This article does not encourage people to shun from differing. If all are the same, there would not be advancement. The differences in life are useful for progress, an inexhaustible God’s gift for humanity. The psychological ailment of “fear to differ” to entertain people or be in the good book of higher-ups is an emerging condition. This is a mental disease that has permeated the bureaucracy, political arena, religious circles and even universities. It takes courage to differ. Have no fear to be different because each person is unique and important. If you have not been rejected, accepted, confronted and challenged in your life, probably you have not done anything worthwhile. All the above conditions come up when you do something extraordinary or perform feats that have not been completed by anyone. The tendency to agree with everything, anything and everyone is also a pointer that you have nothing unique in yourself or you have been a mere follower (not doer).
Human existential reality
All human beings have flaws, they are imperfect beings and have the feeling called “jealousy” which is not evil in itself. If positively cultivated, it can propel someone to betterment. There is a fine line between healthy jealousy and unhealthy controlling behaviour (Samra Zafar). It is extremely pertinent to be aware of that. The fear of “being defeated” is a fear that could induce suppression, aggression, expansion, jealousy, ultimately inducing more fear in other spheres of life. One form of fear creates another form of fear. Religions, organizations, institutions, governments could be also avatars of fear inhibiting optimum growth of humans (especially imaginative people). Usually, what is programmed by the above establishments are propagated as normativity, leaving no room for addition or subtraction. This is a pernicious expression of the dominant culture – creating fear in those who live queer lives, possess queer minds, creative ideas, minority groups, entrepreneurial leadership traits. In this instance, establishments that are to enhance humanity have become systematic inhibitors (annihilators) of growth.
Mental health check
The World Health Organization has defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” The ability to make a societal contribution is one vivid pointer of sound mental health. Yes, mental health embraces our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act (MentalHealth.Gov). The following four questions are paramount to check your mental state: (1) Do you feel intimidated? (2) Do you feel that you have lost your voice or stand? (3) Do you feel you are always living in fear, walking on eggshells? (4) Do you feel that you cannot express your opinions, thoughts and feelings? If you have a “YES” for any of the above, you are in an abusive relationship or a domineering organization. You need therapy and counselling. Your mental health needs proper care, free from fear. You need a connection to your true self and the people around you. Abuse is to do with “power and control” (of people or institutions). There is a need to identify those abuses and address the problems. Otherwise, human potentials can be suppressed and achievements are minimal.
Aggression is the result of fear
Verbal, written, emotional, institutional, authoritarian aggression are equivalent to indirect aggressions that are “behind-the-back” relational aggression. The stress here is not in the form of aggression but on the intention to harm human relationships or group membership (Archer & Coyne, 2005). The “behind-the-back” behaviour is an outcome of fear to involve in face-to-face engagement. This evades the real perpetrator in abusive relations. The sufferer feels the pain, the inflictor pretends not to know, the real perpetrator is paid off or remains elusive. Perhaps, this will encourage the perpetrator to expand his or her network of fear.
Heroes who dare to differ
Let us revisit some of our past and present heroes who differ from the so-called normativity – M.K. Gandhi differed with the British way of governance; Subhash Chandra Bose differed with the British Army to ensure ‘us’ freedom; Bhagat Singh, a socialist revolutionary differed with the British; Medha Patkar differs with the idea of big dams and dares to stand for Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA); Kanhaiya Kumar of Bihar dared to differ with JNU policies, now serves as a member of Communist Party of India; Akhil Gogoi of Assam dared to differ with CAA and now elected as MLA; Fr Stan Swamy differed with the appropriation of tribal lands, incarcerated, now dead; Babloo Loitongbam of Manipur differs with the AFSPA, works for Human Rights Alert; Aung Sang Suu Kyi differed with military Junta, repeatedly serving house arrests; Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries exposed the criminal underworld and he has been shot on an Amsterdam street several times on the 5th July 2021, now battling with his life. These brave hearts dared and are daring to opt for transformative emancipatory paradigms. You will have brave hearts in your state, region, village levels.
The price of “daring to differ” is seen all over the world. But it is worth it to differ than sacrifice oneself (one’s identity) in the unreserved pursuit to gratify people or institutions. The price to differ is great – rejection, framing, incarceration, expulsion, emotional or physical torture, denial of basic human rights, death. If you adopt inclusive principles, you are likely to be excluded. If you dare stand for the voiceless, you are likely to be silenced. On the other hand, nepotism, majoritarianism, fascism, militarization, etc., are raising their Hitlerian flags in different corners of the world – creating fear and trying to extinguish the “courage to differ”. May Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) who constantly tried to raise the Indian morale during the imperialist British rule inspire us with his illuminating and anthologized poetry units, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high … Where the mind is led forward by Thee, Into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”.
The author is a PhD research scholar, Department of Sociology and Social Work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org