How important is the power of difference in today’s society? A perspective from Slovakia

From the holocaust to struggles of Black Americans to gain equal rights under the law in the USA, the 20th century showed us the devastating effects of not wanting to accept the differences that make us who we are. Have we learnt anything from these historical events or are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again? Why are we still so skeptical of difference?

Everyone on this planet is remarkable in a unique way. There are usually two reactions to being different: either a wellspring of uncertainty and self-consciousness or immense pride. For those threatened by the idea of difference, ease of mind can be found in conformity. Not knowing often leads to fear, fear leads to anger which begs for control. When this perceived fear and want to control is taken to an extreme level, it becomes a risky path towards radicalism and misjudgment of the very marvel of difference itself. With far-right neo-Nazi political parties emerging in Slovakia that champion the upkeeping of conservative and traditional values while rejecting anything which could challenge them, the values of difference and diversity are seemingly at threat. It might be the challenging nature of that threat that for many solidifies the magnitude that difference has on today’s Slovak society. At African-Slovak Union, we look into why we all should advocate for diversity in our communities and what happens if we do not.

Whether you realize it or not, we have for years witnessed what an enriching impact difference can have on our lives. In little ways, difference is everywhere and everyone has benefited from it in some way – think something like that new Italian pasta recipe you tried last week or the Spanish language class you signed up for, that movie with The Rock you enjoyed or the exotic Maldives you visited last summer. From the kitchen through pop culture to business, different cultures, places and minds have made profound impacts worth celebrating.

Discussions about diversity are not limited to only gender, race or ethnicity questions. Difference means different contributions to society, different range of skills, personalities, outlooks, viewpoints and perspectives which all help us become more well-rounded and successful beings. In the words of American novelist Harper Lee: ‘Everybody’s gotta learn. Nobody is born knowing.’

The more we try to reinforce sameness and collective identity and control difference, the sadder present and future we build for ourselves. All the good things about difference such as progress, tolerance and innovation will suffer as an outcome.

Join Zuzana from African-Slovak Union for a discussion with Mohammed Mamdouh, a self-made Egyptian entrepreneur, software engineer and an activist living in Slovakia, as they explore how releasing the powerhouse of diversity can lead to beneficial results, how the Slovak society perceives difference, whether it is opened to it, or if being different equals to being foreign. Join the 6th ASU Talk about The Power of Difference in a Society on March 28, 2021.