In 2012 we lived for a brief time in Switzerland, where we got the chance to experience spring, summer, and autumn there. When the weather was warmer, people started to shed thick clothing and wear lighter one. One Saturday afternoon in August, while waiting for the bus to take me home, I saw a middle-aged lady standing beside me. She looked ordinary except that she didn’t wear any bra. I quickly averted my sight because I didn’t feel comfortable seeing what I saw, but then I noticed that other people didn’t think of it as something peculiar. Her male companion who was talking to her didn’t gawk at that lady. The people around us didn’t eye her as if she had done something wrong. It gave me ideas about how values, norms, common practices are indeed different among countries and cultures. If the same thing had happened back home, I couldn’t even have imagined what kind of harassment that lady might have experienced.
Every human is an individual entity, as well as a part of a larger social picture. As social creature, human is demanded to adhere to certain social norms, behaviors, and values. Incapability to follow the group’s set rules might result in alienation. Since the beginning of time, human strives to find someone being exactly like him. Human includes a lot of factors to justify similarity: race, religion, social status, education, and the lists go on. Clashes between groups happen just because of the lack of two things: acceptance and respect.
Human should accept that similarity is a vague and absurd concept. If we put race as the unification factor, many researches have shown that there’s no such thing as a pure race in the world nowadays. What is pure Indonesian, what is pure Indian, what is pure Korean? An identity of races is only guiding towards the creation of an identity of nations. One or more races agree to build a nation, to reside in a land, but who can guarantee that the residents of that country are all from one pure race? Nobody. Nations and geographical entities are now built based on agreement. And that agreement is the result of acceptance and respect.
They accept that there are differences among people who build a nation. Physically, nobody is identical with another person. The color of hair, skin, and eyes tells that fact loud and clear. They respect that. And when religion and ideology are used to justify similarity, we all know that faith is a totally different thing than religion. Faith speaks about personal experience and hope. Religion talks about collective people with same views and same beliefs. Religion is another grouping in social life, and it should also comply with the same principles of acceptance and respect towards other social groups. We accept that there are people who believe in different things than we do. We respect that they believe those beliefs. We don’t necessarily agree with those beliefs, but who are we to judge whether those beliefs are right or wrong? Why would the idea of heaven and hell in my opinion (based on my faith) matter to other people? Why would their idea of heaven and hell (based on their faith) matter to me? It doesn’t. We accept and respect that we are different, that different. That’s it.
Back to the middle-aged lady who didn’t wear any bra. My background coming from an eastern and (supposedly) religious country made me think that what that lady did was insolent. I did continuously ask myself. Why did she do that? Why wouldn’t she wear any bra? Why didn’t she cover herself properly? Wasn’t bra made for the purpose of sponsoring decency? But from her point of view, she would argue that the weather was nice enough to wear thin clothing (or wear nothing underneath, or whatever). She didn’t mean to annoy or offend anyone. That’s just her choice and personal preference to dress that way. Why should I be bothered? I shouldn’t have.
I remember something a friend said to me when I lived in Tokyo. People from the East often think that people from the West are too liberal because they’re more open to this kind of thing. They don’t sweat over small things like code for outfit and other physical things. I should know that appearance is only a trick for the eye. What matters from a person is only exposed when there are conversation and effort to get to know that person. Tattoos, piercings, bikinis shouldn’t cloud anyone’s judgment. What’s coming out from the mouth, well, that’s more important. At that time I just nodded, but not in agreement. I remember I was still complaining about why these people wore this and that, until one time that friend scolded me by saying: you should mind your own business.
ACCEPTANCE and RESPECT.
I’m starting to think those are the keys to harmonious society.