Is anyone else concerned about humanity? If not, have you turned on the news lately? Hate, war, bloodshed, tears, extremism, refugees and one unsettling story after another. It is difficult to check-in on the world around us and not walk away feeling helpless and depressed. Nevertheless, it is times like these where humanity and our world need you the most. It is times like these where it is all the more important for people who sew good to challenge themselves to stay engaged, to be informed global citizens, and to get involved in contributing to a better world.
Enter UMUM, a grass-roots vehicle through which anyone around the world can affect the positive change they desire at the local, national or international level, and be supported. It is through UNUM that I will share my story and my perspectives, in the hopes of inspiring or impacting others in some positive way along their own journey to contribute to the world around them.
My story began in central Canada, born in the Prairies to Lebanese-Canadian parents. Growing up as an Arab-Canadian in small town Manitoba, I was often looked at differently, sometimes even treated differently. At some point in my childhood, I came to the understanding that what was really happening to me was not my fault but was instead a natural by-product of looking differently in a rather homogeneous small town. On many occasions in my teenage years, people took issue with my non-white appearance, or maybe it was my Arab background; regardless of the reason, I was often the target of racism, verbal abuse and discrimination.
While my experiences in small-town Manitoba made me feel different, my travel made me feel human. When I was young, every few years, my parents and I would travel over the summer to Lebanon to see my grandparents and my extended family. On these trips, and the lay-overs in different parts of the world, I would often reflect on how humans on opposite sides of the world had so much in common. At a young age, I realized first hand that humans everywhere share far more in common than they are different. Wherever they are, humans yearn for freedom, dignity, and respect. They strive to have their basic needs met, to grow socially, intellectually, culturally and spiritually, or in some combination of the above. They have dreams, emotions, relationships, and intelligence (sometimes at varying levels). They enjoy time with family and friends, enjoy laughing, going out, having fun and living life in general. Even at a genetic level, the DNA of all humans is about 99.9% the same. Yet, instead of focusing on the myriad of similarities that we all share in common, not least of which is the fact that we are all human beings, I found that everywhere I went people would frequently want to speak of their differences.
Why do people always feel the need to differentiate from the other? Every state feels the need to differentiate from its neighbours. Every religion stresses its differences from all the rest. The people within each state, religion, ethnicity, race, class, profession, and so forth differentiate themselves from the others, always seeking to further differentiate. To our core, people want to feel like they belong to something special and they don’t want to be like everybody else – we’re better or superior than, different or distinct from. Why can’t we all belong to humanity? What are our societies, the media, and our education systems doing wrong so that people don’t feel like they belong to humanity, to the global community of human beings?
As a child, I always saw humanity as one, with all divisions and differences as secondary. We’ve all heard the example of babies from different backgrounds being put in one sand box. After a few adorable stares, the babies recognize the human being in the other and the rest is irrelevant – the babies play in the sandbox together, no other divisions or differences matter. As I grew older, I always felt like states, religions, races, ethnic groups, classes, and so forth all seemed to create division layered upon more division that often undermined the thinking of working in the best interests of humanity as a whole. Let me be clear, I am not advocating these distinctions or divisions be eliminated, nor that they are not valuable, nor that the interests of these different divisions or groups be ignored. Instead, I am arguing that there comes a time where the interests of individual states, subgroups or actors should be treated as secondary to the interests of humanity as a whole. When will we as human beings and our elected or non-elected representatives begin to pursue not only narrow self-interests of persons, groups or states, but the interests of humanity as a whole?
When will we as human beings and our elected or non-elected representatives begin to pursue not only narrow self-interests of persons, groups or states, but the interests of humanity as a whole?
Now, some of you may be asking yourself, “well humanity is such a big thing; what can I do, I’m just one person?” To that I can genuinely say that I am a believer in the power of one: one individual, one group, one family, one Community, one Peoples – it all starts with one. I am a believer in each and every human being as an individual because I’ve seen in my life the impact that one person alone can make every day, every minute, in his or her actions and interactions with others – creating ripple effects that span far beyond one’s sight, far beyond one’s wildest imagination. Take this enormous power of one, and magnify it by finding a team of like-minded committed individuals who seek to affect the same positive change – the possibilities become endless. I always like to remind myself of my favourite quote, by Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
As my good friend Joe Danis mentioned in one of his earlier posts, we must each reflect on our place in this world and acknowledge our responsibility to do our part to leave it just a little bit better than how we found it.
Nervous? Fearful? The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step – will you take it? UNUM & I are here to walk that journey with you.