Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.” Today, we live in a world where information is just a click away and most places are just a flight away. The fact that we are truly part of one world is no longer a ‘notion’ but a dazzling reality.
The lines that once divided countries and continents have become increasingly blurred and no more is it possible for anyone to remain unaffected by the actions or inactions that might be occurring in seemingly disparate places on the globe. Consider this - today, we live in a world where the world rallies to support and provide aid when countries suffer natural calamities, war or famine. We rejoice as one when sporting events such as the Rio Olympics or the launching of space missions occur. We collectively decry the novel Corona Virus and we watch with wonder when at the speed of light, an idea now travels the globe.
But this also poses its’ own challenges.
Ironically, if on the one hand technology, innovation and critical thinking has helped in eradicating diseases such as polio, events such as 9/11, the war in Syria, and the terror attacks in Mumbai have also seen the threat of bigotry and prejudice re enter our human fabric.
The Internet boom and rampant Media have meant that we now ‘know’ more, but that has also meant that we ‘understand’ less. The net has helped in dissolving our ‘physical’ borders but at the same time, has increased our ‘mental borders’. The deluge of data has meant that we are sometimes unable to sift fact from fiction and therefore, we create mental pictures of what might not even exist.
My generation is one that thrives on novelty. The ease with which we address ‘technology’ and change, means that we are already equipped with the basic ‘ingredients’ or tools to construct models of how the world works. But though we have all the ‘skills’ - of communication and critical thinking, we still lack in having the attitude of patience and persistence for cross cultural ethics.
We talk of the ‘21st Century Skills’ that are needed for today’s student. No longer are talents such as creativity, collaboration, communication, empathy, and adaptability just ‘nice to have’; they’re the core capabilities of a 21st-century global economy facing complex challenges.
But these skills don’t happen by chance. They need to be cultivated at the very heart of our education journey and are kindled and developed when we ‘experience’ the need for the same. Traveling within and outside of our country is one of the greatest ways to see the relevance of how important the ‘one world’ notion is.
I like to believe that my passion for my country stems from my awareness not only of its potential but also of its flaws. I love India - its size, its diversity, its complexity, its deep soul and its frothy exterior. Therefore, I am often pained when people size up my country based on stereotypical information.
In a world today where country leaders are making campaigns focused on hate and divide, the need is the greatest. The need for the youth to step up and to speak up. We should no longer live in a world where we are threatened by the fear of the ‘other’ - a strategy that politicians use time and again to strengthen their ‘us vs them’ narrative. This narrative runs deep, not only on the exterior of policy and politics, but within our own communities. Divide of gender and religion is now accompanied by divide of sexual orientation and preference as well. In all the separation, we somewhere have forgotten the biggest commonality that holds us together - that we are humans.
I was fortunate enough to hear the Dalai Lama speak once in Florence, and a line he said deeply resonated. When asked about education and curriculums, he talked about how the world needs a curriculum that teaches ‘Ethics and Common Sense’. A question was asked about violence and inhumanity - and he simply said that the “younger generation needs to have a desire for peace. He said ‘human intelligence is the cause of violence’ and the only way we can eliminate hatred is to be less afraid”
It is said, that in the next 10 years, we will have the youngest population of all the nations. Imagine what can be achieved if the potential of such power could be harnessed and unleashed in a creative manner ! Today, India is represented globally in every field – but then again – we do have 1.4 billion people, so we cant rest on the laurels of less than 2 % of the population !
Just take my case - I was born in the internet age. My privileged upbringing meant that from the 1 billion people who reside in India, I make up the fortunate 7% who take the ‘fundamental’ rights for granted.
Today, while I was writing this blog, I got to read the ‘Preamble of the Constitution of India’, but this time, I really paid special attention to the words, the dreams that our leaders had for our country. “We the people of India…do solemnly swear that every citizen has the right to freedom, justice, fraternity and equality”. This could very well be the constitution of the world - where all men and women are born equal.
I believe, that with the conscious cultivation, communication, innovation and basic common sense, the promise of a gentler, kinder world might just be a reality.
Because, at no other time has this been truer - Geography is History!