Many of you must know the story of the Babel’s tower in the Old Testament. When the people on the earth spoke one common language, they neglected to follow God, and began to make a high tower in order to show their capability. God took this as a challenge to himself and deprived of them the common language, gave them different languages instead, so that they would not be able to conspire against him again. And to this day, we humans have to learn different languages, if we want to communicate with people outside of our cultural home.
So I think, when we try to understand our neighbors who speak different languages and have different cultural backgrounds, it means, in a way, that we are going back to our original place that God prepared for us in the beginning. That would be possible, if we don’t forget to follow God.
If you don’t want to use the term “God”, then you may replace the word by “ the order of creation”. We are supposed to go back to our original place that “the order of creation” prepared for us in the beginning. Therefore I think to promote mutual understanding among us, among the people in the world is fundamentally right and necessary way to go for us, human beings.
Have we made any progress in getting closer to our original place? In some respects “Yes”, maybe. In other far more aspects “No”, sorry to say. Especially watching the news last days…. a BIG NO.
If I limit my talk only to Icelandic society, on the one hand there are certain people who dedicate themselves to promoting mutual understanding and positive cultural diversity, on other hand there are lots of people who don’t even want to understand others nor want to be understood by others. Those negative people regarding mutual understanding are actually abandoning the effort of mutual communication. And I think this belongs to a so called “modern epidemic” and it is already spread out in a wide range in this society.
In my opinion, the symptoms of this epidemic are divided into two groups. One is a pattern where one has his own conclusion on some matter from the beginning, and when he talks with others, that is just in order to make them kneel down to his conclusion, but not to listen to other’s opinion. This is not dialogue.
Another type of the epidemic symptoms is more individualistic. One doesn’t state ones opinion in an appropriate manner. But he leaves his comments on Facebook, on the news-websites or any other opportunities he can use. And most of the time, his comments are dirty, aggressive, rude and full of prejudice. Here words are no longer tools for communication, but they are bullets to shoot others. He is not looking for dialogue or discussion, because he doesn’t need them. He believes that he knows things better than others. “I, I, I” “I know better than you” “I am the judge”.
I mentioned the Babel’s tower in the beginning. But the Babel’s tower was at least a cooperation of all people. Today’s Babel’s tower is not in people’s cooperation. Many individuals, “not all” yet fortunately, are making their own small Babel’s tower inside of their own tiny little “ego” and being satisfied. This is not OK.
Dear friends, it is very important that we continue our effort of promoting dialogue and mutual understanding among different cultures. And in my opinion, we cannot avoid to confront this “modern epidemic” that is quickly spreading out in this society, if we want to achieve positive dialogue among the people in this country.
At last, today our planet earth has become the Ark of Noah itself. We can make a voyage in this ark together. But we cannot escape from this ark. We have to be together. Every creative idea and positive action for our society has to be built up on this fact that we have to live together on this earth. Then, I think, it’s better to get acquainted well with our neighbors and enjoy the voyage!
Thank you very much. Shukran. Toda. Kærar þakkir.
(This is a speech that has been made in English in the gathering „Ramadan Dinner Dialogue“ hosted by the Horozon association on 24th of July 2014)
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