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Conference: red line between fighting for diversity and preserving national cultures?

What is the role of the interculturalists in the red line between fighting for diversity and preserving national cultures? Characteristic features of the global transformations of modern humanity are the emergence of contemporary values and guidelines. We can name "the new ethics", as also the alternative language, politically correct one. The modern world community is accompanied by tendencies to diminish the differences between social groups and nations, and sometimes to get rid of the values, rituals and traditional characteristic of national cultures. In October 2021 in Brussels, Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli unveiled internal guidelines on ‘inclusive communication’ for Commission staff, detailing phrases to be avoided. In addition to terms related to gender andsexual orientation, the list additionally included terms related to Christianity, like Christmas and the names Mariaand John. The question of cancelling Christmas is fundamental, and far more complex that its religious side. CancellingChristmas can led to the cultural regression, lack of understanding of what Bach's music is about, of whatLeonardo, Botticelli and other big masters produced their paintings about, what Michelangelo's Pieta is about. Therefore, the question for the round table was: “Where is the red line between the struggle for political correctness and diversity and the preservation of what our civilization relies on?”. It is also burning because suchproposals, as Euro Commissioner did, are made “under our flag”. What can we undertake, as interculturalistsabout it? The discussion was quite intense and many perspectives have been evolving during the conversation. There have been voiced an alternative opinion: what we are discovering from the intercultural dimension from neuroscience is that culture represents a process that lives inside of us. We possess multiple identities. And thepoint is: how can we be enriched from the incredible variety of cultures? There is no red line. We are in a processof our cultural formation. The red line remains an improper question; we are organic. Culture is in neurons. Thequestion is: can we open up our culture and invite others to the table and avoid our dictatorship? From another corner of the world, there has been a vision of this topic as of the perfect dilemma, where in onehand represent a wish to preserve an identity, on another hand need to open up and create diversity. One doesn’t exclude the other. There are possible combinations of fusing both. Our colleague from Great Britain added two ideas. First, considering example of Christmas, we can’t be more inclusive by erasing holidays like that. As we are excluding the meaning, and that’s sometimes what the wholecountries’ values are built around. Preserving the meaning is keeping to perceive how the whole country isstructured, and here Her Majesty the Queen (who is the Head of the Anglican church) is the perfect illustration. The second idea was that adapting to other countries didn't mean you have to capitulate yourself. We have to figure out, how can we adapt our culture to include other people’s ideas and get along better? We come back to the perfect dilemma. How can we bridge this gap?” One of our colleagues shared her rather personal and human perspective and talked about an education process. Coming from a Muslim family herself, she shared a personal transformation of the head of her family views with the arrival of the younger child. “If you want to embrace a diverse culture, it goes back to your childhood.” Herfather wanted to his younger daughter to share her joy with other kids, who are “discussing eggs and exchanging presents”. Another colleague stated that for some people there is a red line. There are many compact ethnic groups around the world we should preserve and take care of, for whom homogenization is a question of survival. Thereforethere are two sides: those who are in change and open to novel ideas, and those whose identity is at risk to be taken away. For latter ones, there is a red line. There was in addition a voice that such a bold statements (as cancelling Christmas) can conduct to the rejection ofsome critical issues at some point. The proposal to cancel Christmas caused intercultural fight for the diversity more difficult as people, who are new to the diversity concept became a sort of allergic to this, when seeing such radical statements. The same seems to happen with the BLM movement in France, that in some way, due to the different cultural ground lead to discrediting critical issues for the French society. Most of the participants seemed to agree that learning other cultures aids us actually to better understanding of our own culture. But the burning question is silent on the table: what can we, as interculturalists, make to preserve cultural differences? This question suggests no answer at the moment, but remains promising, as all participants proved a will to continue working on it. And one more question raised to be crucial: Adapting doesn’t mean denial of our own culture; but how to makethis process enriching?

To be continued…

Anastasia Shevchenko

Monaco La Classe


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