The Dignity of Difference

In the light of recent events I have gone back to a book full of wisdom that I have read many times, The Dignity of Difference – How To Avoid The Clash Of Civilisations by Jonathan Sacks. There is one passage that speaks specifically to what we are experiencing at the moment “ The 21st century has arisen on the ruins of the 20th, an age in which many of the great ideologies – fascism, socialism, communism, even nationalism – were discredited. We hoped that TRADE would do what politics did not; tame passions, domesticate man the fighter into a win-win network of mutual exchange.

The amalgamation of the nation states of Europe….into the European Union seemed to be one augury …………What this overlooked, then as now, is that homo sapiens is not only, or even primarily a maximizing animal, choosing rationally between options. We are uniquely a MEANING-SEEKING animal. Our most fundamental questions are ‘WHO AM I?’ and ‘TO WHICH NARRATIVE DO I BELONG?’  The great hope that politics would be superseded by economics, replacing public good with private choice was bound to FAIL because economics as such offers no answers to the BIG QUESTIONS of WHO and WHY”

Perhaps we need to take a step back from recent decisions and realize that what people may be trying to articulate is a deep need and longing for something more meaningful than economic growth and global trade. A desire to step away from the power and domination of politics and big business – a sense that difference does not diminish, it enlarges the sphere of human possibilities and that we are all connected but on a higher level than simply as partners in ideology or trade or defence. There is a real opportunity now to develop a spirit of collaboration and partnership that transcends the rational and the national and establishes a covenant of human acceptance and responsibility. This will not be lead from the centre by world leaders or politicians but by ordinary people searching and longing for the answer to those questions. WE are all the leaders in this endeavor so let us rise up and accept the challenge.

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