Humanity, equality and destiny?

Published on October 22, 2010   ·   No Comments


Now that the Delhi Commonwealth Games have come to a close, it is an  opportune time to ponder, not how the Games reflected on India , but  how they reflected on us.

The Games threw an international spotlight on the way we understand,  represent and interact with other cultures. And the way we deal with  these issues on an international stage inevitably reflects the way we  approach culture and cultural differences within our own country.

How do we respond to the diversity, the nuances and complexities of an
ancient but modern nation like India ? Are we one dimensional in our
thinking and approach? Is there a connection between our attitudes
about the Delhi Games and our treatment, say, of our own Indian
Australian community or our Indian international student population?

How do we stack up against the Commonwealth Games motto of humanity,
equality and destiny?

Well – we can reasonably describe humanity as including a right to
dignity. We can also view it as involving the exercise of compassion,
humility, and perception in our relationships with all peoples. It
reminds us that, as a first world country, we don
t know it all –
that there is much to learn and appreciate from the cultures of
others. Humanity
also implies a keen sensitivity to the obvious fact
that we don
t all enjoy the same high standard of living we dont
all enjoy the same standards of economic security, human development
and access to our social and cultural rights.

This is particularly true of the 54 voluntary and diverse members of
the Commonwealth Family, who are large, small, rich, poor or, like
India , in a state of rapid economic transition. In 2009, Commonwealth
membership included 16 of the worlds least developed countries and 19
states in sub-Saharan Africa . Records also show that two-thirds of
worldwide maternal deaths occur in Commonwealth Countries.

As a country that has economically benefitted and profited from the
historic Colonial legacy of the Commonwealth, we should, at the very
least, have a comprehension that we didnt get our gold medal standard
of living by accident, but very much by design. We should be humble to
that very real historical fact when we next think it is okay to start
publicly whinging about the weather, stray dogs, dengue fever and the
state of wash basins in the Athletes Village.

And that brings us to equality. New Zealand television anchor Paul
Henry was publicly and proudly racist when he deliberately and
offensively mispronounced the name of Delhis Chief Minister during an
interview. He has since, rightly resigned. But immediately prior to
the Delhi Games, the western media banged on and on about event
preparedness and Organising Committee crisis talks. Then, over the 10
days of the Games themselves, they continued to commentate about
toilet blockages, poor water quality, gastric complaints, insects and
a lack of reliable transport for athletes.

The sub-text is always the same – India is still backwards.

But the fact is, India is predicted to soon be the second biggest
economy in the world.

It makes you wonder who benefits from continuing to put such a country
and its people down? Whose insecurity is out on display for everyone
to see?

If we look at our recent past, we might just sense a pattern. Recall
the denial by our countrys powerbrokers that violence committed
against Indian international students in Australia had anything to do
with racism. Yet, in denying the existence of racism in our own
country, aren
t we just revealing our own insecurity about our own
position and status in our own changing society.

There can be no equality without respect. The days of the Colonial
Commonwealth are over. The world and its landscape of influence are
changing. The days when those with the fattest wallets got to decide
who would get respect and who would not are over. During the Games,
India said as much when it responded to these petty criticisms.

It is vital to understand this.

Humanity, equality and destiny? As the Commonwealth motto reminds us,
our destiny is a shared destiny of a common humanity of
fraternity. Equality is the foundation for this, it is something that
is not just expected, but is required of us all. Not just when we are
in other people
s countries, but right here within our own diverse
country because one cannot occur without the other. This is perhaps
the greatest lesson we can take away from the experience of the Delhi
Commonwealth Games.

It is important to take note of indicators like the Anholt-GfK Roper
Nation Brands Index, the 2010 edition of which shows that in the eyes
of Indian people, in terms of the worlds most welcoming countries,
Australia has slipped from fifth place in 2008 to 49th place in 2010.
We have also slipped in the eyes of Brazil , China , Italy , Japan and
South Korea . Quite a scorecard!

So, as we sit back and proudly eye our towering medal tally, it pays
for us all to remember that all that glitters isnt gold. Winning is
not an end in itself. It is how you win. How you play the game. As a
nation, we need to play fair and respect the rules on and off the
field. Because the rules of life and the rules of the global community
are far more important and have far greater repercussions.

Graeme Innes is Australias Race and Disability Discrimination

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