Everything is political. Technology is political. Food is political. Travel is political. The issues pertaining to these subjects are the same across borders but to varying degrees. One of the fundamental problems with the media is that it fails to address these similarities, and instead harps on our differences. ‘Divide and conquer’ as they say. It’s the most common tactic, but it usually doesn’t turn out to be the most effective, nor the most humane as history has shown us. Considering today’s state of global affairs, now more than ever is it imperative that we resist, persist, and insist. I believe a lot of that starts with sharing experiences that are personalized and diversified.
For this reason, I like to use the word ‘disparity’ when I’m asked what my motivation is for making the world a better place. When I say ‘disparity’, I don’t just mean the gap between the rich and the poor. I also mean the gap between the “truth” and the whole truth, what the media tells us and what is actually going on. The gap between white people and every other ethnic group when it comes to academic and career opportunities. The gap between men and women when it comes to travel and safety. The gap between where we are socially and where we should be. I could go on and on with a list of different examples, but I think you understand where I am going with this. I don’t believe we can expect to close in on these ‘disparities’ if we are preoccupied by a media bias; trapped hearing the same perspective over and over again. That’s like watching a film that is continuously shot with a shallow depth of field: maddening.
I truly understood the value of providing different points of view last year. I was relaying stories about my traumatic childhood to a good friend of mine from Turkey when, out of the blue, she just hugged me. I asked her why she did that, and her response was because she never imagined that someone could experience that sort of pain in a place like Canada. In that moment, we found a connection through our painful memories of growing up in our respective countries. It reminded me that this is what brings people together, our stories. It’s what makes our understanding of the human experience three-dimensional instead of two-dimensional.
I learned a similar lesson several years ago while attending a charity event called ‘WE Day’ by Free the Children. Spencer West, a social activist and motivational speaker who lost both of his legs at the age of five, was telling the crowd a touching story of how he was in Kenya to help build a school. There, he met a young girl who burst into tears when she saw him and then proceeded to hug him. She said that she didn’t know it was possible for a white man to go through such an experience. She thought that that type of burden was specific to Africans. Now tell me, why do you think she believed that?
I don’t know about you, but I believe it’s about time that we provide a different lens to the issues that riddle our society and trouble our minds. Especially when it comes to sexism and racism because quite frankly, discourse about the oppressed without including the oppressor is pointless. Communication from both sides is an integral part of reaching a conclusion, otherwise there may be misunderstandings which will only further intensify feelings of alienation.
That could have easily been the case two years ago when I was standing in line to enter a nightclub in Madrid, the muffled sounds of Pitbull vibrating in the background. Behind me, I could hear a heated conversation about the pressing issue of racism in France, particularly towards blacks and Arabs. To my delightful surprise, it was coming from a group of white Parisian youths. They were upset and blaming the baby boomers for the discrimination and sufferings many of their ethnic friends were facing after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Once they realized I could understand what was being said, they asked for my opinion on the matter. We discussed what the media didn’t and we found that our similarities were stronger than our differences.
I can’t be the only one who finds this rather unfortunate, that there is such a strong disconnect between one another these days, even though historically this is the most “connected” we’ve ever been. I genuinely believe we can help solve this discrepancy with authenticity. People want to hear real stories from real people. It’s the reason we read reviews before purchasing a product, isn’t it? If we start treating human connection as a sort of priceless commodity, then perhaps it is possible to mend the disconnect we’re all experiencing. Maybe then we will feel compelled to do better as a society. I believe our generation has an advantage when it comes to making that happen. We have the tools our ancestors could only dream of when it comes to sharing information and telling our stories, so it’s about time we start putting those tools to real use!