimately seek to dominate their counterparts, which prompts self-centered comparisons.

A person driven by a language of complementarity first ought to have a sense of self-respect based on a true self-acknowledgement of his abilities and limits. And that person would seek happiness both by his own means and in relation to others. He will presume that not only himself but everybody can help in his own personal and collective fulfillment. “E pluribus unum” or “united in diversity” stand as the mottos of the United States and of the European Union respectively. In my view, they represent the respect for diversity found in each human being. Difference enriches humanity. Mark Twain pithily explained that “it is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races.”

When receiving the Nobel peace prize, Lech Walesa mentioned “the sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of workers, peasants and the intelligentsia, the solidarity of the nation, the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience.” From my perspective, Mr. Walesa’s words mean that unity among different peoples can only happen through a fundamental respect for the dignity of the person.