We are all equal, but at the same time we are all different. We all want the best for ourselves, for our family and friends, for our town and country. We all want a better world. We were born in different places, at different times, with different religions, and the society where we grow has a great influence in our way of thinking. Everyone has their own way of achieving a better world, but the way that I agree with can be different from your way.
We can see this in politics, political parties (must) want the country to be better, but left wing political parties have a different version of what “better” means from the right wing parties. We do not know which way is going to be better, even they are probably not sure, but we need to try. Life is full of hypothesis, so we need to try them; if one does not work, another cycle will come with a new hypothesis.
As life is made of cycles, so do societies have their own cycles. The Roman Empire had their slaves centuries before the slavery during the discoveries. Europe had a dark Middle Age, but after that, the Renaissance came with a New World and new achievements; and during this Age the Inquisition killed thousands of Jews and other people in big fires, for all to see. Then, the world witnessed other barbarities like this during the rule of Hitler and other dictators, who killed thousands of people; even Native Americans were killed, all in the name of constructing a better world from someone’s point of view.
We are all different, and societies improve their way of living at different velocities. For example, the abolition of slavery or the death penalty was not adopted by all the countries at the same time. The same thing is happening now with gay marriage, not even half of the states of the world authorise these unions. Some people think that this must be something acquired all around the world, but this is wrong, because the differences between societies make them have a different outlook and timing – just look at the Women’s right to vote, and how many years we needed for that to be adopted in all the European democracies.
There are societies which are faster to adopt changes, probably because they are more open-minded. On the other side, there are some societies that take longer to change, maybe because these ones are more conservative. We must not judge the time that everyone needs, each society takes its time to change, as each of us take our time to learn and make our improvements.
We are all equal, we are all human, but we are different, and we all make mistakes. Our societies are at different levels because of the time that they need to change. I am not saying that there are smart or backward societies, but all societies have their ups and downs inside of their cycles. Everyone needs their time to change and no one can impose anything on the others. We must respect their timing. The others must take their time to adopt the changes and if they ask for help we can help, if not, we must not step in. Let them take their time, they will achieve what they need to in their own time.
If you look at your country, you will probably see big cities with new technology and big industry, lots of international shops and night life until sunrise, cities that are full of young people and life. But if you look at the countryside, the small towns are empty and losing their life, almost only the elders stay there, because they were born there and probably never saw another world, unlike the new generations that have already been everywhere and will not stop discovering new worlds. And this is why I think that we must travel, and we must live in other countries to understand other societies. This in the only way we will be able to learn their way of thinking, to learn how to respect them and how to live with them.
We need to give them time, and changes will happen, a few years ago no one thought that we will see the growing of the nationalism movement in Europe, but they’re already here, undermining the future of European integration. No one thought that an Arabic Spring would happen, but it did happen, and even though it only succeeded in some of the countries, the others are still looking for their way. No one expected to see big demonstrations against democratic governments in Europe, but they happened and some governments trembled. No one expected an Islamic State to fight the “infidels” like the Christian crusaders did in the last millennium, but the truth is that there are no infidels, just people with different faiths, and God is the same for Christianity, Islam and Judaism. No one expected to see terrorist attacks in Europe, we all thought that this was something that can only happen in Arabic countries, but terrorist attacks in European schools are growing fast, and they have nothing to do with Islam. Terrorism is not a religion, terrorism does not have borders. Terrorism is everywhere and no one is safe. Most of the terrorist attacks happen because the terrorists think that the target is a symbol of disrespect towards their beliefs/opinions.
Every day there are people dying somewhere in the world because of terrorist attacks. Terrorists do not choose their victims by faith, they attack their own people, they even attack their own country. Terrorism must be fought not with more terror, but with respect. Everyone must respect the others. Respect is not about attacking different beliefs, it’s about understanding them. Respect is about living side by side with the differences of the others, and not about feeling scared to go out of our own homes. Respect is about living integrated with others, but never losing our own opinions, beliefs and culture. Respect is about respecting the liberties of each other, and not interfering in another person's affairs. Respect is about being free, about sharing different opinions but always willing to listen. Respect is about arguing different opinions, and not being offended by them. Respect is about being tolerant.
States are helping others with money, but money cannot buy respect. States must teach their societies how to live in respect with the differences. Respect should be mutual between societies. If we want Muslims to respect secularism in Europe, we must respect their religion in their countries. I do not believe in God, but I like to visit churches or mosques. They are places of peace where I can contemplate life. We must understand that there are people different from us, who believe in God and who are there looking for their answers.
In a multicultural and globalised world as we live in, respect must be learned in school. More and more people will be born in a place and die in another, and between that they will meet people from cultures, beliefs and opinions different from theirs. People must learn how to live in this multicultural and globalised world. The Erasmus generation is learning how to live like this, and they know that respect is very important.
Edited by Catalina Ghelan