Travel makes us more accepting of our commonality with others regardless of culture, race, or creed. When we travel with an open mind, we soon see that underneath the cultural overlays, we are all human beings with common needs and desires.
We need to face the fact that we are rapidly developing as a global community. Social media has consciously tied people together as never before, showing us that our similarities as humans are greater than we realized. Cultural appreciation has ascended at a critical time in our history. Xenophobia, racism, and fear of those who are different from how we see ourselves, all suppress the universal recognition of our commonality. And it is becoming increasingly obvious that our survival as a species will depend upon our ability to cooperate together.
The only two things constant in life are the spectrum of human nature and change. While this is indisputable, it is also true that the essence of human nature, despite its behavioral variations, is fundamentally inescapable. We are each born with a particular set of traits that combine with the environment to form our individuality. Yet we are instinctively competitive. We have learned over the course of our evolution to create informal and formal structures of cooperation that enable us to live successfully in groups. This dichotomy has shaped us.
But today, more and more, dead-heat competition has superseded cooperation as the primary edict underlying our social contracts. In almost every culture across the globe, we are at a bifurcation point. Because of our technology, economics, and fractured political systems, we have reached a juncture where we can either destroy life as we know it on this planet or transcend to a global society at peace with itself.
I believe this is the most critical time in the history of humanity. The overarching human struggle exists in the dynamic tension between those who want to maintain their narrow self-interest and those who see the need for cooperation to weather the coming changes. Or, as Benjamin Franklin allegedly remarked, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
We are a fascinating species living on an extraordinary planet at a precarious time. After traveling to more than 140 countries, and living and teaching in South America, I’ve learned that when exposed to cultures not your own, your aperture widens and your conventional way of thinking blows away like dandelion seeds on the wind. Travel is a social, relational, and political act that makes you more compassionate and less cautious of differences. My experiences exposed me to the vast diversity as well as the fundamental commonality of humanity.
We are evolving toward a global community. If we don’t open our minds to that idea, we cannot effectively deal with problems that are global in nature, such as climate change, pandemics, supply chains, clean air, adequate water, and food. By realizing that we are all part of one cohesive whole rather than smaller, entrenched social units, we are much better able to solve problems common to all of us. Learn more...
It’s important to realize that superficial dangers and divisions are constructed by leaders, especially dictators, and sold to us by the media with slanted messages, purchased through sponsorship and advertising dollars. Fear and misery stimulate people’s primal emotions. We end up isolated in our own worldview, reinforced by groupthink. When we recognize our common humanity, we expand our horizons to what is real. The bushman in the Kalahari is as much a human as your next-door neighbor.
We have already begun to reach across cultural divides so we can speak human to human rather than communication being assigned only to heads of state. A few other obvious changes, regardless of country, could help create a sense of universality. Here are a few simple suggestions; I’m sure you can add to the list:
· We can agree upon a single, simplified world language
· We can agree to have a single system of weights and measurements
· We can agree to all drive on the same side of the road
· We can ensure universal access to information
· We can work for universal vaccinations when applicable
On a larger scale, we can develop the United Nations into a world federal, democratic government where no nation has veto power over the others.
The problems we are facing on this planet are caused by human activity. They can only be solved by human action working together democratically, which is far more effective than autocratic rule. Democratic decisions have a greater buy-in than top-down decisions, as well as the advantage of accessing a much greater pool of talent.
We can advance cultural appreciation in a variety of ways. Physical travel was how I learned, but in today’s digital world, people are reaching across the divisions via social media, business, and gaming, just to name a few avenues. Getting out of our conditioned boxes is the way to the future. It enables us to share like-mindedness and address problems common to us all.
In terms of the socio-political arena, all of us need to realize that all the great movements throughout time were started by those who’ve involved others through love and inclusion. You are more powerful than you think. History gives us examples of individuals peacefully creating social forces of positive change. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), Jesus, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Greta Thunberg, and other individuals turned out to be cultural change agents that altered the world. Their actions are proof of open-mindedness and a larger vision for humanity. They reached across cultures, belief systems, geographical boundaries, and established authorities to birth movements that created a new order. We can do this too.