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Othered

Confessions of a realistic pollyanna

Last night I went to an all candidates meeting for the upcoming Federal Election here in Australia (it's not been called yet, but is due to be called in the next 10 days). The debate was one of the most polite I have ever seen at any political debate I have ever been to. This politeness maybe attributed to the fact that the most polarising character in the electorate, former Primer Minister Tony Abbott, chose not to participate in the forum. Certainly if he had been there, fireworks would have erupted as the policies of the last five years would have been debated. But since he wasn't there, the forum was very genteel.

I was impressed with the four candidates who were there. They each seemed knowledgeable, caring, and passionate. I didn't agree with any of the four candidates fully. Some were not willing to move fast enough on climate change. Some had solutions that were just not feasible (no we couldn't quite get carbon omissions down to 0 in the next few years). Some were unwilling to change their policies in terms of refugees. Some suggested smaller increases in foreign aid then others. Yet overall, I would be comfortable if any one of these candidates won the electorate. All of them seemed quite capable.

There were many wonderful comments said last night that made me quite happy. I won't list them all here. But one comment will stick in my mind for ever. Susan Moylan-Coombs, a broadcaster and mental health educator, is an indigenous woman, is running as an Independent. She said that a major problem is that we have othered people. We forget that we are all human; we look for differences. She said that her culture always welcomed the stranger. Yet newcomers have put her down, have othered her because of her skin colour and her culture. She pointed to many problems in the world and showed how they were all caused by one group being othered by another.

Yes there are differences amongst cultures in the world. Some groups of people have different traditions and cultural practises. I know from my travels that life in Japan is different than life in Colombia. There are different celebrations, different practises at meals, different ways of marking transitions to new stages of of life. However, all of us are concerned for the well being of our families. All of us grieve. All of us laugh. We might live our lives differently, but really we are all the same.

If we are all the same, shouldn't we care for all people equally. The problems of the world don't happen to those people. They happen to us. Those starving to death in South Sudan are not those people. They are us. Those dying in the bombings in Syria are not just Syrian problems. They are Australia's or Canada's problem. The victim of domestic abuse is not just her family's problems, it is all of our problem. We can no longer live in a world of us and the others. Everyone is my brother and sister. Blessings

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