The year is 2012. The wheels of commerce, globalisation and technology have opened the world up for us. Compared to the 1920’s where our grandparents lived in small communities made up of people from the same race and religion, the world we now know is very different. Through all these open channels, we have become part of one big community, and it seems as if non-conformity is the key. When we look around now, it has almost become the norm to see couples from different backgrounds and children of mixed parentage.
Recently I read an article about the decline of the Western world http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/society-is-past-its-use-by-date-20111202-1oajg.html#ixzz1fcM9aYve. Being from a country that was once colonised by the British, we were in a way brought up to believe that the Western culture had the answers to all the questions. But the world is changing, and in 20 years, we don’t know which country is going to be the super power. Somehow this current situation has made me think of the term “survival of the fittest”. Modern medicine has made it possible for the sickliest of children to survive. Could it be that to be one of the “fittest” in the future means something else completely?
Closer to home, what does this mean for us? Professionally, we know that if we are not able to communicate and work with people from different backgrounds, then our days are numbered. I almost wonder if having a partner from a different background gives you an edge nowadays. But life is not just in the office. When you look around now at areas that were once predominantly made up of people from a certain racial background, you will realise that in the last 20 years, the community has changed. Your neighbour, who was once your grandmother’s best friend and spoke the same language as her could now be someone from a completely different background. The smell of grilled meats coming from their house could now be replaced with the smell of incense.
Sometimes it seems like these changes in the world have pushed people to act out in confusion. I am not intending any disrespect, but merely commenting from my observations. When I look around at my friends, there is a distinct difference based on who their closest circle are made of. Those whose close circle of friends are made of many different cultures and backgrounds are often more “worldly” and open to new experiences. They are often very interested in different ideas and get comfortable in situations easily. These people often find it easy to assimilate but are generally non-conformists. On the other hand, the ones who have stuck with a group of friends made up of the same race and religion often find in difficult to accept new ideas, and are often bound by racial stereotypes and what they should be or do to fit in, but only with people from the same culture. Thrown out of their comfort zone, they often find it hard to adjust. Sadly though, although they blindly follow the traditions of their forefathers, they do so out of habit and often know nothing about the myriads of different colourful traditions in the world.
The article above notes that Westerners have lost their old beliefs and not found new ones to replace them, thus causing them to be confused, and to bring confused children into the world. I don’t think this is limited to Westerners as we are all being touched by globalisation in some way shape or form. However, when you look at food markets, department stores and books it seems like globalisation has opened things up so that we can experience all sorts of different cultures. Traditions, cultures and religions are rich and beautiful, and the only reason they could be lost is if we let them be lost. Perhaps the key to a richer experience in life is to not be “typical” anything, but to be open to everything, to absorb and learn about different cultures and to be able to see the beauty in it all. Personally, being a Muslim, September 11 and all the propaganda in the media has made it difficult and sometimes, if you are a first generation immigrant it’s almost like you’re a second class citizen, but when I think about it, I am so much luckier than a lot of people. Being open to different cultures from Hinduism, to Buddhism, to Christianity has made my world so much more colourful.
The future will be such a different place. While the Occupy movement is making itself heard in a lot of places, the people we once looked at as “hippies” or “alternative types” are making themselves heard in other places. Are we heading towards another Renaissance-ish change? Or perhaps a reverse Renaissance? Maybe it doesn’t matter, but if you are looking to become a parent in the near future it probably should. If survival of the fittest no longer means being physically fit but being mentally and emotionally able to cope with alternative ideas and deal with change, what will your children be? Will they be racial stereotypes stuck in a comfort zone, or will they become citizens of the world? It all depends on what you are and how you choose to bring them up.