A dialogue of civilisations

Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Shia Muslim scolar, called in a time were the Clash of Civilisation was popular for a Dialogue of Civilisation. I believe it to be a powerful one, and fitting today’s world. Today we have easy access to technology that allows us to inform and understand, instead of clashing with each other. 

There was a time when we would really be like prisoners to own culture, society, and the media we were ‘subject’ to. Having access to a limited number of newspapers, listening to a few radio programs, watching specific tv shows, and reading a selected genres of books would truly shape our minds in a less diverse way.

But today the situation is different. We have access to almost  any show, program, newspaper, and book through the Internet. And if we were subject to the agenda of a specific news corporation, we have today many other alternatives. In today’s world, each user can produce any content in any known format and put in on the Internet. This was not even possible a few years ago. And it is going to be better in the future.

Todays connectivity allows us not only to inform ourselves, but also to understand. Not sure if somebody else has said the same thing before, but I always like to following.

In todays world, there is a lot of connectivity, but not necessarily much communication.

Real communication starts we we truly begin to understand each other. And this normally doesn’t happen with one or two conversations we have. It is likely to happen when we have a continues dialogue. It happens when we inform, critically think about, and interact with ideas, concepts, and principles.

Of course, there are going to be specific rules that we need to follow. I’m very found of Edward De Bono’s book How To Have A Beautiful Mind, and have discussed some of it my writings, because I think what he talks about allows us really navigate the road of understanding peacefully and with the maximum benefit, even if we disagree.

I am also found of a video course by Dr. John Ullmen, Communication Fundamentals, that I truly believe is almost mandatory not only in a business context, but also in everyday life. Especially the intent-impact gap is very powerful concept that alone has the potential to change the way we see our social world.

I also think that it is very important to initiate the process of creating understanding by talking about our experiences, and not waiting for others to ask. I think one of the characteristics of intolerance is the refusal to understand. This refusal is sometimes deliberate, and sometimes not. However in both cases, those who are intolerant won’t inform themselves. But initiating the process of understanding and striving to make ourselves understandable to others, we achieve at least 4 goals:

  • Those who agree with us develop new or better understanding.
  • Those who are neutral are given a chance to agree, or to understand us.
  • Those who disagree with us are given a chance to change their mind or at least to understand us.
  • Those who are intolerant by choice and spread misconceptions and negative ideas about us are prevented from exploiting the ignorance of the public about us.

I like the initiative taken for example by some Muslim women to talk about the reasons why they wear the Hijab, in a time where there is so much misunderstanding and speculations about it. Or this documentary, to discuss the fact that Hijab is not a Mulsim ‘thing’.  One person or small group can make a huge difference through a set of videos that are watched tens of thousands of times. And again, agreement is not necessarily the goal, but understanding.

So why fight about the controversial issues in our world? Why clash if we can talk? Why interpreting, or worse, shaping the discourse in our world as a conflict, when today we are empowered, more than ever, to have peace through mutual understanding? Again, and again, I find the idea of Clash of Civilisations worrisome. My worries are not necessarily about its popularity, but about its practice, where there are many powerful people practicing it without us necessarily being much aware of it.


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