It’s a small world after all.

Have you noticed things changing? I think it’s natural for every thoughtful individual and, subsequently, every society to have the sense that the whole of society is in flux.

Think about your parents and grandparents and how they likely have stories about the old days when things were less expensive, people behaved differently, and society operated on different principles. Strangely, the older generation usually seems to think the old days were better, but that may be a different matter.

The truth is, the world really is changing--and quickly. It’s staggering. For example, in about the space of a decade, the internet has become the backbone of the global economy. This new technology, besides aiding in a new step in our society’s values and institutions, has already, and will continue to bring the peoples of the world closer and more intertwined in each other’s business.

We can’t just blame the internet. Things have been heading in this direction for some time. 100 years ago, the tension between France, Britain, and Germany as a result of the lopsided development of their respective societies and economies was a major factor in the start of World War I. Now, of course, economic and social development happens roughly in terms of larger societies designated with terms like “The West” and “The Middle East.”

And economies are so intertwined that the success or failure of one society is largely a factor in the success or failure of many other societies. Yes, long gone are the days when a person could live their life wrapped in the comfortable cocoon of their own culture with little regard for the rest of the world.

Is this good or bad or perhaps just the way things are and value judgments are useless? That depends on whom you ask. Social conservatives in every society always seem to want society to go back to some previous and nonexistent ideal while social progressives want to rush blindly into whatever seems new and interesting.

But what can we do with this information? Is it just an interesting thought, a tasty bit of brain candy? I say no.

As our world shrinks, we’ll have no choice but to interact with people with different attitudes and people who live in societies in different stages of development than our own.

This is already a glaring issue in cities like New York or London where ethnic, religious and attitudinal differences clash on a daily basis. Some of this is just intolerance, but much of it is simply a lack of understanding of the differences between people. The point is: diversity isn’t going away. If anything, it will be a more and more important issue as time goes by.

A new way of thinking is required; one where our interactions come with an awareness of the type of person we’re dealing with. Again, let me use myself as an example.

I am a freelance writer in a mid-sized city in the mountain west region of the United States. I’m white, non-religious, and relatively young. I work for a black woman on the east coast of the U.S., a Muslim in the United Arab Emirates, and with a team of four spread across the U.S., Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia. This type of employment was unthinkable 20 years ago. My work spans borders, currencies, cultures, languages, time zones, race, and religion.

Now, I am still somewhat of a novelty, but this won’t be the case for long. If we are to interact for our own benefit, we will have to accept, acknowledge, and embrace the differences between us.

I don’t say this as some sort of champion of social progress, but rather as someone stating an inevitability. There will never be a day when these differences disappear and conflict will always rear its ugly head. Still, a new enlightenment is around the corner and an understanding of these differences and how to react and adjust to them will be its hallmark.

blog comments powered by Disqus