Love is (Culture) Blind

Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people Living life in peace...

Opinion | Hossein Nabavi | November 2007

These lyrics of John Lennon were the anthem of a generation that believed in the possibility of peace, unity and equality, more than any other generation in the modern era.

This 40th anniversary of 1967, called "The Summer of Love," gives us a chance to reflect on their beliefs. One may call them "dreamers," as both history and present keep showing there seems little chance for such hopes to come true.

But what if we decided to put these ideas into practice?  What should we start with, to have peace and equality? And what should we get rid of?

Supra-national organizations like the African Union or the EU do attempt to transcend the notion of "country," while the economic and political principles embedded in their fundamentals make that impossible.

Religion is doing no better: Instead of an emerging unity of spiritual traditions, we see instead a breakdown into divisions and sects.

Maybe we could seek to become "culture blind."  If it is too hard for us to ignore skin color, clothes, fashion and local accents, maybe we could become indifferent to them, tolerating the differences and working harder to recognizing the similarities that unite them.

This is where I place my hope: A culture is much larger than a country, and even arguably than a religion. It should be easier to "eliminate" the discrepancies between cultures from our minds and hearts and embrace the idea of a global culture, one that hopes indeed for peace and unity.

But for that to become true we should be much more careful with words. Why words? Because it is this spoken and written element in our lives that both unites and separates us, that gives us the power to judge and to approve, that provides the ability to distinguish between cultures.

It is the words that are the first symbols of freedom and progress, be it the change from "colored" to "African American", from "he" to "one", from "third world countries" to "developing countries." So words will be the first to mark our "culture-blindness," once we will stop using "exotic" when referring to cultures that are different from and apparently inferior to ours, once we will stop using the phrase "culturally incompatible." That should be the first step to the world of the dreamers.


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