In the animal kingdom, one human perspective (possibly western colonialist) proposes that some animals occupy the higher echelons of society, and others the lower echelons. Predators are often elevated to the top of the food chain, and plankton and microbes are consigned to the bottom. Are all animals equal then?
When we apply a hierarchical power structure to the animal kingdom, and then do the same to humans, are we saying some humans are elevated over others? So what happens in that case? Discrimination happens. Oppression happens. Marginalisation happens.
This is what happens in the parable or satirical story of “Animal Farm“. The liberators of oppression became the oppressors themselves, and gave themselves special privileges to rule over others. They use a climate of fear and repression to discourage the masses from questioning the norms and practices, and threaten to banish those who do not conform or comply to the orders.
Are rules redundant to enforce order then? Not necessarily, if rules are meant to serve as guidelines to ensure some semblance of peace and harmony among peoples of diverse mindsets and behaviour. The problem comes when rules become rigid and people become legalistic and condemning. Such unbending rules hurt and oppress people rather than help and uplift. Enforcing rules without the necessary flexibility also keeps people in an immature state of mind as it doesn’t encourage them to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions.
Laws are impersonal; love is personal. As a verse goes, “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” Laws engraved and written on stones can only kill and condemn whoever falls short of their exacting requirements when they are carried out with a cold, stony heart, whereas the Spirit of love and grace administers warmth and healing to all who are oppressed by the demonic force of authoritarianism and dogmatism.
What do we do then? One way to dismantle the oppressive system is to have a mental shift to recognise that all are equal, regardless of race, language, religion, nationality, political affiliation, career ladder rung, profession, gender, sexual orientation, species and so on. It goes beyond the duality of wrong and right, for everything is in tension in order to find a balance. Can we have true unity and harmony in the midst of diversity? Yes, we can, but it starts with embracing the otherness in ourselves before we can embrace the differences in others. Separateness, or tribalism for that matter, is an illusion from which we must awake.