Society and Culture – Living Daily with Diversity and Difference

There are both challenges and opportunities that arise from our commitment in Australia to accepting and embracing the cultural diversity we share.

If we are going to keep moving forward then we need to always be vigilant and together work through solutions of how best to respond when something goes amiss in an appropriate and measured way.

An incident where two teenage sisters allegedly racially abused and assaulted an elderly indigenous man on a bus in Queensland on the Gold Coast on 27th February 2014, which was filmed and went viral on social media, was truly appalling.

Such racially prejudiced rants have no place in Australian society today.

Disgust ran high, especially when the incident was taken up first by the print media and then social media via facebook, twitter and the like.

Finding out the elderly victim was also blind only added to everyone’s trauma over what was a mind-numbing event.

Did these girls really grow up in the Australia that most of us know we asked? The place where everyone has, for over two hundred years, always embraced the attitude of giving everyone a ‘fair-go’ and shown great respect for the elderly.

Such human behaviour can be confounding and begs the questions.

What is the appropriate action – how do we make good use of the emerging science of human nature to solve the problem and surmount the challenge

At what stage of societies development should we be educating and supporting people to foster the kind of self-awareness and behaviour change they pesonally need to embrace if attitudes are to change?

How do we best deal with this situation in particular to gain the best outcome for all?

And, how do we ‘sophisticate our understanding of ourselves’?

Transforming behaviour change must surely be the collective responsibility of everyone in society and education should begin at a young age.

If we all critically engage with emerging developments in self-knowledge we must introduce into the equation a learning process that will help us work out how we respond to such challenges posed by modern society and cultural diversity.

We all have a right to feel secure, and most especially when travelling on the public transport system we all have an investment in.

Just so we have a clear idea about some of the facts attached to our cultural diversity in an occasional address to students graduating from the University of technology in October, 2002, Professor Jock Collins gave many.

He noted ‘Australia was one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world today’.

Today Australia’s identity is developing further from its original base as the home for one of the world’s oldest living cultures.

Daring to imagine and plan for what it might be possible to accomplish in Australia has only been made possible through the significant achievements of our ancestors.

In historical terms it is the stories of Australia’s indigenous people that are told first and should always remain a priority.

Indigenous peoples have been in Australia an estimated between 40,000 and 70,000 years and in themselves are very culturally diverse.

Before British settlement there were over 200 Aboriginal languages and 400 Aboriginal dialects as a whole.

Professor Collins also observed

‘Australia today has more first generation immigrants than any other western country with the exception of Luxembourg (a small state in Europe) and Israel (who only take Jewish immigrants).

One in five Australians by the year 2002 had been born in another country, while over half of those living at presenting in our main cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide were first or second-generation immigrants

Sydney truly is a world in one city.

At the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games for nearly every national team that marched around the Olympic Stadium there was a community of immigrants living in Sydney to support them.

This had not happened before in Olympic history, and only served to highlight Australia’s cultural diversity’.

So was what happened in that bus an isolated incident that needs to be swiftly dealt with to the full extent of the law?

Or is it a sign that unless we are constantly vigilant and continue to work towards transforming behaviour change all of the time that all the good that has been achieved so far will be threatened?

Let’s all hope this is not the case.

While it has had a lot of instant attention to bring it all to our notice, we must step back now and let the law services we employ bring about an outcome that will see the young women and the elderly blind man victim both receive the counselling services they need to not only aid their future well being, but also societies as a whole. Throwing people into prison is not good enough any more.

According to a paper distributed by the RSA at London to its ‘Fellows’, ‘many of the ‘new’ insights into human nature that are currently in vogue are not actually new.

What is new and significant is their intellectual provenance.

Well over two thousand years ago ancient philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) understood that we are creatures of habit, while eighteenth century philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) grasped ‘that reason was infused with emotion, and that there appeared to be no discrete source of agency in our psyches’.

It brings home the point that ‘we do seem to be going through an important cultural learning process’ aided by the fact that millions of people now have access to education and information through technology via the world wide web.

Breaking through the confusion of information overload, Australians today need to employ reason, education, logic, technology and science to bring better solutions to the table, because this is not only just our own small patch, which is important, but also about the future of our world.

Psychiatrist, doctor, writer and former Oxford literary scholar Ian McGilchrist suggests, it is not merely the rise of Neuroscience but the rising interest in it that we need to harness.

He is interested in the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains.

The aim is to move debate away from the threatening idea of ‘science as authority’, justifying moral judgements, medical interventions and policy positions to seek a better solution.

Perhaps a period of community service working nights to help those less fortunate than they are might go a long way in helping the young women involved to transform their own behaviour change beyond expectations.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

Ref: Transforming-Behaviour-Change-Beyond-Nudge-and-Neuromania

Ref: Occasional Address Professor Jock Collins BEC (Hons) MEC (Syd) PHD (Wgong), University of Technology, Sydney

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