Hanging together

What the state can do

1 Guarantee equality before the law and a strong human rights framework, including anti-discrimination measures. This benefits everyone. Human rights abuses must not be excused as ‘cultural’.

2 Get serious about tackling poverty; people facing cultural disadvantage are often poorer.

3 Fund interaction and mixed initiatives, instead of particular religions and communities. Intercultural exchanges recognize that cultures are living, malleable and constantly changing.

4 Open up spaces for cultural literacy. No culture is perfect, and it’s unrealistic to ignore difference and hanker for perfect harmony. By encouraging critical dialogue and learning about the ‘Other’, boundaries can be crossed and new accommodations created.

5 Promote artistic endeavour widely. Artistic expression creates new cultural pathways. 


What the individual can do

1 Culture and society aren’t static. Grow with change rather than sticking to a cherished version of the past.

2 Prejudice is easy but it denies its objects a voice. A more open society needs individuals willing to listen and argue.

3 Recognize the multiple axes of identity – personal preferences and beliefs, race, class, gender, sexuality. Culture is just one component. Engage with the individual rather than groupthink.  

4 Culture is what you make of it; don’t let fundamentalists dictate otherwise. It’s up to you to decide how ‘traditional’ you want to be, create new hybrids, or profess no culture at all.

5 Bridges are built, they don’t just appear.

mag cover This article is from the May 2009 issue of New Internationalist.
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