Written by Chenuli Basnayake, Year 9
Winner of the Tutors SA Harmony Day Essay Writing Competition 2019 for the Middle School Category
Cultural harmony is where everyone feels accepted, no matter their race, status, or religion. Throughout the centuries, the human race has been known to acknowledge differences between people and groups. Sometimes, these acknowledgements have led to disputes, divide and war. So, wouldn’t cultural harmony, looking past people’s differences, be the apparent solution to this? Or have we stumbled upon a need to redefine cultural harmony to do just this?
Our differences, during all generations of humankind, have been something that divides us. However, cultural diversity, harmony, and competence are where this all meets in the middle. It is a state in which each and every culture, each with their different beliefs, values and ways of life, are able to come together. Cultural competence and understanding of that ethnicity are most often associated with one another. For example, reconciliation day held in Australia every year, in which education about Aboriginal Australia is undertaken in schools and many other institutions across the country. This shows a collective range of cultures not looking past one another’s differences, but rather seeing those divides, acknowledging them and yet still being able to feel acceptance. When we are immersed in a melting pot of cultures and a plethora of various appearances, opinions and mannerisms, we don’t ignore the different flavours but are more aware of them; more expert when tasting the different flavours. With the right amount of acceptance, not ignorance, this can create a new generation of culturally competent people. Cultural diversity — where society is able to look past the differences instilled in every person and be more inclined not to give up judgement entirely, but rather judge for the correct reasons.
Furthermore, another common misconception people usually have about cultural harmony is the illusion of constant happiness and belonging. However, as we are all human, in reality, this is rarely the case. With different cultures and religions come different beliefs; different opinions on how the world was created, what society should be like, even how we should live our lives. This leads to divergence, which is inevitable. Cultural harmony, though, is a means to have these important conversations, these disagreements. For although we find arguments uncomfortable, this is how we become aware of how other groups of people think and how we grow more and more accepting, no matter how subtle the change. Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table’? Considering this saying, answer me this: what good is it to limit the conversation to small talk? Like facing challenges in our lives is a way to grow our character, these cultural debates are in fact ways to grow our personal acceptance levels and, therefore, strengthen societal tolerance altogether. This does not mean we, as a society, fall into constant disarray of battling cultures, but rather cease to shun these discussions, conduct them and still be able to find the acceptance in our hearts to move forward. The outcomes most worth achieving in life are never easy, and attaining cultural harmony is exceedingly difficult. Cultural competence — where society is able to have small, enlightening debates and use it to strengthen our understanding of belonging.
Or is it acceptance? That brings me to an equally vital topic, thirdly. What does it mean to belong? By definition, it is to be the property or member of a certain group and that is what we have come to think cultural harmony as. Belonging means we are one and the same, we all are a part of a singular group. However, this is not the case in truth, is it? Belonging means pretending we all work, think and act the same way, when in fact we are all very, extremely distinctive. And this constant need for ‘belonging’ is what has scared certain types of people away from others for centuries; it is what has inspired not just fear in our cultures, but a culture of fear. We all go through those times in our life where we feel that we don’t belong, whether it be in our homes, our social circles or even by other cultures. It is this sense of acceptance, more importantly, that allows us to feel that, even if we don’t belong, even if we are different, we will always be recognised as a person, a valuable human being nonetheless.
Cultural harmony — where society is accepting of every one of its members because we are all different and this is the only way we shall truly belong in a world filled with such variables. After all, this harmony is undoubtedly obsolete without competence, diversity and acceptance: the recipe to a better world. All the beautiful shining constellations we see at night are our cultures; cultural harmony is the night sky that connects them all.
The views, information, or opinions expressed in this essay are solely from the author and do not necessarily represent those of Tutors SA and its employees.