An insight into myself: I prefer ‘I-Thou’ and feel uncomfortable with ‘I-It’

There are often times that I have struggled to live and feel comfortable in England where I have spent most of my life and the country that is home.  Having had the fortune to travel, I have noticed that I have felt more comfortable in other countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and even Pakistan.  Why?

To use Martin Buber’s insight, I believe that I am more inclined toward the ‘I-Thou’ orientation rather than the ‘I-It’ orientation.  What does that mean in plain English?  It means that I am most comfortable treating my fellow human beings as fellow human beings in themselves. And not as objects or roles.  It means I welcome the warmth and hospitality that I experienced in Spain, Italy, Portugal……  It means that I struggle when human beings are described and treated as resources.  It means that I feel most comfortable when I look up and treat the waiter or waitress who is serving my food as a human being rather than an object – a person fulfilling a role.

Perhaps it is not the English culture or society.  Perhaps, it is just that I have spent so much time in corporate business where human beings are simply objects fulfilling roles and/or executing tasks.  It is telling that, at best, they are defined as Human Resources – resources that simply come in a human shape.  That has never sat well with me.

I remember the first time I noticed this, I must have been between 16 – 18 – the age when I started going to discos.  I assume that I was as hormone charged and attracted to the young women there as my friends.  Yet, I did notice a difference.  My friends saw and talked about the young women there as objects and commented on them as such.  And of course their aim was conquest.  I remember thinking that they were talking about human beings as objects – as lumps of meat.  And it did not sit well with me.  What I saw, right in front of me, were human beings: someone’s daughter, someone’s sister.   Whilst this may sound daft, I considered how I would feel if these friends of mine were talking that way about my sister – even though I did not have a sister at the time.

So maybe that is why I was touched so deeply when my son wrote “I love you, Papa” on the computer screen and left it for me to see before I went to sleep; earlier in the evening I had spent some time in helping him with what he enjoys doing – trading via eBay.  He had asked me for help, I provided it.  He asked me for my credit card and I provided it – I simply trust him to use it wisely and he does.

Perhaps, it is because I value my fellow human beings that today on my birthday I am thinking of friends, clients, colleagues old and new.  John, Natalie, Kate, Ray, Dan, Laura, Wil, Hailey, Ruth, Thakor, Manoj, Dawood, Phil, Pooja, Justin, Lina, Chas, James, Catherine, Rosemary, David, Kevin, Mel, Ansar, Fred, Simon, Derek, June, Hugues, Suzanne, Ralf, Meme, Joyce, Michel, Gayton, Jean-Claude, Dave, Tim, Gisella, James, Aldine and on and on.  Who has not touched my life?  I thank each and every person who contributes to my life.  Thank you, the world is a richer place for your existence.

This morning when I woke up my daughter danced into the room to wish me a happy birthday.  And I asked her what three things she liked about her daddy, that made him special to her.  This was her reply:

  • Kind and loving
  • Peaceful
  • Always there so I see lots of him
  • Enjoys spending time with me

That made my day.  And then I got to the computer and found messages from  friends near and far. I thank each of you, send you a big hug and look forward to when I will see you again and give/receive a hug.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

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