The moment one steps outside their comfort zone, you immediately begin to learn about yourself. It is not for everyone, nor does everyone feel a pressing need for this kind of departure. One man’s plough is another’s thoroughfare. One of my favorite books of all-time, Narcissus and Goldmund (Herman Hesse), beautifully illustrates this sentiment. Simply put, how we live and experience this world is dramatically diverse.
As we progress relentlessly towards a more globalized planet, I often reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. And there have been many – but one, a very academic one, surprisingly stands-out. It is the precept of Cultural Relativism, brought to my attention during law-school by Professor Ruti Teitel, a recognized authority within the international and comparative law ecosystem.
By its very definition, cultural relativism clashes with the ideology of being a global citizen. And it does so in the most wholesome and meaningful way. It recognizes the differences amongst people and institutions alike. It draws our attention to the significance of idiosyncrasies, and to the most extreme degree demands protection of our most sacred fabric.
Cultural relativism resonated with me at an early-stage. It reminded me of a Tibetan nomad I had befriended in Sichuan who was passionate about his mother-tongue. It encapsulated the range of expressions, customs, and even fragrances of places I had been. The essence of this academic categorization is still with me today, as we forge ahead into an era where being a global citizen seems like the right thing to be – it implies a sense of togetherness, awareness of space we inhabit, and a worldly consciousness that we are simply in this together as human beings.
Still, as we break down unnecessary borders and barriers to living freely, we must all take a moment - a long moment - to think about the significance of culture and tradition.
Even in a free world, permanence must have its place.
David is a passionate advocate for the freedom of movement, a father of two, husband of one, and a licensed immigration lawyer.
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