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Born facing many physical problems my life long struggle has been to grow, learn and be fulfilled in some way. Whether it was doctors, nurses, parents, teachers, bosses – again and again I had to submit. As a child I could not run away screaming in a purple faced tantrum; as a teen I could not flout my parents and drive my car to a drunken all night party. In sports I couldn’t bash my way into the ‘A’ team. In the workplace I was not able to bully my way to the top. In my life I have had to face acceptance of submission on the outward level but on the inner level, I fought fiercely for an individual voice. Yes we must have leaders and protocols but we all must also be given a chance to speak.

I realise that some, upon reading this first paragraph, would say – this is simply sour grapes, (poor guy – he wasn’t able to do normal things and he’s frustrated.) What I learned from my life experience has a much broader message for individuals and for society at large: submission means temporarily giving up a bit of ego but at the same time, with humility, study and imagination a person can grow to a full and intelligent maturity. And in the larger context, especially in the struggle to defend and improve democracy, we submit to group discipline that not only allows for expression of opinions but seeks out creative suggestions. Yes whatever the body; town council or National Parliament, democracy is slow moving, at times frustrating and often involves involves submission (without grievance) to the group. Fairness, patience and empathy is the humanist way to deal with conflict.

Then we have a large body of individuals who hate any hint of submission or any modification of their opinion. Usually they are healthy, young people who have great energy and enjoy fighting rules, or as a youth has lacked confidence and self-esteem. They often find themselves on the other side of conformity, (the outsider the maverick). Even into old age, for them, the very thought of ‘negotiating’ is toxic. A large number of this group are simply naysayers. They will resist whatever the majority agrees to. This pool of non-conformists also harbours the gems of society. The outstanding creative individuals who invent and explore and push back the horizons of knowledge. Unfortunately, this example of exceptional talent is rare.

Parents, from many religious beliefs and cultures have used the word ‘sharing’ as one of the most important words in the development of character at an early age. Of course sharing means one has to give up something. It is a child’s first encounter with submission. How a child relates to the idea of sharing has a lot to do with his/her growth in later life: ‘Sara, please share your dolls with Judy’. Not only does this event and it’s response affect a child’s social life but also their ability to interact and achieve success in school, business and community. In every social setting, be it a local book club, professional sport team, or a team of scientists – to submit one’s ego for the group success is an awesome and inspiring experience and should be nurtured in our future pathway.