Brothers and sisters

I come from what is known in Ireland as a gentleman’s family – one boy, one girl. Read the implication in that for yourselves. Ours is a large extended family though – I have 71 first cousins. Lots of cousins, but only one brother. I might occasionally refer to him as ‘bro’ or ‘my brother in Dublin’ but I usually just call him by his name.

It sounds strange to me then when people who just met each other a couple of days ago refer to themselves as brother and sister. My brother from the Solomons; my sister from the Seychelles. It’s such a lovely, inclusive way of talking. This easy familiarity may well be characteristic of their countries, I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been to the Bahamas, the Gambia, Grenada, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritus, Malaysia, Monsterrat (unless you count the one outside Barcelona), Namibia (was to go but it has been postponed), Samoa, the Seychelles, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Jersey, Uganda or St Lucia. I don’t have that free and easy manner that would allow me to refer to someone as my brother or sister without a blood tie. I am too constrained by western propriety. And it saddens me a little.

I can’t help but wonder if we in Hungary or Ireland or Europe generally, if we were to view relative strangers as our brothers and sisters, would we have a need for rallies and demonstrations? Would we have a society where ingroups reign and that sense of belonging we crave as humans is ransomed for votes? Would we be more tolerant of each other and more forgiving of our weaknesses? Would we rid ourselves of this ‘them and us’ mentality that is so crippling? I wonder…

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