Imagine the world as one

Imagine the world as one

The peripatetic nature of a journalist's life allows me to see the world in a way that I would never have imagined earlier. Each journey is different, even if it's in the same city, as there are always new things to learn, see and appreciate.

One of the things I'm fondest of when travelling is meeting new people. Thankfully, I'm a naturally outgoing and convivial person, so starting a conversation or making new friends is always a delight to me.

In the many interactions I have had in many places with people from different backgrounds, races, cultures and gender identities, it has always struck me how marvellously unique each human is, but how, fundamentally, we are all the same. We are all ordinary human beings. We originate from the Earth. We are born under the same sun. We breathe the same air. We share the same sky. And we will soon return to the Earth when it's our time.

If everyone keeps this basic concept close to their hearts and uses it as the foundation for their thoughts and actions, people will suffer less and there will be more love, compassion, altruism and harmony in this world.

We have been on a long journey to eradicate racism and discrimination, to promote equality and human rights and to make this world a better place for all. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights are the product of a long struggle by people who believe in equality. As the Father of Liberalism, John Locke, once said: "All mankind … being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."

Yet, racism and discrimination still exist, causing various degrees of physical and mental damage to those deemed to be "different" from "us".

Just ask Sukhdeep Singh, a 23-year-old Sikh who grew up in Hong Kong and recently decided to speak up in hopes of changing attitudes toward minorities. An imposing six-footer in a turban, Singh is a final-year medical student accustomed to getting strange stares from patients. But once he starts speaking to them in fluent Cantonese, their faces light up with contentment. When they hear him, they know he is one of "us", and they see this soon-to-be doctor as less foreign.

Last Friday was International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, but around the world, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community is still suffering from violence, discrimination, harassment and hate speech on a daily basis.

In China, restrictions on LGBT-related content have become more stringent. Censors have shut down social media forums, news media have curbed coverage of gay issues, live performance and movies with LGBT-related content are curtailed. Anything with a rainbow-theme design risks being removed.

In other parts of the world, we have seen some progress. Following the horrific live-streamed mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand which killed 50 worshippers, tech leaders such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have signed a new pledge to work harder to combat the threat of violent extremism.

Ignorance is the root cause of all the conflicts, commotion and hatred in the world today. Ignorance manifests as prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping and racism. Most of the time, we have preconceived notions about people, places and things. These notions stem from fear -- the fear of difference.

The key to equality is to accept others for their differences and to show respect to all. We must all know our rights to live free from de-humanisation, ill-treatment, bullying and hate crimes.

People inflict pain on others, from hate speech to extreme forms of violence, in pursuit of their own satisfaction and happiness, to show that they are superior, better and stronger. However, true happiness will not result from these actions.

Real happiness can only be achieved through peace, love and compassion, through generosity and through the elimination of anger, selfishness and greed. Possessing wealth and material goods doesn't lead to happiness, but giving them away actually does.

I'm a dreamer and I'd like to end this piece by encouraging everyone to listen again to Imagine by John Lennon, and really pay attention to his beautifully expressed lyrics. Similar to Lennon, I know I'm not the only dreamer, and I hope you all will join me in hopes that one day the world will be united as one.

Tanyatorn Tongwaranan

Asia Focus Writer

Asia Focus Writer

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