Tug of war

Oct 31,2019 – JORDAN TIMES –
Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh

Over the past couple of decades in particular, our world has undergone dramatic changes.

Globalisation, the information and technology revolution, postmodernism, late capitalism, multiculturalism, the so-called “new world order”, etc. are all factors that have brought about huge transformations in our lives.
This is at the collective and macro levels.

At the individual and micro levels, the implications are immense: TV satellite stations, the Internet, mobile phones, social media, podcasts, MOOCs, etc. have all impacted us in dramatic ways.

While most of these are blessings, some are challenging and highly problematic.

One major challenge we have witnessed both at the global and national levels is that of multiculturalism, or diversity.
If you ask people if multiculturalism or diversity is a positive development, most, though by no means all, would concur that it is.

If you ask if diversity and difference should be respected, again most would say yes.

In reality, the picture is not so rosy, and many things are easier said than done.

Globally, many of the tensions among nations can be attributed to diversity and difference: historical, geographic, economic, social, cultural, political, etc.

At the national level, difficulties abound, with varying degrees, in essentially all countries in the globe, both the more developed as well as the less.

Acceptance of linguistic, behavioural, religious, sectorial, ideological, economic and social difference or diversity is a problem.

As far as we in Jordan are concerned, there is a high degree of acceptance of difference and diversity, and such acceptance is one of the strengths and defining features of the Jordanian society.

Nevertheless, there are mishaps, gaps and problems which we need to rectify.

There is a lot we need to work on at this level.

One thing that needs a lot of attention and work, which is creating a lot of headache and wreaking a lot of havoc, is differences in opinion over matters: Economic, educational, political, social, aesthetic, procedural, logistic, etc.
Most people think along dualistic lines and espouse binary oppositions. For them, what others say or do is either right or wrong, correct or incorrect, true or false, positive or negative, good or bad, holy or evil, depending on whether it echoes or differs from what they say or do.

There is no middle ground, and there are no two ways about things.

Anything anyone says that differs from or opposes what “I” or “we” say is wrong.

What is worrying about this is not just the amount of intolerance of what others say or do when they differ, but its condemnation and demonisation.

Very often, anything new, anything outside the box, any venturing into any new grounds is promptly satirised or rejected.

The best example of the automatic, second-nature dismissal of difference or diversity, is social media, where so much oppression and aggression is most cold-bloodedly manifested.

The way out is education and re-education.

Individuals, old and new, not only need to learn to accept differences in opinion and in conduct, but see it as natural and healthy.

It is then and only then that our society will move forward on so many issues on which we are stuck, on which we are, in fact, in a continuous tug of war, one which precludes any moving forward.


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