The Hidden Hindrance to Globalization

We’ve spent a very long time in this country focusing on being politically correct, but in the wake of this presidential election, it’s clear that doesn’t work anymore.

Donald trump has had no qualms expressing provocative ideas. Many Americans label race, religion, gender and money as untouchable topics of conversation. People say that they don’t see color. Others claim they’re not sexist and homosexuality doesn’t make them uncomfortable. They say that gender or ethnicity only negatively affect those who choose to behave in ways that can be construed as off-putting to the norm. But who sets the norm?

If everyone is different, but we don’t discuss it, how do children find their baseline, their boundaries, so they can begin to define a comfort zone and then stretch it? How do adults learn to empathize in environments that challenge their fundamental belief system?

Not acknowledging diversity only sets a social parameter based a majority norm.

It’s understandable to be scared or angry in the face of something foreign. At times, diversity is so intense it forces one to re-evaluate one’s own socialization process and identity.

Many people who were born outside the norm accept the notion that it takes a certain amount of patience to exist in a space not designed for your thinking or communication style. They learn to flex and moderate themselves “in order to be less off-putting.”

Our world is becoming increasingly globalized. A single office building can house people from all parts of the world and walks of life. Who sets the norms? Does it happen on a national level? A local level? Or does it happen on a per-institution basis? What system weighs the proclivity and intensity of various demographic groups to decide whose behavior is labeled normal?

Multiculture, urban centers have become the nexus for most economic activity. Stable, small towns are becoming obsolete. People move around constantly, working and living in more cities, more companies and more roles than ever before. Are they expected to relearn the preferred norms and behaviors in each place they exist? Is it even worth it to assimilate? Or is it easier to self-segregate? Walk into your average school or office at the lunch hour and it’s like you walked onto the cafeteria scene of Mean Girls. Everyone is seated with their appropriate group and living according to the appropriate group norms.

I’ve moved 15 times, lived on 4 continents and experienced an array of socioeconomic lifestyles. Though I have not changed dramatically, my environment has.

My demographics are consistent; my race and my gender have not changed. Yet in each environment I was expected to behave and interpret situations in drastically different ways.

Even if you never move and your life is reasonably consistent, your age, your job, your industry, your seniority level, your interests and/or your personality will change at some point. Each environment will have its own rules and regulations.

A natural development in one’s life will throw any individual into a utterly foreign community.

How will these foreign and unwelcoming environments affect one’s mental health, sense of fulfillment and desire to achieve? Therefore people form micro-communities, banding together and creating their own rules and systems.

This process is undeniable in any “international community”, like a study abroad group. Students are drawn toward people from countries with similar values and phenotypes. Latin cultures, Northern Europeans, East Asians, the English speaking countries, and other groups all self-segregate abroad. While abroad, I frequently asked myself, “Why move to a foreign country, if you’re just going to keep hanging out with Americans?”

To a certain extent, this is a natural part of human psychology and healthy part of community development, but do these microcommunities help us avoid the process of change? Will humanity function as an assortment or interconnected segregated communities?

Can we ever have a truly collaborative and inclusive environment? Is fear of and discomfort with the unknown worth the loss of collaborative synergy and international economic globalization?

We are living in a post-industrial knowledge economy. Ideas and information are the new currency. Yet we’re still uncomfortable talking about our boundaries, biases and values. It takes an honest and open space to foster creativity, empathy, effective collaboration and innovation.

Terms like professional distance and political correctness only serve as excuses to fraudulently justify staying within one’s comfort zone.

This is not to say be rude. But be kind, authentic and seek to understand before judging. This isn’t about going to self-help seminars or remembering One Love.

We won’t find individual or immediate peace through breaking down boundaries. It’s uncomfortable, it’s intimidating and at times demoralizing. But “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”.