Respect is a two way street in the global village

People today are more interconnected than they have ever been. Air travel has opened up the world to us; no country is more than a relatively short flight away. In the age of the internet, we may do business, interact and foster friendships with people on the other side of the globe with unprecedented ease. In 1964, Marshall McLuhan realised that modern technology was bringing populations and cultures together and coined the term “global village” to refer to this reality.

People are travelling more, interacting more frequently and experiencing each other’s way of life. This facilitated interaction has been an educational opportunity for humankind. It has underscored that we are all citizens of the world. It makes it clear that no matter how different we may be, we are all similar at the human level. This has undoubtedly made peace, harmony and understanding between cultures more achievable.

Unfortunately, the global village is not the utopia it may have been.

Freedom of speech is a concept that is cherished in our societies; it is a fundamental right that is a hallmark of a healthy, modern democracy. It is enshrined in our laws and constitutions. It is a tool that we may usefully deploy to promote values and to voice our concerns when our rights or those of others are trampled on. It grants artists and writers the liberty to express themselves creatively. Yet it often seems to run counter to political correctness. Where then does one draw the line? Is it right to knowingly and willfully mock other cultures, their beliefs and traditions – cultures with which we need to harmoniously coexist? In addition to our right to free speech, we have a duty to treat each other with mutual respect. I am a non-Muslim, yet it is with pleasure that I greet my Muslim friends with a “Good Morning. Ramadan mubarak!” during their holy month of fasting.

In recent days, horrific crimes have been committed on French soil in response to depictions of the prophet Muhammed. Innocent people have been brutally murdered and cultural incompatibilities may never be invoked to explain or justify these atrocities; justice needs to be served.

These crimes leave more than innocent victims in their wake. These crimes threaten to sow the seeds of discord in the global village as they foment dangerous xenophobia that fractures and rips our societies apart. We need to see beyond these violent acts. Diversity in our societies is not to be feared but celebrated. The perpetrators of these deadly acts are enemies of our societies, composed of a vibrant mix of people from all religious backgrounds, ethnicities and origins.

We need to be aware of this threat to the integrity of our society. Diversity is not a weakness but a strength. The global villagers need to come together, to cooperate on all levels to eradicate the real enemies of climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, world hunger, social strife and injustice.

We must not allow the enemies of humankind to triumph. Violence is never the answer. We believe that in spite of our differences, we are stronger together.

Respect is a two way street; those who commit terror will only cause more criticism and mockery through their wicked actions.

Mark Zerafa
ADPD Deputy Leader
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 1 November 2020