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Is neutrality viable in a polarized "we win-you lose" world?

Blog #34




In an increasingly shrill divided world, is there enough room for those staying independent or neutral?

  • A famous presidential quote- " You are with us or you are against us" was widely scorned at the time but yet, most of us think in terms of good vs evil, as if there is no grey in between

  • In polarizing times, it is very convenient to count the "aye"s and infer that even those silent amongst us are the naysayers

  • Every "good" uprising does not immediately win nor does every bad regime decimate its opponents but in the heat of debate, every battle is seen as terminal, isn't it?

  • We pressurize the independents to pick a side, citing the risk that the bad guys could win and implore them that passive neutrality should weigh heavily on their conscience in case we lose

  • Yes, there are real costs of winning or losing but need we ascribe some of those costs to those who chose to be above the fray? Why is it their fault?

  • What should be the best path forward for those who choose neutrality and play Switzerland even during a world war?

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The Mahabharata Context

There were many personalities in the great epic who tried to stay above the fray. Most of them had a delicate balancing act to play. Some stayed above the fray with credibility and were not mocked for their neutrality. King Dhritarashtra's concierge, Sanjaya stayed above the fray as an unbiased reporter from the battlefield, sticking strictly to reporting the actions and not intertwining his emotions or opinions into it. Queen Kunti and Queen Gandhari were hailed for their pure love for their children. Queen Kunti even walked away from the palace after her son's victory in an attempt to stay above the fray. Queen Gandhari was however guilty of one futile transgression in a desperate attempt to save the life of her last surviving son, Prince Duryodhana. Sage Kripa survived the war but while he did have the military capabilities to mount a consequential attack, he was seen as an unbiased teacher who would not intervene in the ebb and flow of war.

There were those formidable warriors like Prince Bhishma, Sage Drona and Prince Karna who were mocked for their reluctance to endorse the policies and stances of the Kaurava side they fought for. Each was a flawed warrior doing his karmic duty. They walked a hard line separating their personal values and beliefs from their harsh actions on the field- lethal military battles waged against their opponents, even threatening to tip the scales against the good side, the Pandavas. By the end, Almost all warriors, with consequential assault capabilities were vanquished. The only ones that survived were the Pandavas, trusted by all to have the integrity and the moral assurance that they would never use their military prowess to do harm to society.

The Persona of the Independent Neutrals

These personalities were strong, courageous, brave, loyal, noble, intelligent, loving, compassionate and yet humble. However their defining trait is active passivity. These personalities chose an awkward abstinence from picking sides in a world they see as too complex to be classified in a bipolar fashion . These personalities however don't want to be the first or even the last sometimes to tip the scales towards strife. This trait is difficult to classify as either positive or negative. The vested stakeholders on both sides are often infuriated with this trait and use epithets like cowardice, chicken and even question the intelligence, judgement and the moral fiber of those who chose a passive neutrality.

Lessons Learned

  • We could all practice a little empathy sometimes towards those who do not see the world through a bipolar lens

  • While we may not like the costs and inconvenience of their posture, perhaps this posture is the best way to turn the spotlight towards change in this harsh, shrill bipolar world.

  • Recent elections show a victory for the "swing" voters who did a great job disappointing both major political parties in the USA

  • What % of neutrality is in you?

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