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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Originally published on, November 1, 2020

Every language has a word for “stranger”. I have heard that in ancient Greece, the word “barbarian” was used for everyone who was “not like us”, sometimes including even other Greeks. It took some time for all the tribes to get together, and see each other as part of the same family. There were struggles, arguments, wars, intrigues, times of prosperity and times where it must have seemed as though the world was falling apart. But over time, the word “barbarian” came to be used for people who lived farther and father away, and the circle of respect, and even connection, grew.

No matter how much strife I see, I solidly believe that people around the world have gradually opened up to each other. Our openness to see each other as equal has improved. The word racism is very young. In days gone by, it was so ingrained in society that they didn’t even need a word for it. Today, racism is seen by most people as a bad thing. The fashion has changed. Needless to say, we are still very primitive. We still have so much to learn. But I still believe that we have come a long way from where we were before, and I believe that we are learning.

Four score and 164 years ago, a bunch of people from different countries found themselves together in a land they didn’t know. For me, from a certain point of view, the “United States of America” is one of the biggest human experiments in history: So many people, from so many different cultures, all thrown together and doing the same thing that humans always did: trying to survive. Maybe even trying to be happy. But all this is being done together, in a colossal mixing bowl - all colors, all creeds, all languages, all levels of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. People are literally living next door to other people from a completely different background, and the notion of making a big deal out of that is slowly becoming old-fashioned, out-dated, and - more and more clearly - detrimental to our survival.

And through centuries of struggles, arguments, wars, intrigues, times of prosperity and times where it does seem as though the world is falling apart, I believe that we are ultimately here to learn something. And I believe that slowly, sometimes painfully, one step at a time, we are learning.

Photo by Tobi, pexels


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