Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve been able to see society’s attitude change towards homosexuals.
When I was young, to call someone “gay” or a “homo” was a common insult. Homosexuals were often looked at with distaste. At worst, they were considered despicable or treated like perverse outcasts. A homosexual on a TV show was a novelty.
Today there is still some prejudice against homosexuals, such as unequal rights to marry in Australia. But by & large, homosexuals are considered normal. You wouldn’t think twice if you discovered someone was gay. And if you referred to it in a derogatory manner, you would be considered a fool & a bigot.
How did we go from intolerance & hatred to acceptance & care?
In my opinion, it was largely by getting to know them.
The more you talk to someone, the more you recognise them as a person rather than as an issue to oppose.
When you talk to someone, you realise they have passions, struggles, quirks & hopes. The same as you.
They may be different to you in religion, sexuality, gender orientation or political preference, but you can still see yourself in them and identify with them.
They aren’t “them” any longer. These are people who are your friends, perhaps even relatives.
What’s more is that conversation builds understanding. This is beyond merely tolerating someone different to you. It’s about accepting them as equals.
One interaction at a time, conversation brings revolution.
And not only is conversation good for acceptance of diversity, diversity is good for stimulating conversation.
(Note: I’ve used the example of society’s attitude to homosexuals in this piece. While there has been a dramatic change in society’s views toward homosexuality in the last few decades, I would like to note that many brave souls started that road to acceptance years earlier, and we are seeing the fruits of it now. There are many other examples I could have used, such as racial segregation all over the world both past & present, or transgender people now. )
If you aren’t listening, the conversation doesn’t evolve. It’s just two people saying things they each already know at each other.
Some things are good for us to hear, even if they are things we already know.
Martin Pistorius was diagnosed as being brain dead. Yet he was conscious, alert, and could see & hear everything that was happening around him. No one realised for 11 years.