The Culture Of Political Difference: Learning To Coexist Within Our Differences


Difference is a natural part of human nature but as a result of those differences, we live with a multiplicity of opinions whether on a personal or a collective level. With this innate diversity, the plurality of opinions leads sometimes to disagreement, and if not managed wisely, may turn into conflict and crises.

There are societies that manage these differences well and in fact employ them in a way that both serves the interests of society and enriches the cultural experience of the individual. The UAE prides itself to being home to around 200 nationalities of all faiths, reaping the benefits of this diversity and cultural richness.

Many societies have not been able to manage these differences and have become hostage to any slight difference in opinions, positions, or interests, which thus turns into crisis and conflict breeding enemies from one another. This is a destabilising factor which can be easily overcome if we learn to appreciate our diverse viewpoints and breed healthy forms of dialogue.

The political elites in the Arab world are not immune to this, as we have seen, not always succeeding to manage the plethora of differences inherent to the region, failing to see this diversity is a characteristic which makes the region so beautifully rich.

Political action cannot be achieved through consensus on a continuous basis. Rather, political positions, by their nature, are based on the plurality of opinions. Just like in a family, in the same house, you find that brothers and sisters have different opinions on the same political issue.

This applies to Arab political leaders and officials, as it is not possible for Arabs to agree on one position on every political issue. Therefore, creating an open culture of dialogue embracing differences in the Arab world becomes a necessity to serve joint Arab action and preserve the national interests of all Arabs, so that we coexist with what we disagree on for the benefit of what is agreed upon between us.

Likewise, we should not turn a dispute at the political level into a dispute between people that turns into conflicts that cannot be managed or controlled, especially in our time, when social media plays a major role in influencing people, inflaming the feelings of the masses, and determining their positions and political orientations. The region is tired of conflict and we owe our youth the chance of a better future, one which offers them stability, safety, and prosperity.

Even the smallest dispute can get out of control and lead to massive destabilization, the formation of threats to national security, and tampering with the agreed-upon societal constants.

And we must learn that the crises of the past are part of a history that has gone, so we should not live through those crises and mortgage the future of our countries to crises that are outdated. Yes,

we can learn from history, but not perpetuate it, as what we disagree on today may be a reason for our agreement tomorrow.

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