Thanks to the inexorable rise of technology, the world seems like a very small place sometimes. In fact, it is so easy to sit in our comfortable living rooms and feel outrage about events halfway around the world, that many of us close our eyes to one of the biggest issues facing our society: Integration. With our next-door neighbours.
I am lucky to work in London, one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world, but even here, racial tensions have boiled to the surface. The recent atrocities in Paris have shone a light on the continued issues in the Banlieue suburbs – in every big city in the world there is some sort of “them and us” culture.
Our social circles have become wider and we no longer cherish the communities, in which we live. 30 years ago, parents knew everyone in the neighbourhood and were happy to let their kids play on the street, knowing that there were friendly eyes all around. Now, very few parents have that sort of certainty.
The media is putting up yet more barriers in people’s heads. Some radical terrorists (who happen to be Muslim) have started a holy war against their “oppressors.” That is horrific, but it doesn’t mean that you should treat the other 99.99999999% of Muslims any differently. If anything we should aim to create a more diverse and closer-knit society – extremists would then be less likely to appear.
I apologise for what may be a rather shocking point. As a percentage of the whole, there are far more convicted child abusers amongst teachers than there are terrorists amongst Muslims. We don’t view our children’s favourite teachers as potential child abusers, so why do some of us view Muslims with such suspicion?
I’ll tell you why…. We get to know the teachers, we don’t have any choice in this – they are standing at the classroom doorway every evening and they are always available for a chat. Sometimes we will say hi, and we quickly understand that they are there to care for our children. We trust them.
In societies around the world where people of different religious beliefs live apart in different communities, developing this understanding is more difficult.
In these troubled times, we have to make an effort to get to know each other, to make sure that our kids play together, to give them a more balanced view of the world that they are growing up in. The moment that we take an interest in what is going on outside our normal routine, a whole world of understanding and compassion opens up.
This interest can indeed find its focus halfway across the globe, but we can be equally (if not more) influential if we pay attention to events and relationships closer to home now and again.
Let’s all invest in a diverse and caring society – at home and in the workplace.