Recently, I was invited to attend a discussion on Globalization versus Isolationism led by a panel of well-known and respected authorities on the subject. I suspected that it would address foreign labour migration – legal or not – and building walls to control it.
Being fond of cultural diversity, I attended the event hoping to hear a discussion about cultural preservation and adaptation. Much to my surprise, the bulk of the presentation and the debate that followed had to do more with the economy of our world than with its ever-mutating culture.
The panel of experts was set on predicting how the use of international agreements like NAFTA can affect the economy of the participating countries and the interest of foreign investors. My mind struggled to focus on the dialogue, and kept going back to the thought of how many cultures around the globe continue to lose authenticity, due in part to the higher level of importance our 21st century society gives to financial matters, as opposed to the preservation of traditions and cultural subtleties.
As I was walking back to the office, I caught myself thinking in Spanish; and I couldn’t help but ponder how people speak different languages because they think differently. So many phrases in any given tongue are practically untranslatable – they convey a feeling or an image understood only by its native speakers.
Living in a culturally rich country like Canada, you have to wonder how many of the people we try to communicate with daily refrain from sharing their thoughts for fear of being misunderstood or judged. Learning to speak English or French like a native only offers a partial solution – true public participation practitioners must care enough to go beyond the limitations set by the governing culture or official languages.
So many new Canadians I know are here not because of our wonderful country’s sound economy, but because it offers them a chance to live in peace. The terms “globalization” and “isolationism” to them have very little to do with economics – they speak more to the reality of how much our world is showing signs of becoming one globalized society of isolated cultures.
Public participation (P2) is only possible when we care enough to include – not just tolerate.