What happened to mutual respect?

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There has been a lot of talk about mutual respect and how it can be the cornerstone in our efforts to build a harmonious society.

I can testify to that from personal experience. Growing up Oshikulufitu village, my friends and I conversed in Oshimbaanhu, but it did not, in any way, diminish our identities.

We knew each other’s families and mingled cordially, with genuine respect, despite, perhaps at the time, not being consciously aware of it. These values have stayed with us, despite it having been a few years since we were all brought up in such an environment.

Conditions, however, have changed. We can observe the difference in our society’s psyche now, in terms of how such values, which promote mutual respect are nurtured, as compared with those years when we were the younger.

By right, current technological advancements in communication and social interactions should have given the new generation an advantage to be better than we were, but that is not the case. Where did we go wrong as a society?

Firstly, our guardians talked less than we do when it came to topics such as being patriotic, about religion or even ethnicity, politics and business. But their actions undoubtedly demonstrate they understood the meaning of those words much better than us.

In contrast, we talk more now and constantly about all those things, compared with our parents’ time. We can also do it in varied forms made possible by today’s technology. But our actions show that we still do not understand the true value of acceptance in achieving and maintaining harmony.

Our thoughts and sensitivities towards each other are wanting, and not based on genuine universal good values. We tend to talk about each’s respective race and religion, in terms of which is superior.

Instead of just talking, we should now practise it more. Some years ago, we didn’t need slogans on T-shirts or billboards to remind us who we are as citizens of this nation. It was in our everyday interactions and actions that we could sow the seeds of harmony and not just through repetition of slogans or jingles.

Secondly, in today’s world, information can be accessed from anywhere, just by the touch on a display screen. Thus, logically, the new generation is exposed to different cultures and religions, much more than could be expected from the same demographic some years ago.

Ironically, instead of opening their minds to further discovery and better appreciation, they tend to look for faults and weaknesses in others.

We must train society to not just become seekers of information, but to make the effort to understand the differences and diversity in our society and be proud of these, rather than making them an excuse to pitch hatred against each other.

Desiderius Amutenya, Oshikulufitu

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