Children are all foreigners.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82)
If each member of the human race was once a foreigner as the 19th century writer and poet suggests, why isn’t it possible to make the switch from foreigner to native when we’re adults?
Possibly the root of the problem lies in two culprit words: native and non-native, or “us” and “them.” What would happen if we did away with the term native and no longer reveal information like place of birth in passports and other documents?
Would such a bold step put in peril the very cultural foundations of our society? What would it mean for multicultural countries like the US and Australia? Would it speed up manifold the process of cultural acceptance and tolerance ?
Apart from permitting non-natives to become presidents of a country, nobody would have to carry any longer the stigma of birthplace with him. A person would have total freedom to choose whether he or she wants to be a “native” or “foreigner.”
Even if developed nations are leaders in telecommunications research and most of us have access to the Internet, many of our institutions and history hinges on seeing other nations and cultures as in the Dark Ages.
While the majority of humanity can’t log on and doesn’t own a mobile phone, it’s incredible that those of us that do – like governments – don’t use such telecommunications tools to further our knowledge of other cultures, even if the Internet is still a kind of samizdat.
A case in point is Iraq, where cultural, geopolitical ignorance and differences have forced the people of that tormented nation to live in violence, fear and squalor.
If the most powerful nation on Earth can get it so wrong culturally never mind politically, what does it tell about humanity’s ability to forge world peace and justice?
Does it all boil down to one simple fact: since we teach our children to become “good natives” at the cost of never trusting other societies and cultures, are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes that have hounded humankind ever since the Stone Age?
It is a tragic paradox that in this era of fast-lane globalization, where cultures are supposed to get nearer to each other, we’ve created conditions for the effective annihilation of smaller languages and cultures.
Just like vanishing biodiversity, much of the world’s linguistic diversity is on the same path of doom.
The challenge to globalization is how to tear down cultural and trade barriers without destroying everything on its path and avoid turning the world’s urban centers into Wal-Marts.