Over the years I have worked with clients in more than 50 countries. They encompass a diverse range of cultures and ethnicities throughout Asia, the Middle East, North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Oceania and, several parts of Africa. It has been the most rewarding aspect of my life as I have learned many things beyond the cultural and ethnic environment into which I was born. It troubles me to see growing nationalistic rhetoric in an increasing number of countries and a growing intolerance of, and hatred towards, people who are ‘different’. They are often made scapegoats for everything that is wrong in a country - and yet the majority of evidence indicates that ethnic and cultural diversity is beneficial and enriching.
An ugly side of nationalism
In 2014, journalist Peter O’Conner wrote a brilliant article titled ‘No Voice of Reason’ in Newsday, a national newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago, relevant to this theme. When we look at what is happening in Poland, Hungary, the UK, the USA, Australia and a number of other countries today, this extract resonates.
“Our world is being overwhelmed by crisis after crisis. Wars, disease, terrorism, starvation and natural disasters are sweeping the planet. But all of these Dread Horsemen apparently mean nothing to us here in Sweet TT as we continue to bring our own special forms of calumny down upon ourselves.
Without apparent reference to anything going on in the world beyond our shores, we are blissfully creating our own destruction in a society which should be an example to the world outside on how to live together and to manage our affairs. But we are totally absorbed in doing everything to ensure our collective failure and downfall. And we are doing this with an artificial and disgusting bravado, hurling insults and threats from every source in every direction. And those who cannot shout to add to the din are cheering on the antagonists, mostly through the sheltered havens of social media.
There is a growing ugliness in everything we do. Derision and scorn are poured upon every comment made. And this is not partisan in any way, it is all encompassing— this pouring of scorn upon politicians of every ilk, upon the business sector, upon the media, and upon everyone and everything. We may well argue that most, maybe all of the criticism is justified. And that may well be. But whose criticism can be considered as justified? And who decides what is fair, what is justified and what may be constructive criticism?
But one thing is common among all these derisive critics, notwithstanding their cause or their connections. Indeed, many do not have a cause. They spend their time scanning the news looking for misstatements, revelations of corruption and “bloopers” by people in the news. Upon discovering anything which may be juicy enough, threads with scores of derisive comments are spread, and lots of people who will never bestir themselves to confirm or deny or to take action away from their keyboards, suddenly become authorities on the morality of everyone.”
We are seeing an increasing amount of nationalistic rhetoric, hate and intolerance, and ‘fake news’ being spread throughout social media. As O’Connor wrote, ‘there is a growing ugliness in everything we do’. One only has to read some of the abusive and ugly comment strings on social media. This is leading to greater divisions in society (e.g. Brexit in the UK and immigration in Hungary). It’s leading to trade wars and the increasing imposition of tariffs and sanctions. Walls are being built – both mental and physical. The forces behind this believe by doing what they are doing, their country will ‘become great again’. History shows quite the opposite usually happens. Every Board of Directors, and business leader, needs to ensure that they are not part of this growing trend as, medium- to long-term, it is very unlikely to be good for business!