The impulse to accept, empathise with and embrace others – to recognise their shared humanity – is a part of our nature. That’s why we live in a rainbow-fuelled utopia of shiny, happy people, right? If only! So why is tolerance of others – their different backgrounds, lifestyles, choices and identities – still the future?
While empathy and embrace of others is part of our nature, the impulse to be suspicious of difference and to build walls that protect ‘us’ from ‘them’, is just as human. And in 2016 that impulse helped fuel a backlash in a number of markets against
Mark Zuckerberg’s the liberal dream of an open and connected world. Right now, the proponents of a closed and, yes, intolerant world are emboldened.
But despite that, the future is still tolerance. Why? Because in the end, prejudice is born of limitation. Namely, limited (or no) authentic experience of those who are the target. Now, for millions around the world that limitation is being lifted. Making true prejudice less and less possible.
Yes, this is happening very unevenly across place and time. Yes, there have been setbacks, and there will be more. And yes, when people feel unfairly left out of the benefits created by a more open world, then greater experience of others can actively inflame prejudice – look at the toxic relationship between migration and racism in the US and Europe.
But still the direction of travel is undeniable.
The Global, Urban, Educated Brain
One powerful driving force? The emergence of a global brain that connects diverse people and ideas. We won’t go over the stats on global connectivity again ;) Even setting aside the internet, the accelerating interconnectedness of our world is astonishing.
According to the UNWTO, between 1950 and 2016 the number of international journeys worldwide increased from 22 million to 1.2 billion. That’s over five thousand percent, in less than a single lifetime!