Tuesday, June 6

City Circle: Our Values - Beyond Xenophobia and Ghettoisation, Professor Gwen Griffith-Dickson & Professor Tariq Ramadan Click for more info

Tonight's talk told of how the best way to peace and harmony between different communities is to concentrate on all of their common values.

And that was pretty much it. Other obvious statements were made too, like how racism and xenophobia are real problems in Europe despite the public loathing of parties like the BNP and how this causes ghettoism. But it seems the main reason for this talk was to raise awareness for The Lokahi Foundation. Yes, it was a bit of a publicity stunt really; I was wondering why there was a Ramadan lecture so soon after his last one.

Not that I'm complaining really, since I've been meaning to look into Lokahi (a Hawaiian word, apparently) for a while. Prof Griffith-Dickson is the director there, and she spent some time telling us what it was about. Most of what she said can be found on their website so I won't regurgitate it here, but the ideas about coming together (in a less hippy way than it sounds) seem pretty sound. She even created a new Pilau analogy to sit somewhere between the melting pot and salad bowl ones (so rice is infused with the qualities of the spices cooked with it, but is still rice at the end).

But she didn't just talk clever (or not so clever) analogies. She raised some good, concrete and marked points too, like how people are characterised by their behaviour and not their values (or how the two can be very different for a particular person) and how the current definition of Britishness may be becoming diluted with elements of pop culture (why is pub-going seen as a British trait? And why are those who don't watch Eastenders outcasts?).

Practical considerations were given by both speakers, with Ramadan telling us to concentrate on education and the rest and eventually going back to the idea that we should talk about our common values over our different ones. His reference to an "intellectual ghetto" did strike a chord though - and was ironic considering how you can usually see the same faces at CC each week. Griffith-Dickson was again more definite and talked about the usefulness of projects and institutions like CC and Lokahi (naturally).

So what's my take? Well, it's all very well talking about our common values, since they do exist and are usually unheard over us talking about our differences. But the fact is that these different values do exist. Where do the diametrically opposed values, which are still valid in their own right, fit in these common value systems? I love cheese and bananas, but I know I can't put them in a Pilau[1]. Sure, they'll get infused the same way as the rice will, but it won't necessarily make a good Pilau. You have a recipe to follow and ingredients to hand pick to do that.

Finally, I noted something that Griffith-Dickson said when explaining what Lokahi means. The example was of an ecosystem, and how the quite disparate components in one come together to form something that creates. Sounds good, but she herself recognised that the destruction and consumption that an ecosystem needs to thrive were an inherent part of the lokahi there too. I wonder if she meant to imply that the same was required for communities of people too?

[1] No, I've never made one myself. But let's stick to the point, eh?


  1. Salaam,

    it was interesting place to be, the emphasis on deeds and character, rather than aspiration was tooo true.

    one prob though, by working on funky antiwar/climate change/ public service issues, the more proactive will get to know each other through working together.

    but what about the other 95 % or the populations?

    dont they matter?

    what about the hostile press?

    anyway, cant get all the answers in a few hours.

  2. Where is this place? How do you get in for the lectures?? Tickets? Free?

    I want to come down there sometime.