Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The world needs more ...

Designated by the United Nations as World Humanitarian Day, August 19 provided a moment of reflection as the international organisation and its humanitarian partners asked persons to finish the following sentence: ‘The World Needs More’.

Undoubtedly, there are many different ways in which that sentence could be completed. Despite the closer ties between countries around the world, resulting in internationally accepted measures of human rights and standards of living, depending on which part of the world you are from, your sentence might end with words such as ‘food’, ‘freedom’, and ‘peace’ or perhaps ‘equality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘integrity’. After all, while reality is often considered to be concrete – something either exists or it doesn’t – it is much more fluid when internalised. In other words, while the facts or circumstances may be finite, the way in which they are interpreted by individuals is determined by their culture, social norms, geographic location, gender and life experiences, such that there can be several ‘realities’ for persons in the same society, far less the entire world.

As we reflected on the UN’s question, we thought about the changes that have taken place in Grenadian society and the juncture at which we find ourselves today; and what we settled on is
that in the local context, the world needs more tolerance.

Though there is a risk in making generalisations about a national character, Grenadians have long had a reputation for being conservative and traditional. Those who do not fit into the mould of an ‘average’ Grenadian often remained on the fringes, keeping their differences to themselves and occupying a world that was seldom noticed by the mainstream. However, it seems that the concepts of mainstream and marginal are slowly being replaced by greater expressions of individuality and diversity – and Grenada is no different. The evolution of technology has made it possible for previously marginalised groups to break away from needing recognition from the mainstream, instead placing the power to tell their own story in their own hands. Furthermore, the dissemination of views is not limited to national boundaries – they can be shared around the world with minimal delay. Therefore, while they may still constitute a minority in their own society, they can find support from a global community of like-minded persons, helping to strengthen their belief that they have as much right as anyone else to ‘be’.

For many in the mainstream, this represents a threat to what they have come to know as their way of life. However, if they embrace and practise tolerance, they can find a way to co-exist with these emerging divergent views. Civilisations never remain static – they change as collective views do and for many this can be a threatening concept, especially when their point of view is the one losing popularity. It must be noted though that being tolerant does not mean that every change must be adopted with open arms. People are free to accept or reject new ideas and in a democracy, the majority still rules. It does however mean that we should respect others’ right to approach the world differently to how we would and to afford them this courtesy as a fellow human being.

Change is inevitable, but how we face it can make all the difference in whether the society is strengthened or pulled apart. Tolerance plays a big part in greeting change in a positive way.

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