Every day is a special day to someone-somewhere. A birthday, an anniversary, a long-awaited event. On a larger scale, there are civic holidays, religious holy days, and cultural celebrations. With so many occasions on a collective level, it is impractical to observe them all or even to know what they are.
So I have been trying to learn about special months rather than special days. Checking to see what significance the month of April may have, I discovered that it is broadly observed as “Multicultural Communications Month.” I admire that name as I salute the concept, even if I’m not completely sure what it means.
Though surely the purpose is to bring us together, the word “multiculture” seems to focus on our differences more than what we have in common, which is that we all belong to the human family. In fact, our differences go beyond the definition of cultural, as they also span religious, socio-economic, racial and other human characteristics.
Even if I cannot completely reconcile the definition of “multiculture.” as a Baha’i I strongly favor actions, attitudes and events whose purpose is to promote a culture of peace based on respect for human rights and diversity. This is rooted in my conviction that a peaceful society is strengthened by the diversity of its members, that it progresses through individuals’ independent search for truth, and that it is ordered by laws which protect the rights of all people, regardless of their physical characteristics, their religious beliefs, their national heritage or their social practices.
I also think that the larger concept of freedom - including the freedoms of religion, belief and cultural expression - is enhanced by exposure to new ideas and the ability to share and receive information. This is where the “communication” part of “multicultural communication” plays its part.
The word “communications” has at least two distinct instances. It can refer to one-way broadcasting (not as personal but nevertheless effective) as well as 2-way conversation (between friends; among groups).
The first aspect of communications, one-way broadcasting, is served through mass media channels such as this one and educational materials. I can take the initiative to learn on my own, and that’s a worthy endeavour. It is intellectually satisfying and within my own control. In many respects though, I learn more through social engagement with others, in 2-way conversation.
In a truly tolerant world, the world I envision for our future, we would not have so much emphasis on I-am-from-here and you-are-from-there, or my-ancestors-did-this and yours-did-that. We would simply assume that everyone has a story, it’s interesting, and we would enjoy learning about it. We would not think we had to take steps to build bridges or mend hurt feelings. Rather we would take for granted that the one thing we all have in common is that we are all uniquely different. In the meantime, the conscious effort to reach out is important, and if the month of April is devoted to that goal, that’s a very good thing.
© Jaellayna Palmer 2009