People in the world can be classified in many different ways, and all classifications have of course their limitations. In my last article I focused on the difference between the ‘question marks’ and the ‘exclamation marks’. This time I want to focus on the difference between ‘and’ people and ‘or’ people.
‘Or’ people are the majority. Governments and institutions are made up of ‘or’ people. ‘Or’ people are the dualist, those who think we always have to side with one side or the opposite one. ‘With us or against us’. They don’t really believe in compromise, as they are convinced that one side (their side) is right, and the other one is wrong. The ‘right’ side, whatever that is, has to prevail… ‘Or’ people are rigid, and they are extremist. Terrorists are definitely ‘or’ people, and so are war-mongers. They are also ‘purist’ – mixing is not good for them: you are either Christian or Buddhist (or any other spiritual belief), you cannot mix! Woe betide you if you try and get the best of the two and mix them up together! They don’t really like children with mixed parentage (like my son, half Italian and half Japanese), or people who code-switch, mixing two languages, something that is very common among bilingual people.
‘And’ people, on the other hand, are non-purist, people who like and enjoy mixing. Hippies were ‘and’ people as they mixed garments from different cultures, they mixed spiritual paths, they did not eschew relations with partners of different ethnicities. ‘And’ people are moderate, they follow the middle way – a little of this and a little of that. They are not extreme nationalist, actually they are often cosmopolitan, believing that good and bad people can be found everywhere in the same proportion, in my country just as in yours… ‘And’ people are eclectic, they can easily mix together philosophies and worldviews. They may even be bilingual, and raise their children as bilingual, so that they can enjoy different cultures and mix them up together if they wish so.
In my life, I have met both ‘or’ and ‘and’ people, and I usually preferred the latter’s company. It seems to me, however, that ‘or’ people are in a way the most fragile – they need to cling to something firmly or else they would feel lost. They cannot handle different ideas at the same time. Purist ideas are easy to tackle, no much thinking and creativity are involved. They make ‘or’ people feel safer. Most politicians, especially conservative ones, are ‘or’ people, as well. It is easier to retain power, to control people, if they are asked to stick to only one point of view. Some religious leaders are also ‘or’ people, in their strife to preserve the ‘true’ belief. ISIS and Al-Qaeda fighters are of course ‘or’ people. On the other hand, Gandhi was clearly an ‘and’ person, believing in a religiously mixed India, where Hindus and Muslims could live peacefully side by side. Unfortunately ‘or’ people got the upper hand and India was divided into India and Pakistan, leaving behind a trail of deaths and hate.
The thing is ‘pure’ is not common in nature. Most of the things around us are mixed. Beautiful colours like pink and green are mixtures of more basic colours. Even water is a mix-up of oxygen and hydrogen! In Chinese philosophy balance is always an equal blend of yin and yang. However, we are so immersed in this ‘or’ mainstream culture that we don’t always realize the opportunities that an ‘and’ outlook could give us! For example, why having to stick to one full-time job when we could have two different part-time jobs? Or even better, having one part-time job and devoting the rest of the time to art, meditation or whatever other interest or passion we may have? Why just conforming to a car painted uniformly in one colour when we could paint it in many different colours? Wouldn’t that be more interesting, more beautiful? And so much more…
Of course, realistically there are times when we have to make a choice. Going on holiday to the seaside or to the mountains? Having Italian spaghetti or Chinese noodles for dinner? Shall I vote for this party or that party? These are, however, most of the time practical cases, not existential ones.
I dream of a world where ‘and’ would prevail over ‘or’. Even a balance between the two would still be fine. It may be easier to be ‘or’ rather than ‘and’, but ‘easy’ does not mean better… Too many ‘or’ people, I believe, are not helping this world to be a sustainable and peaceful one. More ‘and’ people in my view would.