This line was in the closing scene of a recent episode of Madam Secretary. The title of the episode, “E Pluribus Unum” is latin for,

Out of many, one.

It is prominently featured on the government seal of the U.S, and was at one time considered the defacto national motto.

The line, “lt’s up to us. All of us.” delivered by the show’s main character, Elizabeth McCord, had already really struck me. Due to it being the crescendo sentence of an impassioned speech in response to a terrorist attack.

The connection deepened with the mention of E Pluribus Unum, as its English translation resonates with the national motto of my parents’ homeland. Jamaica.

Out of Many One people.

I credit my Jamaican heritage with being the defining foundation, for many of the essentials that have shaped who I am.

The resonance ran deeper still, as my current homeland of Indonesia has this as there national motto,

Bhinneka Ika Tunggal – Unity in Diversity

This theme -or benang merah* as we’d say in Indonesia- of unity in diversity/out of many, one; can be found in mottos and slogans of countries, cities, sports clubs, campaigns etc.

Suggesting, that there is a common understanding of there being strength and something of value to be found within our differences. That there is a commonality, a connectedness that actually comes as a consequence of it.

Or is that me reading into it my own perspective?

If we look at the general definitions of the key words, I think we can find support for my supposition:

  • Out/Out of – indicating the source of
  • Many – large number…diverse
  • One – …identical, the same
  • Unity – a thing forming a complex whole
  • In – expressing inclusion or involvement
  • Diversity – difference, contrast, antonym: uniformly

So if there does exist a common desire to aspire to unity within diversity, why does it seem as if there is more division than connection?

Why, as one of my cousins says, do we often start our interactions with others from a place of contention as opposed to agreement?

How does “out of many, one” become more than just something emblazoned on a seal/national emblem/team flag?

There are probably many answers that could be offered. One is most definitely,

It’s up to us. All of us.

We can each do our part to contribute in some way to a world with less disunity.

  • How do I live with my neighbours?
  • How do I treat my work colleagues?
  • What am I like with the cashier in the supermarket?
  • When did I last spend time with someone different to me?
  • What is my perspective on the poor and marginalised?

It’s up to us. All of us.

*The term “benang merah” literally means red coloured thread/strings, but figuratively means something that connects or links different factors into one single thing.