In the great words of Dr. Seuss’ Butter Battle Book “And the things that you’ve heard about Zooks are all true. The terribly, horrible thing that they do, and in every Zook house and in every Zook town every Zook eats his bread with the butter side down. But we Yooks, when we eat, when we breakfast or sup, spread our bread right, with the butter side up.”
While each of us likes to think that wars would not ensue over which side to butter our bread, according to the UN, “three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension.” Perhaps some conflicts stem from the difference between relationship and transaction orientation. Others may be caused by a difference in how cultures prioritize values. No single issue drives different cultures to conflict, but having some understanding and respect for the cultures involved can help address an issue before it escalates. For the safety and well-being of people around the world, it is necessary to make every effort to bridge the gap between cultures.
In 2002, to begin that process, the UN General Assembly declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. But what does that mean for us? What can we do to commemorate the day? The UN suggests on their website, the following ten simple things we can do to further our understanding and knowledge of other cultures.
- Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
- Invite a family or people in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life.
- Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own.
- Invite people from a different culture to share your customs.
- Read about the great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g., Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi).
- Go next weekend to visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration.
- Play the “stereotypes game.” Stick a post-it on your forehead with the name of a country. Ask people to tell you stereotypes associated with people from that country. You win if you find out where you are from.
- Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures; learn more about Hanukkah or Ramadan or about amazing celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Spain or Qingming festival in China.
- Spread your own culture around the world through our Facebook page and learn about other cultures.
- Explore the music of a different culture.
To learn more about ways you can support this effort, please go to the UN page at http://www.un.org/en/events/culturaldiversityday/index.shtml