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Editorial: Diversity and tolerance

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Did you know that November 16 was the International Day of Tolerance?  To be honest, neither did we but it popped up on a news feed and the timing just seemed right. With all the insular, xenophobic rhetoric being bandied around, we should all take a moment to consider that we occupy a big blue planet that is a relatively small speck in the universe. To create borders and walls against unity just seems to be a myopic view of life and living.
It is interesting how people’s perspectives shape their understanding.  For example, when we hear talk of border walls, whether it be physical, virtual or enforced by a military presence, we only ever hear about the benefits of keeping others out.  However, there is a different perspective and it occurs on the other side of the wall.  Like crossing the threshold of the prison gates, the wall also keeps the group isolated and imprisoned in their small space.  
The push to keep others out and maintain your ‘space’ is born out of intolerance and a healthy dose of ignorance and it is for those types of reasons  that UNESCO’s Member States adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance on the day of its fiftieth anniversary, on November 16, 1995. UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.  
The organisation is at pains to make the point that “tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. It is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance recognises the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.”
As simple as it is, that message is not getting through to people.  More and more, we see the creep of xenophobia, even here in our little bit of extended paradise, the Caribbean.  We are happy with the status quo and do not want anything or anyone to ‘upset the apple cart’.   Many among us see immigration as a bad thing and people who “bang water come here” often remain perpetual outsiders.  
That said, as a Caribbean people, we still display more tolerance and diversity than many other places.  We need to see the positives in that and realise that intolerance around the world has resulted in millions of people being displaced or worse, killed.  
So, although the International Day of Tolerance has passed, it is worth acknowledging and remembering it every day.  Let us, as a community, not give into the divisive ways of intolerance; we already have politics doing a good enough job of dividing us. Rather, let us see the diversity of the world and its people as a wondrous adventure to explore.  There is so much that we never get to see or learn so when the opportunity is presented to us in the form of a visitor or immigrant, let us embrace the differences that is before us.
On the home front, the concept of a one Caribbean people should be a foundation that we stand strong upon.  Political and economic mechanisms, such as CARICOM and the OECS, should not be the means by which we unite and respect one another.  That should come from our hearts.  That should come from who we are, and not the people that politicians tell us we should be.  
Are we being a bit preachy?  Yes.  We admit it. But it is because we see a slide in the levels of tolerance in our world, near and far, and we feel that it is our duty to point it out with the hopes that a few will listen and those few can make a difference.
There is a saying, “Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.”  We cannot find an attribution but we invite you to ponder those wise words and join in the celebration every day.

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