Human evolution took place in a most scattered manner, in time and place. Our world is replete with varied societies, each with its own guidelines, philosophies, conventions, customs, traditions, and institutions. Each group, each society, each culture proclaims its individuality, its differences, its distinctiveness, and concocts devices, legal or otherwise, to ensure they will last forever. Therein lie the seeds of intolerance. Mankind must come to realise that each individual is not a limited member of some isolated and narrowly defined group but rather a member of the people of the planet earth.
The customs and traditions of our varied cultures, religions and racial groups evolved millenniums ago, in closed, isolated and distant geographic areas on the planet. Each isolated group responded in its own way to the mystical worldly wonders of their environment. Our current knowledge of the universe and its workings is neither perfect nor complete but it is more than adequate to provide a willing mankind with an escape from the intolerance and barbarism that has poisoned and continues to poison our social behaviour. Traditional values are the cause of much conflict when different groups come into each other’s living space.
The conflicts that arise out of cultural differences are a consequence of each group’s erroneous belief about their culture and the nature of culture. Each group holds its customs and traditions as inviolable, and any request made on the adherence is deemed an affront and becomes an excuse for punishment. One of the most destructive types of prejudice is based on someones race or cultural group.
Take the Holocaust for example. Because of Hitlers prejudice, six million Jews were systematically and efficiently slaughtered for no other reason than that they were Jews. Each society had its own way and means of doing things.Values may be instilled in us that others may be less hardworking or less efficient, and this brings about economic and job discrimination. A businessman may refuse to do business on equal terms with members of a disfavoured group.
Or, he may refuse employment to workers of another race, just because he feels he should support his own. The Chinese have been known for their favouritism towards boys, the ones who carry on the family name. When China implemented the law that each couple could only have one child, most wanted to have a boy, and that led to the killing of many baby girls.
At home, it is the girls who do the household chores, with the stereotyped thinking that a womans place is in the house. In the workforce, women are paid less than men. Employers doubt their capabilities and commitment, base on the misconception that women are not as intelligent, inferior and belong at home. Religion is the most influential on our value systems, and is therefore a very sensitive issue. There is no intrinsic harm in upholding and living in accordance with a particular set of religious beliefs.
However, these beliefs should not preach or foster malevolence towards others.Yet there will be, to a certain extent, a sense of superiority of one religion in view of another. This is because we all think that that religion we believe in is the right one. We feel that the others are following a wrong path. We then tend to separate ourselves from them. We are still living in a world where the earth is flat, figuratively speaking.
We lack the courage and the willingness to realign our ancient customs, traditions and religious teaching with the world today, where there is increased globalisation. And because of our traditional values, we are unconsciously prejudiced against other groups and societies.