Yesterday, I happened to attend a presentation on Egypt conducted by a brilliant Egyptian colleague. After her talk, an equally brilliant American colleague asked:
“Could you talk a little about diversity in Egypt?”
“About what??” she asked, looking bemused. This colleague’s English is perfect, so it wasn’t a linguistic problem. It was a cultural one.
“About diversity,” the American professor answered. “Everybody keeps talking about Egypt as if its people were one. They forget about the diversity of the population.”
“But we are one,” the Egyptian colleague responded. “We are all the people of Egypt, one nation, one people.”
This is precisely why it is wrong to try to impose one’s own catchwords, cultural constructs and concepts on other cultures. Talking about democracy, diversity and multiculturalism when referring to Russia, Egypt, Latin America, etc. is a waste of time. It is an equal waste of time to try to impose the concepts that have wide currency in Russia, Egypt, or Latin America onto other cultures. Cultural differences exists. They don’t make anybody better or worse than anybody else. They just are. We will never understand what is going on in other countries until we get rid of the desire to fit different realities into a set of familiar concepts.