Diversity allows for wise choices

12-11-2009 13:07
Climate change is a scientific fact and I never would have thought that it could bring much debate on the floor. If it’s a fact, then there should simply be an acceptance of it; simply do what you can do in your own corner. Yet I guess what really drives debates over it, is that we actually could still do something about it but we often just disregard it.

Back home, in the Philippines, there are more urgent problems to be discussed, which is why environmental issues may often be set aside by the media. There are more powerful national news relevant to nation building, so discussion on climate change must often take the backseat. The islands have been through so much natural disasters that the local audience has grown a distaste for apocalyptic news, in which form most climate change articles come.

During the conference, sometimes I did feel that there’s just too much debate, but the discussions somehow showed that there is more than just one way in finding solutions. In each of our own professions, there are various possible ways. I guess awareness and acceptance of others can be the key.

We are in a world that excludes and includes one another. In the act of including those that share the same values into one group, there is a tail effect of excluding those that do not belong, those who are not doing the same thing. This is not a proper environment for effective dialogues.

Hans Köchler ended the conference with these complex but pleasant thoughts. He shared four principles necessary for a healthy environment in making dialogues effective, and hopefully lead to efforts that bear fruits.

First he pointed out that there should be equality in civilizations, or we may say, equality in chances for development. Attitudes that connote one is more supreme than the other should be left out.

Second is arriving at a truth through cultural self-comprehension and self-realization. I could understand that this entails individual responsibility and appreciation of one’s own identity. One is not only an offspring of his or her own particular civilization

As Köchler stated, realization of one’s self is the process of reflection, returning to inner self and also being able to see him/herself from the outside. This is defining ourselves through the eyes of another, until we come to a maturity of overcoming the fear of “the alien”, or those that are not like us; and then freely interact with other civilizations that have different values than ours.

Third is awareness of conditions at the meta-level. Meaning, we should learn to ask why and understand the reason behind the occurrence of circumstances. Then he suggests lastly that we need an ability to transcend our prejudices.

It’s his second point that made an impression on me. How do we realize ourselves through the eyes of others? When we make dialogues, we should remember that we may have varying values. But it is this diversity that allows us to make wise choices since we listen to the experiences of others and also learn from them.

When we go beyond our own borders, we see beyond our own premises. We may even appreciate ourselves better once we are out of our own boundaries. We become open-minded, and we are able to facilitate wise decisions. Such decisions that do not put down “the others”. Wen we all get back home to our own communities, hopefully we may become agents for change, transforming dialogues into action.

Somehow when we think back on the conference, have we indeed gone beyond our borders? Have we made useful intercultural inquiries on values that go beyond the borders of our profession, or class, or citizenship? Hopefully, we could realize that knowing ourselves through  the eyes of others is possible. Quite a nice note to end the conference.

by May Belle Guillergan

Category: Reflections

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