In short: because it defines us. Our cultural history and values are an important part of who we are. There are other components in our identity, of course. We have families, gender, political opinions and other characteristics that make us who we are. But in times of conflict, the differences between the rivals become dominant as defining traits, as part of an instinctive behavior. This reaction only becomes enhanced by socialization agents like education, public opinion, and the media. All of them present our minds with readily-packaged stereotypes by which to define others as strange, zealous people resisting us for no good reason. After all, we believe, we’re right and they’re wrong.
This reaction occurs in every conflict, violent or not. Opponents become demons, not to be understood. Yet understanding is precisely what is required—of their pride, of their tradition, of their devoted and even holy intentions. The insult and rage they feel is because we stand in their way of doing what they think is right, and have been doing, believed in, defined themselves by, for generations. We don’t have to necessarily agree with them, but we have to understand how similar we are in our feelings, and how different we are in our values and dreams.
The first step towards creating a common vision of the future is to acknowledge that this complex multicultural human reality is reflected in our dreams. Our views –whoever we are– of what is right or wrong needs to be set aside, in order to take a good look at other opinions instead of simply judging them. We can not always agree with each other, because our beliefs clash and contradict. But we can relate to each other’s feelings – of hope, responsibility, even urgency and fear. We can – and should – expose the huge gap dividing us, not to make it disappear, or diminish our differences, but to focus our disagreements on the concepts and ideals, instead of creating demons out of cultures different from our own.
The world is torn between our dreams but the future will not look like any of them. If we’re careful, and lucky, it won’t look like our nightmares either. It is a good thing that no culture is powerful enough to force itself on the rest of the world – the future can be better and more diverse than anything the present has to offer. With time, exposed to new ideas, people within every single culture will become more and more different from one another. In time, as pluralism grows within each culture, they will start to overlap.
The future will see a slow integration process between cultures, based on new ideas that will emerge with time. It is very hard for us to foresee this future because we are blinded by our present realities, by the restrictions of our moral structures, by our ties to our past through history and through languages. We can neither see through the eyes nor feel through the hearts of the future people - they will have different values and perspectives on things.