Dealing with Multiculturalism

Posted on January 29, 2010 in Society

Marian Fernando:

The world is abundant with adequate dispute and turmoil reminding us the urge to learn how to deal with multiculturalism. Today, multicultural societies are hailed to be the best environment a man should grow in; however, the history and the present teach us that most disputes arise in communities with diverse cultures. In a macro level, Hitler, being a German, intensely hated Jews, paving the way to the great holocaust. Until the year 2009, a 25 year long war existed in Sri Lanka, where the Sinhalese and Tamils live with close proximity inside the country. A micro level instance would be the disputes among the various cultural groups in universities and colleges today. Most of the times, these types of disputes are a result of cultural intolerance which is caused by diverse cultural groups living together. Indeed, multiculturalism is needed for the survival of the diversity of the world, yet we should be careful not to make that a reason which leads the world in to more and more wounds.

Those wounds could be permanently cured only if people start thinking from a cultural relativist perspective wherein we believe no culture is superior to another and every culture is equally valued. People have their own cultural believes, traditions and rituals; they are devoted to conforming to their own cultures. Nonetheless, one culture’s belief could be contradictory to another cultural belief. For instance, when in the Gambia, consanguineous marriages are a common social practice and culturally esteemed, many other cultures in the world disapprove it for various reasons. Additionally, when some cultures strongly go against killing animals, it is customary in some cultures. In all these cases, even if another cultural way of living strongly disagrees with our own way of living, we should be humble enough to accept that it is their culture and therefore, they should adhere to their cultural expectations in the same way we respect our own cultural values.

Building up cultural relativist attitudes is not an easy task. It should be started from the very beginning of our lives. Therefore, cultural relativist studies should be included starting from the primary school level itself. Also, mass media, as it is the most powerful tool that can effectively influence people in the modern world, should play a greater role in developing cultural relativism by educating people about it. Fortunately, the world has already started appreciating and promoting cultural relativism. Thus, we should not be discouraged that the world is decaying day by day, but we should have a greater hope for the world’s future with immense cultural tolerance.

The writer is a Bangladesh based correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz