The following article was published in the October 2021 issue of Roqueta, Menorca’s English-language magazine.
Weddings are returning to Menorca, a sign of revival. I was asked to conduct a wedding blessing in September for a Peruvian bride and a French groom who live and work in London, and who became engaged at the home of a French friend in Sant Lluis. The ceremony took place in one of the magnificent old rural homes in Menorca, surrounded by signs of its agricultural history. Apart from the challenges of language (“Don’t worry,” said the couple, “They almost all speak English,” perhaps in trepidation of an English vicar with a bad Spanish and French accent!), the occasion was truly joyful and uplifting. I drove away after spending a little time talking to the guests feeling refreshed emotionally and spiritually. Not just because it was a wonderfully international blending of cultures and families, but partly because of that.
Immediately afterwards, the world was captivated by two teenage tennis players,, both born in Canada to parents of very mixed origins, one, Emma Raducanu, with a Romanian father and Chinese mother, representing Britain, where she has lived since she was two, the other, Leylah Fernandez, whose father is Ecuadorian and mother Filipino, representing Canada.
Four years ago I felt called to write about David Goodhart’s book called The Road to Somewhere, in which he suggested that globalisation divided people into two groups: “Anywheres” and “Somewheres.” The “Anywheres” are people who feel at home all over the world; they have liberal values and relish the opportunities of ever freer trade and movement of people. They are mobile individuals who have a diminished loyalty to a particular place or community. They have been unflatteringly described by many, ranging from Teresa May to the Rev. Giles Fraser, the former dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The “Somewheres” feel rooted to a particular place, tend to be socially conservative and are uncomfortable to see their neighbourhoods changing before their eyes. David Goodhart’s analysis attempted to explain the wave of nationalistic populism that may be seen in many parts of the world; he called this the “Somewhere” backlash (against globalism).
But as I said four years ago, this kind of attempt at fragmentation simply fuels and is fuelled by an underlying human tendency towards tribalism, and ignores the basic fact that younger generations are exposed to and embrace cultural and economic diversity in ways that older generations find less comfortable. I suggested that the “Somewhere” backlash that David Goodhart described would more than likely to prove to be a rearguard skirmish in a world that is inevitably going to become more “Anywhere.”
I know that there are some people who continue to feel threatened by this trend, but it really is unlikely to reverse, even if the pandemic and its concomitant restrictions have impeded the pace of international travel – at least in a physical sense. However, the burgeoning use of electronic and social media has opened new channels for cultural interconnection.
All of this should not be seen as threatening the erosion of dearly held national, regional, or local traditions: quite the opposite. The local fiestas of Menorca might have been cancelled for a couple of years, but they will be back, and embraced by locals and immigrants alike. In Canada, there was a family in our parish who had come from Fiji, with origins in India. They participated in the traditions of their new country, worshipped at an Anglican church, and invited us to participate in their celebration of Diwali. I did not find this at all threatening, but rather enlightening.
Religion has a challenge in this respect, too. I was asked recently to speak at an interfaith seminar in Ciutadella titled ‘Fraternidad Humana y Convivencia.’ or (literally) human fraternity and coexistence. As I said then, it is not difficult to find differences or divisions between human beings, to fragment us into some sort of tribal allegiance – and this can occur between different religions, or even within them, as we entrench ourselves within denominational divisions. But we share very similar goals, and if we are to believe that we are made in the image of God, then because we are each rather small in nature, it is only together that we approach recreation of that image by recognising that we are like pieces of a mosaic that together form a larger picture. A prayer that I often use speaks of blending our differences to make a difference in the world. In the long run, I hope that the tribalism that fuels fear of those different from us can be turned away from social prejudice and discrimination, away from politics, and channelled into less harmful things such as sport.
Human beings are interdependent, social beings. Our challenge is to realise that we are members of the same family, which can only be complete when all are included. Unity without uniformity is possible.
So we now have international, multi-cultural marriages, and tennis stars who come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, yet ironically become national icons in countries adopted by their parents. Perhaps pride in the accomplishments of talented teenagers and the joy of sharing the union of couples in love and marriage will prove to be constructive steps along the road of tolerance and inclusion.
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