Children lack something called a theory of mind, the ability to think outside of yourself and to imagine what another must be feeling. A good example of this would be a child gifting a doll to their parents. If the doll makes me happy it must make them happy as well.
Countries, I believe, are like this too. Maybe it is because a collective has such a difficult time moving away from a group-centered focus. Put 200 selfish people together and you get a 200 people strong, selfish group. We are individuals and we are also members of community; broken members in broken communities. It makes sense that moving past our needs/wants/desires would prove even more difficult when multiplied by a couple million, and then given a government to deal with those problems.
But, what, pray tell, am I getting at? What’s the point?
Well, after the past two months of travelling extensively, visiting diverse countries, I’ve noticed something. We all think we’ve got it the worst. Even if we’re a fully developed democratic nation with an excellent subway system and semi-stable economy. There are always the oppressed, the down trodden, those whose entitlements aren’t being fulfilled. In the Czech Republic we had the envious thirst of a post-Communist state. In Italy we had the nationalists fighting against the waves of North African immigrants. In Barcelona there were the Catalunyan people. There are the Roma, all across Europe, being discriminated and isolated from main stream society.
I don’t mean to demean any of these concerns. Many of them are legitimate, yet after so many organization visits and listening/talking to people as I travelled I came to a conclusion. We all believe we are the final frontier. In Canada, I couldn’t imagine anyone had the same problems as we did. Quebec, First Nations, Veterans, healthcare…these were are complex problems unique to us. Of course, leeway was given when in discussions about the Middle East or the Third World. But, still, we had it hard.
Travel has made me realize the universal complexity and imperfections that surround all of us, no matter where we live. Travelling I kept hearing the same stories of anger, fear, repression and lamentation. It seems we are all fighting battles the other can understand, connect to. When I was hurt emotionally as a teenager I couldn’t imagine anyone would know the same pain I did, they couldn’t. I came to realize they do, and to embrace everyone’s capacity for pain and suffering.
I developed a theory of mind. And, I pray Canada might too. We have a lot to learn from the suffering of those around us, and their struggles towards the same hope we, too, are looking towards.