Intent Blog

The Price we Must Pay for the Strength of Unity

There is no secret code, formula, holy grail, or Templar’s treasure, for in truth our national treasure is in fact our “unity” as a people.

The above are the words spoken by an American patriot. Though I do not care very much for American patriotism I feel there is a great insight contained in his words. Any group is only strong or successful to the degree that the individuals within the group are united behind and subservient to the interests of the group. This is an absolutely sound principle which has big consequences for how any individual should be conducting themselves within a group.

We can show the soundness of the principle that a groups’ strength lies in its unity with the help of the three bakers analogy. Suppose there is a group of three bakers who bake a monthly cake. At the end of the month the cake is chopped into four pieces. Each of the bakers take a piece home to feed themselves and their family and the piece that is left over is known as the surplus.

Intuitively, the more successful an group is the slice that is left over (surplus) will be. This should be so no matter what we take to the surplus to consist in. Whether it is profit, humanitarian aid, an empowered workforce, an efficient government service, etc. The surplus represents the net product of the whole organisation considered as a unity, once each individual has taken their bit.

We may however ask the question of how the surplus comes to exist. The surplus only exists surely because each individual within the group gave more than what they took. In other words net input was greater than net “out-take” if I may use this term. This means that the surplus exists only insofar as, and to the degree to which, individuals within group/organisation subordinated their own self interest for the interest of the group. A group becomes potent to the extent that individuals are willing to lay themselves on the line in the interests of the group. The subordination of self interest for the interest of the group is exactly what is required for unity to exist.

A group populated with individuals that will cut and run as soon as it suits them to do so is not at all a unified group and it will not have any integrity, potency or stability about it. In fact it is not a group because it does not illustrate unity, it is merely a collection of individuals and it is no stronger than the weakest of its individuals. The very essence of unity is that the part must lose its own nature in order to become subsumed in the whole. For there to be unity we must not see individual parts, we must see one single thing, which happens to be made up of numerous parts.

Given what has been said above we can start to appreciate the absolute necessity for cohesion between members in modern organisations. Any modern organisation is nothing other than a whole made up of many parts. The parts are of course the people within the organisation. It is for this reason that organisation have to be referred to as communities. The concerning thing about most of our organisations today is that they fail to illustrate the sort of cohesiveness that is required for unity. This is why many organisations today are not harmonious unities. They can more accurately be referred to as a herd of cats because they lack the stickiness between members that is required for unity.

The challenge for our organisations is to regain this stickiness to attain unity. This will require a subordination of self-interest in favor of group interest. Practically this means that each and every individual must recognise that they are part of something greater and deliberately cultivate the willingness to pursue the interests of this greater whole.

Organisations must however reciprocate this other concern and seek to foster the interests of the individuals that make up the organisation. United there will be an immense strength that you simply wont get otherwise. This strength can only be actualized however if each and every individual pays the price that is required for unity and acts for something bigger than themselves.

Assad holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a PhD candidate. He is the editor of the Schuitema blog and is a regular facilitator of the company's Care and Growth and Mentoring for Mastery programs. He also has 5 years experience lecturing and tutoring Philosophy at Wits.