Are We Really So Different?

photo credits here, edited.

by Jaime Pang

People have many differences from one another – this is a fact. After all, it is differences that make us unique, isn’t it? Some people are Asian, some are European, and some are neither. Some people like sports, while others may like art. Some people will agree to a certain point of view, but others will disagree.

“So, pick a person,” I say. “Pick someone who is completely different, or exactly opposite from you, and tell me how both of you are different.”

(Keep in mind, dear reader, that I, at the moment, have absolutely no idea what you look like, or what your life is like. For all I know, you could be a tall Englishman working a desk job in London, an old, petite Indian lady looking after her family, or a young Chinese boy going to school, perhaps. But I guess that that doesn’t really matter, does it?)

You smile. Regardless of who you picked, it’s hard to say absolutely everything, isn’t it? There are so many factors to consider, so much to discuss. Both of you may be of different races, different backgrounds, or maybe one likes football while the other does not. In essence, the differences between them define you all. They define us.

“I don’t know,” you chuckle. “One likes sports, and the other detests it, I guess? One is male, and the other is female?”

I smile knowingly.

“It’s tough, isn’t it? I mean, everyone is different in some way, at least.” Folding my arms, I start again.

“Now, take this same, completely different person, and tell me what both of you have in common.”

Immediately, astoundingly strange answers pop up in your head, such as ‘both live in the same country’, ‘both have a nose’ or ‘both are human’, depending on who you picked, of course. Perhaps by sheer luck the other person that you picked and yourself do have quite a bit in common, but too soon, you run out of options.

You decide that ‘both have noses’ isn’t quite appropriate an answer. But after an awkward period of silence, you finally answer hesitantly, “Both are human?”

“Good, good. Go on,” I nod in encouragement.

Wow. Even after such a blatantly obvious answer, the writer here is telling you to go on. (Don’t worry, dear reader, I am not trying to make fun of you. Honest. Please continue.)

“Um… both live on Earth?”

The replies now come flooding out like water from a burst dam. They range from utter nonsense like ‘both have brains’ to things that had never occurred to you before, in which you gasp and say ‘hey, I never realised that he/she did well in Math too!’.

When you have exhausted all manner of answers, you finally take a breath and stop.

“Well, that’s a lot more than you expected, isn’t it,” I muse.

You may be dark-skinned or fair-skinned. You may be old or young. You may be poor or rich. You may be famous or a nobody. But in the end, we’re all people that share this planet, right? That’s one thing that all of us have in common, even though we may seem a world apart.

Even though we may seem a world apart, we share this world 

So take a look around, my friend. Take a look at the people around us of different colours, shapes, sizes, and cultures. Take a look at the people around us who laugh as we do, smile as we do, and see the world, our world as we do. Now let me ask you again – Are we really so different?

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