News & Notes 679:Cross-Cultural Restorative Dialogue – Report
Cross-Cultural Restorative Dialogue – Report
We'd like to share with you some extracts from our recent Report for the Cross-Cultural Restorative Dialogue (where 55 Aurovilians attended a 3-day Dialogue in September).
The complete report includes a fuller summary and understanding of our journey so far, our budget, the statistics from our feedback forms, and our next steps. For the complete report, see attachments on Auronet post: [...], or check out Facebook: Restorative Auroville.
L'aura, Janet, Shanti, Helene and Kati
We wanted to host a larger community dialogue, one that might be potentially risky but that would hopefully bring us closer to living our Auroville ideal of “human unity.” We chose to focus on our cross-cultural relations, especially between Aurovilians originating from the locality and other Aurovilians originating from further away, as in our experience and understanding, this is where one of the largest cultural gaps exists, and therefore easily leads to misunderstanding and loss of trust in one another.
For the most part, the general community feedback and response was positive. Many people said they were so happy that this was happening and that it was long overdue. Others expressed how courageous they thought we were, walking into something quite unknown and certainly delicate. And interestingly, we also got feedback from some that there was no gap, and that we were looking to create trouble where none existed!
- Are you pleased that this “Restorative Dialogue across cultures” took place?
- Yes: 91.5%
- No: 0%
- I don't know: 0%
- Didn't specify: 8.5%
Now, at the end of our 3-day Dialogue (and a few additional follow-up days), it is quite clear to us that we do indeed have a cultural gap, and that it shows up in many aspects of Auroville life. It is not a comfortable exploration, neither as a personal inquiry nor as a group process, yet it has been (and continues to be) meaningful and introspective for many of us. We each experience this gap slightly differently, as it has several layers of subtle nuances. As a group, our focus was more on the dialogue and hearing each other than on coming up with a unanimous definition or explanation for why and how this gap came to be. And it is touching to see how the group is inspired to engage with it further, to explore the topic in more depth and to see if we might find ways of bridging this gap in Auroville, and to understand how much of it is work to be done on a personal level and how much requires a more systemic shift (in which case, we would need to define what that shift is).
We saw that much of the gap comes from misunderstanding “the other culture,” and making assumptions about why they do things the way they do, and generalizing their behaviour – thus creating unfavourable labels to describe or refer to “the other group,” and reinforcing a sense of “us versus them.” And yet, we saw that if we connect on an individual level, we are able to have understanding and care for each other’s perspectives and choices.
The following are some of the ways in which the gap showed up. These statements are clearly generalizations, assumptions, and even plain judgements, and yet the sentiment is a part of our community reality, and we imagine even perceived as true to some in the larger collective.
- Are arrogant and patronizing, and treat Tamils (from the locality) as less worthy (and then are even unconscious about it!)
- Talk about “human unity,” yet subtly (and not so subtly!) imply that the Tamils need to adapt to the Western way of doing things.
Tamils (from the locality)…
- Do not (care to) attend meetings and/or take part in Auroville’s development
- Do not really understand what Auroville is about
It was interesting also to see that ultimately our differences (and behind that, our shared humanity) are not cultural – that is, that we have differences and challenges with human beings as individuals, independent of whether we have the same culture or not. So although superficially we may have cultural differences and therefore challenges, in reality, this is not the core of our problem, but only an excuse to not engage with a more open heart and open mind.
It is quite clear that there is much work to be done to grow in our personal and collective awareness, and to drop our prejudices, heal our rifts, and see one another as human beings. And it was inspiring – as our Dialogue progressed, more and more of our participants committed to stop labelling others by their group identity, and instead to start engaging individual-to-individual, where a more genuine human connection can be felt more tangibly.