There are two types of people floating in the world. One focuses on exclusivity, and the other on inclusivity.
The overwhelming majority, particularly those who hail from privileged quarters or constitute the Establishment, would favour exclusivity. A tiny, avant-garde minority would vote for inclusivity. So first a definition of terms. What is exclusivity and what is inclusivity?
Well, the terms are fairly self-definitive, but here goes. Exclusivity derives value from a product, place, or position by denying others access to it. Thus, belonging to a club is usually an exclusive affair. You need not only to have money, but that indefinable thing called class, which is usually derived from your family background and your schooling. In other words, you need to belong to a tiny cluster of people in order to make the cut. Everyone else is left languishing outside the gate!
The more exclusive something is, the more it goes up in value, not just monetarily but also in terms of desirability. Thus, the more people a club manages to keep out, the more its allure. This would also be true of five-star hotels, high-end events that advertise themselves while hastening to add a snubbing “By Invitation Only” , or ostentatious shops selling couture, jewellery, drinks and anything upwardly mobile.
But exclusivity does not end there. There is thought exclusivity too. And that is the terrain of the intellectuals who put up barriers to knowledge in order to protect their turf. After World War ll, mass education became a priority in England and a rash of grammar schools cropped up. I read somewhere that aghast at the thought of these ‘commoners’ at their door, some poets and thinkers began to write extremely oblique poetry and literature to understand which you needed to have learnt Greek and Latin!
In India, of course, we have caste exclusivity, with the Brahmins on top of the totem pole, denying the study of sacred literature to any but other Brahmins, and refusing to eat anybody else’s food or drink anybody else’s water.
We also have religious exclusivity, where faiths like my own Christianity, decree that only they have a direct line to God.
Frankly, almost all of us practice some form of exclusivity. Don’t we hate it when our domestic staff buys the same phone that we have? And don’t we ditch the cold shoulder look when we see every second person wearing it?
At the heart of exclusivity is the tendency to feel good about ourselves by putting others down. With what crushing superiority we correct another’s grammar, even if ours is not exactly the best in the business. How compulsively we adopt fancy accents in order to impress others. And how often we manage to slip into the conversation that we live in Breach Candy, or that we have a three-bedroom flat.
Inclusivity, on the other hand, throws open the gates, opens up its arms, and gathers everything into its capacious embrace. Inclusivity wants everyone to have what they have. Inclusivity derives joy from making available what they have to everyone else. Inclusivity does not get its kicks by putting people down. Inclusivity’s mission is to pull people up.
So how do we travel from an exclusive mindset to an inclusive one? Most of us are, I would say, works of progress in this zone, but there are two big milestones in this journey. One would be some kind of spiritual orientation, which alone will heal the ego and its compulsive need to feel good about itself at the cost of others.
The second would be good self-esteem. When we have a healthy love and regard for ourselves, our psychological and physical needs reduce drastically. We no longer pine to feel good about ourselves, because we do, in fact, feel good about ourselves. And that is when we open up our hearts to the other and want them to have all that we have.
Inclusivity is a higher state we attain when our ego mellows and matures. And that is when we can be of real use to our fellow men. Gandhiji once offered a rule of thumb by which to gauge our actions. He said that we should do or buy something only if every person on Planet Earth would be able to do it too. Now that is inclusivity, my friends. I can’t say I have reached that altitude, but it is certainly something I aspire to.
Suma Varughese has had a long and illustrious career as a writer/editor/journalist for 40 years. She was the editor-in-chief of Life Positive, India’s premier body-mind-spirit magazine, for over 12 years, prior to which she was the editor of Society magazine for five years and has also been a senior editor with Gentleman magazine. Suma is a popular guest speaker at many conferences and seminars and has been intimately connected with the rise of the spiritual movement in India.