On change… and reciprocity


“An open debate on values, their transmission and maintenance, and their (re)definition is as imperative as it is inescapable. It needs to arrive at a clear view of the necessary values, attitudes, skills and knowledge, which allow an intercultural and democratic reorientation of our behaviour made up of solidarity and understanding, mutual respect and trust in order to arrive at a strong social cohesion. The challenge here is at least two-fold:


  • As individuals we need to be able to make sense and manage the implications of our multidimensional identity, of our feelings of belonging and our multiple loyalties, of me and the other, of our relations and relationships, of our place in this diverse world.
  • As a society we need to review and redefine the common denominator for living together, to identify and describe a basis to which all can subscribe whatever their particularities, including a redefinition of what is private and what is public. 


A crucial precondition for this to happen is the realisation and acceptance of the fact that change, in itself, on an individual as well as on a societal level, is inescapable. The same way as we cannot not communicate (the fact of refusing communication carries and expresses a message) we cannot NOT change when we meet others. What we can do, however, is to act on the direction in which the changes lead us.”

(Josef Huber in the foreword to “TASKs for democracy”, Council of Europe Publishing, 2015)


The above excerpt is not something that is addressed to only a part of the people in a given region or country. It applies to all of us, independent of the fact whether we are early arrivers or newcomers, whether we (or our ancestors) have arrived in a place one year ago, two years ago, 50 years ago or two hundred years or more ago. We cannot go on defining ourselves and others solely and mainly by an initial origin be it our language, or be it the geographic and socio-political or socio-economic context we come from. While these factors play a role and create links between people, even facilitate communication and exchange, they by no means define us. We share much more with every other individual from any other place through the common traits that we have. We all belong to the larger group of “human beings” and as such have more in common than we have through cultural, ethnic or sociological factors.

What we face here is a fact which is readily forgotten by those who revel in creating differences and misunderstanding, strife and fight, between humans. There are those of us who can only perceive of themselves, of their context, of life, the universe and everything by making their way of looking at the world special and unique. They do not feel and do not want to be “the same” as the others. 

If they would stop here, I would be tempted to agree and to let it be because as a unique human being, of course, my way of looking at the world is unique. But somehow, in order to give it greater weight, they prefer to say that it is their group’s way of looking at the world, their social group, their ethnic group, their spiritual group, their national group, etc. Most probably in order to lend more credibility to the belief (or way of doing) in question. Otherwise it is only an individual view and that counts less in people’s minds. 

And so a vicious circle begins…

In schools and in education we need to see to it that all the learners can develop their personality and can develop as a person:  As someone who comes from somewhere, certainly, but more so as someone who goes somewhere new, together with others, preferably.


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