“So, where are you from?”
“Me? I’m from Canada.”
“Oh. Then, uh, where were you born?”
“Canada. I have lived here all my life, actually.”
“But where are you actually from?”
This is an example of a conversation, one that I am sure I am destined to keep having for the rest of my life. For immigrants or those who do not fit into the vision of a “regular” person for their geographical location, we brace ourselves for the “where are you actually from?”s and the “is this what you do in your culture?” phrases whenever talk erupts of culture. I must say, however, that Canada in an incredibly tolerant country which sets a fine example for other nations to be further accepting towards cultural differences. Communities of people celebrate their respective traditions and share insights with one another, no matter what colour of skin or speaking accent. But even Canada is not all perfect.
Human nature includes the desire to belong. Belong in a movement, group or being supposed larger than ones self. After all, individuals are said to thrive not as individuals, but surrounded by people who can share aspects of themselves to another for other’s benefit. Surrounded by those who believe and care deeply about the same faith, the idea of culture stemmed supposedly 200 000 years ago. Culture doesn’t just include religion, but social habits, gender, sexuality, music and more. From then on, it has progressed to be one of the foundational beliefs and connections to oneself a person can make. The role that culture plays in our everyday lives is astounding, and the diversity of such beliefs across the world is a concept marvelled at for years. Culture, however, can also be seen one of the most divisive factors in modern history.
We live in a world where individuals can share their opinions and values with one another. Know it or not, we have the power to sway the minds of others and impose our beliefs in them with well-chosen words and a convincing argument. Disaster strikes, however, when clashing opinions are presented and peace is forgotten. In the 21st century, “Twitter Battles” between individuals sitting behind a screen are normalized and heated conflict between groups of people are the same. Many of these conversations are about culture, as people with different perceptions of the world attempt to define what is right and wrong. It seems, today, that we have forgotten the beauty of existence in itself; people from all sorts of different backgrounds co-existing in this world is a concept some don’t approve of. The mixing of these cultures has, as we know, been in the headlines of the political world for recent years as well. In my opinion, this is a very sad and ashaming reality we live in.
Conversations about culture do not need to be awkward or timid. The beauty of culture is that no matter which you identify with, are born into or believe in, there is no right place to belong. All that matters is that you belong in a community that you can support and feel safe in. While some may think it is better for cultures to “stay where they are”, I promote the mixing of peoples. With the quite recent death of George Floyd, a black civilian in Minneapolis this past week, controversy around race and differences has been reignited and, it is evident, will continue for a while. With such terrifyingly uncertain times, I encourage everyone to remember not just George Floyd, but what his death stands for. Calls to reunite a country and a world which seems to be plagued with opposing viewpoints shouldn’t be ignored. We can all do our part in creating a positive and welcoming community for others, despite our cultural differences. This is no time to be divided. In the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Let us be the change we wish to see in the world”.