Faced with constant threats of terrorism and sharp divisions concerning immigration, economy, Frexit and other weighty issues, the French public went to the polls this week to determine who will lead their nation.
Whoever wins next month’s runoff will determine far more than the fate of France. At stake is the future of the entire European continent. But in order to succeed, the new president will have to achieve what currently seems impossible: unite the French people.
The French Republic is split in two. The new president will face fierce opposition similar to that which Donald Trump is facing in the US, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing in Turkey and Mark Rutte is facing in the Netherlands.
Even if French citizens can agree on a new leader, if the country parts from the European bloc and closes its borders, he or she will still have to cope with swarms of immigrants inundating France and taking over Paris. Besides posing a major political and humanitarian challenge, relations with the immigrants will continue to divide the French people and disrupt their lives.
At the end of the day, there is no solution to these problems, at least not one that everyone agrees on, and can therefore pose a sustainable solution.
Albert Einstein once said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” From my own heritage I know that problems are not meant to be solved; they are meant to serve as levers for ascending to higher levels.
Rabbi Kook wrote in Letters of the Raiah: “The great rule about the war of views, when each view comes to contradict another, is that we need not contradict it, but rather build above it, and thereby ascend.”
In the coming years, it will become increasingly clear that the most formidable challenge today’s leaders face is maintaining and enhancing the internal solidarity of their nations.
From Individuality to Interconnectivity
The main cause of friction and animosity among people is our self-centeredness. It makes us reject one another, hate one another, and turns us into such narcissists that it ruins our chances of establishing meaningful relationships with other people.
The French, the Turks and every other nation in the world may sign any law they want. They can agree on compromises and establish an apparent stable social order, but experience has proven that agreements are destined to be broken, and countries are destined to disintegrate.
Today, even the United States of America is not immune to fragmentation. The only thing that can reverse our growing alienation is the understanding that we are not meant to settle our disputes; we are meant to rise above them and unite.
It is just as King Solomon said: “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Prov 10:12). When we do this, our differences become strengths, as they force us to enhance our unity to match our intensifying level of disunity. In doing so, we learn to operate like a healthy organism whose various organs perform starkly different, yet complementary tasks.
The sooner we learn to work in this way, the sooner we will change the direction of society from ominous to propitious.
The French need not cover up the chasms in their society. Each faction is unique and has its own traditions that should be preserved and cherished. Instead of trying to make society uniform, the French would do well to treat their differences as varieties, elements that enrich the French society and add color and vitality to the country.
Even if challenging, the very effort will invoke such positivity that it will invert the dismal feeling of uncertainty and insecurity currently prevailing there, and enable the diverse communities to coexist in peace.
France’s future leader will have to maintain the two levels—rifts and differences, even to the point of hatred, and above it a level of mutual responsibility to enhance the unity of the entire French society.
Social tensions will not fade away. On the contrary, they will grow and thereby enable and compel the French to build stronger bridges among them. Again, the idea is not to accept the viewpoint of the other, but for all sides to form a new vision, one in which the unity of French society is primary, and everything else is secondary.
In this way, the differences between the factions will not be dismissed or suppressed, but rather embraced as contributors to the diversity of a united French society.
The Unity-Above-All Principle
If it is to succeed, the new French leadership will have to agree that the unity-above-all principle is its top priority. The cohesion and solidarity of the people depend on adhering to this notion on every level of life.
Unity must be the basis of relationships in society, family, work, schools and universities, and even in politics. There should be a Department of Unity, much as there is a Department of Justice, and it should take precedence over all other federal agencies. Its sole task will be to elevate and exalt the importance of unity above everything else—through social media, news media and every means of advertisement.
Presently, the world is going from bad to worse. Yet, the more hateful we become, the more life is forcing us to connect. As long as we resist this trend, the clash between life’s direction, toward connection, and our desire to separate will become increasingly painful. Unless we learn how to use reality’s tendency to connect for our benefit, by connecting above our hatred, the tension between the two opposite forces will snap, and an all-out war will break out.
When the war is over, a leader will still have to unite everyone above their differences. If leaders around the world understand the principle of connection above hatred and lead their countries toward it, they will translate this into applicable laws that will change all public systems and transform public discourse. These, in turn, will help each person rise above the isolation and find joy in connection and unity.
This year is going to be crucial for Europe as France, Germany, and other countries will decide the identity of their leaders for the coming years. If these elected leaders commit to unity, Europe will prosper. If not, the EU will disintegrate and the chances of war breaking out will increase dramatically.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post