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Tolerance and Diversity

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Tolerance and Diversity

Janne Susi In today’s world, the coexistence of different cultures is one of the most vital developments. Furthermore, the principles of tolerance and peaceful coexistence of different nations have often been underlined by the representatives of the European Union. The same ideas have lately been spreading in the Baltic countries. So, what are the main dangers to the tolerance and friendly coexistence in these countries?
There are several phenomena which counteract the successful coexistence and integration of people from different cultural backgrounds. First and foremost, both coexistence and integration require a high level of tolerance from all those involved. Here, the major obstacle is often xenophobia which may be caused by a wide range of factors.
As a rule, xenophobia occurs in big, mostly mono-cultural societies, where strangers are kept at a distance just because they have not been seen around before. On the other hand, xenophobia can result from the hyper-liberal immigration policy in some modern countries. For example France and Sweden which have warmly welcomed a huge amount of immigrants form Asia and Africa during the recent decades. However, instead of striving to integrate with the local population by learning their language and getting to know their culture, they form their own closed community which do not communicate with the indigenous population. What is more, they keep on following the laws of their native land, often ignoring the legislation of their new homeland.
Moreover, it is the part of the population who is not interested in their own roots and who do not excel at work, who tends to emigrate the most. Therefore, the immigrants from the developing countries have become a major problem in many European states. Furthermore, xenophobia has started to spread in the areas as a reaction to the problems caused by the immigrants.
The third reason for the development of xenophobia in certain small countries is their strategically significant geographical location that might be of interest for the big world states. As a rule, the big ones are interested in gaining more power in the world. Likewise, the three Baltic countries are situated in the area which has been frequented by hostile conquerors in several hundreds of years. During the past centuries the indigenous nations of the Baltic States have developed deep distrust against their neighbours no matter how well-intentioned they try to appear. As we know, quite a few empires have used Messianism as a weapon to serve their own interests.
As a rule, the powerful states make an effort to convince the conquered states of the fact that they actually provide support to the little ones who would not be able to survive without them. In case one of these small countries succeeds in gaining independence, the fear of possible occupation in future still remains. As for the problems of integration of the Russian community in the Republic of Estonia, it is very likely that the xenophobia of the local population has brought about the development of the closed Russian community.
Clearly, it is a most paradoxical situation: on the one hand, xenophobia has helped us to preserve our culture and nation. On the other hand, xenophobia is by far not compatible with the contemporary ideas of a modern society.
Unfortunately, the phobias and prejudices that have developed during the past centuries are hard to get over. What would be the possible ways of getting rid of the phobias and intolerance that we suffer from? In my opinion, the key to success lies in education. Compared to the old times, we are now able to use an extremely powerful information search and exchange systems. Thanks to the latest achievements of technology and the wide spread of the Internet we have got a wonderful possibility to google for data. By acquiring a thorough knowledge of the cultural background of the people around us we will definitely be able to understand the newcomers much better and get over the prejudices we have developed. The more we know about each other, the better chance we will have to overcome the xenophobia and intolerance. Therefore, only through well-rounded education we are able to learn to respect and appreciate each other’s cultures and start a happy and peaceful life together.

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