After being away for two decades, I returned to a country changed beyond recognition. I am not talking about the many skyscrapers in the cities but I am more concerned about the change in the moral fabric, the cultures and even the languages themselves.
I have been around long enough to know that culture has to be dynamic so as to remain relevant. Culture itself tends to be more dynamic than us the individuals. The individuals affect the course of history by how they live their own lives. I am of the Ganda culture: a culture which is more concerned with the freedom of the clans- group cohesion than the individual. I am part of a family, a gender group, a community and a nation. In all these roles, I have the responsibility to conserve what is best and cherished and to change what is not good.
Looking around, I can see many changes and I have been swinging like a pendulum between illumination and alarm. I take comfort in the knowledge that the changes are not unique to my country, Uganda, but are happening virtually everywhere in the world.
We are living in the Information Age ; technology has become an integral part of our lives. Telecommunications has shrunk the world into a global village where information generation and sharing have become the order of the day. Some years back it had dawned me that I was no longer living in the world I knew: my old world was dead. I had two options: I could sit back devastated and just let the new world create itself or I could roll up my sleeves and consciously participate in the process of creating the new world that I would love to live in. I chose the latter and started off by making sure that I knew who I really was – my core values and beliefs. This was a prerequisite because technology had already opened up a varied mixture of cultural richness. Anchored in what I cherish and want to retain in my past and present then I could easily open up myself to learn from others and love and value them.
In this Global Village, we all have to learn to embrace the diversity around us and the values it brings- different gifts of different cultures and races. We have to be smart enough to learn from other traditions and other people’s lives, to engage in efforts that empower others out of poverty, ignorance, prejudice and tyranny thus helping to create a peaceful and a prosperous world.
Sharing what I have learned transforms not only my own life but makes a contribution-however small to transforming the groups which I am a part. Sharing what I know with other people, builds a community of like-minded people who can collectively begin to create the new world we want to live in.
If we do not actively participate in the creation of the new world; it will create itself and it may not be the world we want to live in.
Instead of playing the Blame game, all of us who care about our communities should become part of the transformation. We do this by holding on to what is best in our culture and picking what is best and relevant to us from other cultures. We cannot wait for someone else to bring about the change we want in our communities for it is our responsibility to create the world we love and to make the world a better place to live in.
Not forgetting that we both influence and are influenced by the world in which we live.
I for one, I am now fully within my own culture; I appreciate its strength and values and take responsibility for its weakness. I stand solidly on it as a launch pad: I am free to become a citizen of the world and to learn from the wisdom of other cultures without fearing to be swallowed up. This did not happen to me overnight; it was a gradual process that was started by my parents while growing up. By their gentle hands they changed me from being a drifting water-lily into a sturdy, robust, flexible member of the Bamboo forest.
They say that one generation lends to the other so as parents we have to continue helping our children to be anchored firmly in their cultures. Anyone feeling safe and secure in her/his identity never fears to learn from others and has no need for dominance. He/she just looks for partnerships.
Two quotes have come to my mind:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children – one is roots, and the other is wings.” By Hodding . S. Carter
“ When a society or civilization perishes , one condition can always be found. They forgot where they came from.’’ By Carle Sanburg
In this Age of Information explosion, let us all first honour and be part of our uniqueness as a community and then open up to learn from other cultures. It is the best way of embracing diversity and using it to create peace and harmony.
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