I have been fortunate enough to have traveled the world, not just as a tourist but to have lived and worked in places long enough to get to know something about the countries I am living in and the people I am living with. I have spent seven years living, working and exploring the Middle East followed by seven years in China experiencing the development of the mega city Shanghai, China’s coastal cities and also the places and cities in China’s vast hinterland.
During my time working and travelling I have read article after article about cultural differences, whether it be the differences in the food we eat, how we eat it, the clothes we wear, the money we have, the houses we live in, the work we do, the way we drive, how we look… everything is aimed at identifying how different we are from each other and I find this all rather odd.
Given that we are quickly becoming a truly global nation and given the importance of global cooperation and we are forever hearing about the need for greater cooperation I do not understand why our governments and media work so hard to emphasize differences between people? Surely this creates a greater awareness of the divide between countries, their people and cultures. Instead of helping to build bridges aren’t we digging chasms?
On returning to the UK I was asked to complete a personal profile form for a UK company and was simply overwhelmed by the long lists of nationalities, colours, religions and even sexual orientations that I had to associate myself with. I quite honestly did not know what half of them were!
Everytime I complete a questionnaire that asks what religion I am, what colour my skin is or where I come from I am being forced to identify myself as being different from the person next to me. Sadly the main purpose of these forms is to shoehorn me into an ill-fitting and inappropriate box so that I fit neatly into a rigid computer program and can be treated differently to someone else – why would anyone bother to ask the questions if this was not the case?
To me this is simply wrong. This process does not enhance cultural cooperation it destroys it by simply reinforcing the understanding that we are different in some way or another from the person next to us. From my experiences of living for long periods of time in different countries I have learned that we all have many more similarities than differences and if we concentrated on these similarities then I am sure that we would all get along much better and may even stop some wars or two.
This is a bold statement as the motivations for people to shoot, bomb and maim each other are complex, but what I do know is that if people take the time to understand each other properly they will soon recognise that we are actually very similar and if this happens there is less chance of us wanting to kill or injure them.
So what are these similarities?
Everyone wants to be happy. It does not matter where they come from, what colour they are or what religion they follow they want to be happy and want to be loved and to love. Wherever you are in the world people on the bus or in a queue will be seen cooing at a baby and smiling or waving at them to make them smile back. People do this everywhere no matter what part of the world they are in.
People are emotionally upset when someone close to them dies, they cry, they hug and comfort each other. When someone close to them is sick they worry, they rally round they help each other. No one likes to see suffering.
People complain about the local government, increasing costs, traffic queues and road systems all over the globe and people enjoy good food and strolling along the beach and watching a sunset.
Everyone I have met wants to have friendship, to be loved and to love, whether it be the love of their family, their children their girlfriend or boyfriend, their village, their football team, their country. I have seen pride and passion in everyone’s face in the same way as you or I have feelings and passions about the things that are important to us.
How different is this to you?
For every cultural ‘difference’ identified I am sure that I could easily identify ten similarities, so why don’t we start to make our life easier and look for similarities from now on – there are more of them!
If we spent more time concentrating on our many similarities rather than the few differences between each of us then I have no doubt that the world would be a much better place.
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