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People who are different can still be together

Learning How to Accept Differences: From "Gulliver’s Travels"

"Gulliver’s Travels" is a story about Gulliver traveling to Brobdingnag, the Land of the Giants;
to Lilliput, a country with small people; Laputa, a floating island; and the Land of the Houyhnhnms,
an island where horses rule over human beings. Through these different journeys,
Gulliver gains invaluable experience and learns how to get along with people from different backgrounds and walks of life.
Let’s take a deeper look at “how to understand and resolve issues that may arise due to differences with other people."
Article: Editor’s Office



Gulliver realizes the reason why he should respect differences in Lilliput


“It has been a tradition for us to break eggs on the large-end first. However, the Emperor’s grandfather, when he was young, broke an egg in the old way, large-end first, and ended up cutting his finger. So, he then passed a new law ordering people to break their eggs on the small-end first, saying that people who violated this law would be punished. Our history books show that the Lilliputians were angered at this law and rebelled six times against it.”



Lilliput, the land where Gulliver arrived after be shipwrecked was in the middle of a war with a neighboring country for three years. When he asked why the war began in the first place, the answer he got was surprising and absurd at the same time. It was because of differences in breaking eggs. While the King of Lilliput decided to control the thoughts and actions of his people with rules enacted based on his personal experience, around 10,000 Lilliputians decided to die fighting, rather than to accept and give in to the law that forced them to break eggs on the small side. Upon this, Gulliver looked at the King objectively, who forced his own thoughts and ideas on others subjectively, and realized that a culture with no respect for diversity only leads to wars and chaos.

This kind of situation can often be seen in companies. Some people persuade others to accept their ideas and thoughts, or even impose their views on others, often disguising these as principles that should be abided by in the workplace. They sometimes become hostile to others who have contrasting views. Organizations of this sort more often than not place the emphasis on “the whole organization moving toward the same goal or direction”. However, the truth is, moving in the right direction is much more important than merely going in the same direction. A corporate culture that aims for the right direction can only be realized when the members are willing to accept and respect differences.

The famous German philosopher Nietzsche rejected the idea of objective reality, saying that what purported to be objectivity was actually subjective interpretation. Owing to the fact that human brains don’t always function perfectly rationally, they interpret the same situation differently based on their own experiences from the past. This is why human beings are inevitably subjective. And for this reason, it’s critical that we accept the fact that our own judgments aren’t always perfect, and we should begin listening to and accepting what others say. This is the starting point for accepting diversity. A corporate culture based on cooperation and co-prosperity will naturally be formed in an environment where the members respect each other’s differences.



Prejudices and biases brought forward by differences found in Brobdingnag


The Queen became so fond of my company that she could not dine without me. However, the Queen’s dwarf angered and mortified me. The dwarf who was the shortest in the country became so arrogant and insolent at seeing a creature so much beneath him, that he would always say insulting words about my height as he passed by. He even went as far as to run away after dropping me into a silver bowl full of cream. If I hadn’t been a good swimmer, I might not have made it alive.



The dwarf who was the shortest in Brobdingnag used to be favored by the Queen, but Gulliver became the center of attention as soon as he showed up. So he tried to get rid of Gulliver whenever he had the chance. However, the reason why the Queen liked Gulliver’s company was not because he was smaller than the dwarf, but rather because he had the wisdom and attitude that the dwarf didn’t have. Not knowing any of this, the dwarf became jealous of Gulliver’s size and kept giving him a hard time whenever he could. Eventually, the dwarf was expelled from the country.

As you can see, not being respectful of differences leads to discrimination. This is why we should never be jealous of or criticize others. Biases, born as a result, stop you from seeing all the good traits of others and lead to discrimination. On the other hand, admitting that there are differences and accepting them the way they are can create synergy.

The reason rainbows are so beautiful is because they are a combination of seven colors, all distinct from each other. Rainbows would never have been this beautiful if only the same colors came together and wouldn’t have been harmonious if any one color stood out from the rest. Also, the movie "The Avengers" proves that although the superheroes may sometimes fight against each other due to differences in ability and personality, the greatest synergy is formed when they all join hands, overcoming their differences, to defeat the villains.

The same goes for companies. The greatest results can be achieved when the members accept each other’s differences and cooperate with one another. The attitude we should all steer away from is only focusing on fostering leadership, believing that it’s important, thinking ideas are important and only complimenting those that have great ideas; or believing management skills are critical and ignoring those that lack these skills. Companies need to retain a large spectrum of employees, as they can come across various situations and welcome all their different ideas and abilities, encouraging them to create a synergy effect.


Learning why embracing differences is important in Laputa, an island in the sky


Their heads are all tilted to one side or the other, with one eye turned inward and the other looking up. The King and the servants seem interested only in mathematics and music. The Laputan houses are badly built, broken, and mostly left unrepaired. The people in the streets walked fast, looking wild and violent. In fact, about 40 years ago, certain persons went up to Laputa and spent around five months there learning mathematics before returning and changing the way things were done.



Laputa, the island to which Gulliver traveled, had a magnet attached to its bottom, which helped it either float up to or down from the sky. The King of Laputa also ruled the countries below Laputa. The Laputans believed that the people below were inferior to them, and whenever there was an uprising, the King would keep the island above the region, depriving the lands below of sun and rain, leaving the people there suffering from famine and disease. Gulliver came to understand why the regions below were suffering so much. Charmed by Laputa’s beauty, those who visited the island rolled out plans that didn’t fit their regions’ circumstances and enforced stricter measures if they failed. Eventually, the houses became shabby and collapsed as they weren’t built properly and the countries were run in ways that angered their people, who felt more and more devastated.

Gulliver naturally felt disenchanted and disgusted with the King and servants of Laputa, extremely selfish beings who only think of themselves, and not their people. Looking at the people on the ground, who carried out unrealistic plans, trying to imitate Laputa, Gulliver also realized how foolish it is to accommodate an idea or concept without first considering differences.

The same lesson can be applied to companies. Rejecting something simply because it’s not what you have done before is completely wrong. However, equally wrong is unconditionally saying you will do something without giving it some thought just because someone who has more authority or skills asks you to do it. The same goes for starting new businesses. Therefore, if there is an unfamiliar situation or issue, we should always provide enough information or evidence so that everyone else can understand it. On the other hand, those accepting new information should carefully accept it after giving it some thought. This is because stubbornly arguing one’s own stance and putting off decisions, trapped in bias and prejudice hinder one’s ability to head in the right direction.

We often encounter various differences in our lives. Depending on how they’re perceived and utilized, these differences and their values can come together to form collective intelligence and create enormous synergy effects. Accepting the fact that we may be wrong, and learning to view the world through the perspectives of others are attitudes critical in the era of continuous change.




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