You I & Us

This article talks about the importance of setting up a common societal goal as means to progress by studying historic and recent examples of tolerance or division in societies.

     In my previous article I talked about working social structures and the things that contribute to a productive society. However, for social structures to form there has to be a common goal or purpose between the people in society. The goal can be anything from economic prosperity, to religious fundamentalism. Whatever it may be, it has to be something that society as a whole agrees to. When there is an agreement to a certain goal in a society, a territory is then formed for the society to progress and achieve that goal. Take the UAE for example, when entering UAE territories one would expect to come across a diverse, bilingual, tolerant, oil-rich, developed, and mostly Muslim society. However this is only true because all the people within the territorial boundaries of what is called the UAE have accepted to work together for a common purpose or goal. When societies break apart and refuse to agree upon a common interest, territories start to collapse and conflict starts to overthrow the population.

     The word territory most commonly derives from the Latin word “territorium” meaning “The land around a town”. ( 2015) It is land that is controlled or run by a certain government, population, society, or organization. However William Connolly, a philosopher and political science professor at John Hopkins University suggests a rather interesting etymology of the word territory. Connolly suggests that the word territory derives from two Latin words, Terra and terrere. Terra meaning land, earth, nourishment, sustenance, where as the word terrere means to frighten or terrorize. Put together, and you from the Latin word territorium, meaning a place in which people are warned. So the word territory may perhaps mean to occupy a curtain area in which sustenance is received and the right to govern is executed.

     In 1970 Sheikh Zayed Al Nahayn established the territories of the United Arab Emirates by uniting seven societies to a common goal. Sheikh Zayed saw these seven Trucial States as an opportunity to establish a single society and territory. Forty-five years later the UAE society is still working together in hopes of a better present and future. The rulers of the UAE have done a great job in constantly changing, adapting, and setting new goals for society to progress towards. Such initiatives promote constant peace, tolerance, and progress in society.

     Take Iraq and Syria as an example where society there is no longer a single goal for society to progress towards. Religious sects, political parties, extremist and modernist are all fighting each other for different purposes and goals. There is no common purpose or goal in that society anymore and because of such lives, homes, and lands is being torn apart. Having a united society keeps the territories in which they own strong and progressive. However, when a common goal isn’t agreed upon and society starts to divide itself based on mundane things such as ethnicity, skin color, religious sect, or social class demise is soon to follow. Take the Roman Empire as an example, after the death of Theodosius I in 395 AD, the Roman Empire was no longer united. There was no longer a force that pushed the vast and diverse Roman society under a single common goal. Soon after, conflict engulfed Rome, Germanic tribes invaded Rome, and Rome split apart into different Roman tribes in the west and the Byzantine Empire in the East. Al Andalus is another example of societal breakdown and division leading to its territorial demise. Once united under the Umayyad Caliphate, Al Andalus then became an independent state in 750 AD after the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate and the rise of the Abbasid. For more than three hundred years Al Andalus was a global hub to economic, religious, scientific, political, and social prosperity and tolerance. However societies once again divided themselves based on mundane things such as race and skin ethnicity. Between the years 1000 and 1492 the once prosperous, advanced society of Al Andalus split into 32 different Taifa’s with sovereign territories and societies. (Alkhateeb 2014) This division paved way for Queen Isabella I and Ferdinand II to seize Al Andalus in 1492.

     It is very interesting to observe that the concept of societal unity and the need of a common goal are not just linked to humans alone. In 1947 there was a four-year civil conflict that took place in Gombe, Tanzania between two communities of Chimpanzee’s. This conflict is known as the Gombe Chimpanzee War or the four-year war. The conflict was between the northern and southern Gombe chimpanzee societies. However, a territorial dispute between the once united societies broke out leading to the torture, rape, kidnapping, and eventually the death of 11 chimpanzees within four years.

     What makes up a society isn’t the concept of common blood, race, religion, but rather a common goal. So people should stop looking at diversity as a disease, and instead, take pride in a diverse society that is united! In the UAE alone Arabs, Ajam, Indians, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Shia, Sunna, Iranians, biracials, Emiratis, expats, all of them must learn to work together for a common objective. Amongst all these diverse groups in society a common objective and goal must be constantly pursued. Every one of us, including myself, must learn to accept that a society is diverse and that everyone has different views and beliefs within it. I am not saying that you should follow someone else’s religious beliefs or views, rather to accept their right, as members in society, to follow their own beliefs and views. Who are we to dictate amongst others what is right or wrong? For those who seek a prosperous and united society must look beyond the irrelevant differences within society and embrace the diversity and the progression towards a common goal.


Featured image by: Piroshki-Photography


  • Alkhateeb, Firas. Disunity in al-Andalus: The Taifa Period. (accessed 2015).
  • Connolly, William. Tocqueville, Territory and Violence in Shapiro M and Alker H eds. Challenging Boundries: Global Flows, Territorial Identities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
  • com. Territory Origin. 2015. (accessed April 19, 2015).


One thought on “You I & Us

  1. I happen to come across a verse in the Quran that speaks to your article. In Surrat Hud: “And if your Lord had so willed, He could surely have made mankind one Ummah [nation or community], but they will not cease to disagree,— (118)” This is rather a Divine call for societies to embrace diversity, and start to focus on deeper goals rather than cleansing surface characteristics.

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