Stressing Similarities

Time to bang this particular drum, again, methinks. Here is Barack Obama campaigning in Virginia, taking on the divisive rhetoric of McCain-Palin:

This is the real war that is being fought, on every longitude around the globe. Between those who seek to divide and rule, and those who seek to unite us in our shared humanity.

Where does multiculturalism sit in all this? Perhaps it is a means to this end. Multicultural policies are essential in a diverse society to allow everyone to flourish. And done right, they can also foster better understanding of our shared humanity. From my conversation with the Dalai Lama:

“Actually, my rough impression is that in the UK, ‘multiculturalism’ means a society where there are people from different backgrounds: Multi culture, multi racial, multi religion. In this sort of society, it means we need harmony, respect each other, and recognise others rights.”

The Dalai Lama suggests that most cultures and the morals that underpin them are based on religious faith, so to talk of multiculturalism is really to talk of ‘multi-religious faith’… What is important is finding the common ground between religions and therefore cultures, identifying those common morals that can unite us all. Multiculturalism, then, is not so much about celebrating differences, but emphasising our similarities.

It also occurs to me that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with its talk of freedom of religion &tc, is a multicultural document (that’s a good excuse to link to this animated version). The paradox is, that by accepting and allowing that people want to live in different ways, we recognise a shared humanity. (I’ll try to put this more eloquently some other time).

2 Replies to “Stressing Similarities”

  1. The problem is when religions, or versions of them, include a clause that says everyone who doesn’t share that religion is evil and should die, because god says so. How do you have harmony, when you’ve got that going on?

  2. You don’t. That’s the limit of toleration, I think. But in accepting that, it does not follow that it is impossible to find value in any part of that culture. Many people try to throw the baby out with the bathwater, citing fundamentalist Islam, or militant Christianism, as a reason to show any respect to anyone from the Muslim or Christian faiths.

    A key point about multiculturalism is that it should never be unquestioning. Its a dialogue, not someone saying ‘take us or leave us’. And its in the dialogue that you find the value, the aspects of a culture you can respect and perhaps even adopt. Its in the dialogue that one’s shared humanity emerges. “Everyone who doesn’t share that religion is evil and should die” is not dialogue.

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