One thing that it seems will always be a reality in this life is conflict, whether it be the wars waged between two countries, the civil wars waged along tribal lines or the everyday conflicts we have with people we just find impossible to get along with. The question is; are we human beings just prone to conflict or are there deeper reasons for why we always seem to be fighting? Quite possibly the most important reason is prejudice.
Intolerance has caused more conflict throughout history than anything else and still continues to cause conflict to this day; Intolerance of everything from religion, race, nationality and even gender. We may not share the same beliefs or culture but in the end we’re all human beings and as harmless as it may seem to write somebody off because of how different they are, it has the potential to cause some deep divisions.
One basic human trait is our desire to be accepted by a larger group. It’s the reason why societies work, people follow a certain list of agreed upon principles that everybody understands and agrees with so each person can be accepted. The catch is that we’re not robots so we can’t be expected to all have exactly the same ideas about how the world works. This reality is actually a good thing because exploring different ideas and views is how we develop and move forward.
The conflict comes when we convince ourselves that our way of looking at the world is the only correct way. This kind of thinking makes intolerance and conflict inevitable because when we’re confronted by somebody with an alternative view we assume the person is strange or inadequate. We find it easier to judge people according to stereotypes we’ve heard about their race or nationality, instead of taking the time to get to know them. The truth is that we’re all human beings with similar needs; the differences arise with our cultures, backgrounds and circumstances.
The problem with not allowing ourselves to learn about different views and cultures is that it renders us ignorant and intolerant. If you confine yourself to your own homeland for too long, you’ll find it hard to realise that there’s only a small portion of land on this planet on which you are not a foreigner. It may be funny to see someone in our home who clearly doesn’t know how things work but let’s not pretend we don’t know the frustration of not understanding something and having no one to help us learn. One day you’ll be forced to step into the rest of the world and have to deal with people who treat you exactly the way you treat outsiders in your home. The truth is that we should embrace people whose view of the world is different from ours because it gives us an opportunity to learn and broaden our minds about the world around us and the different peoples who inhabit it.
For many countries within our own continent the only things we know about them are the things we’ve seen on CNN and the BBC which is usually just war, corruption and poverty. We need to go out of our way to actually find out about the world for ourselves instead of just swallowing the views of international news broadcasters. It’s amazing how much you can learn using the internet and even more amazing how much you can learn the old fashioned way, by reading books.
An important fact to realise is that ignorance breeds hate; narrow minds condemn things they don’t understand.
None of us can claim to know everything but we can at least try to inform ourselves about different cultures and religions we don’t understand so we don’t end up dismissing other people based on things we actually know nothing about. Judging the world, based solely on your own experiences is like looking through a house through a single window and then telling yourself you’ve seen it all. You need to travel as much as possible and interact with different people, don’t confide yourself to your comfort zone, whether it be by only going to the places you’re familiar with or only interacting with people you share a similar background with. This world of ours is so wide and rich that there’s no limit to the things we can learn about it and become better people as we do.