Why Perspectives From Around the World Are Valuable

Like a varied diet, a plurality of perspectives is a jolly good thing.

December 27, 2023 23:05 EDT
Dear FO° Reader,

I spent Christmas working on a piece on Nagorno-Karabakh. While most of my friends were celebrating, I was typing away on my keyboard till well after 2:00 AM. When I finished the piece, my eyes were burning, and I shuddered at the thought of waking up early to record a video on Kashmir.

Speaking of Kashmir, I cannot help but observe that people have wildly differing opinions on the issue. Some Pakistani friends are convinced that Kashmir should be a part of their country. Most Indians believe Kashmir is an inalienable part of India. Many others argue that Kashmir should be an independent nation.

On Israel and Palestine, views differ greatly. Some blame Israel for all Palestinian ills. Per this narrative, the US-backed crusader state has robbed Palestinians of their land, water, olive groves and more. Hamas is just a reaction to Israeli oppression. Others point out that Palestinians have taken to terrorism since the days of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and that the Islamist Hamas is the PLO on steroids. Yet others argue that public life in both Israel and Palestine has coarsened. Benjamin Netanyahu ain’t no David Ben-Gurion, and Ghazi Hamad no Hanan Ashrawi. 

I am not making the case here that truth is relative or facts are optional. My point is that we are shaped by factors outside our control. Most Jewish people tend to sympathize with Israelis, while most Muslims support Palestinians. Social media amplifies the message as per our predilections, pushing us into self-reinforcing echo chambers.

We take the view that echo chambers are dangerous. It is important to view places like Nagorno-Karabakh, Kashmir and Gaza through many prisms. We also put our magnifying glass on places like Chad, Sudan and Ethiopia, which are rarely in the news. The whole point of becoming a citizen of the world is learning about it through many perspectives. Only that enables us to avoid a Manichean Weltanschauung that invariably leads to close-mindedness, hatred and conflict.

Christmas photos from around the world

Let’s return to Christmas. I spent the day reading about how Armenia became the first country to establish Christianity as its state religion. I also read about how Azerbaijan embraced Shia Islam but has now jumped into bed with both Sunni Turkey and Jewish Israel in a strange ménage à trois. As my brain buzzed, my WhatsApp exploded with Christmas greetings and photos. Instead of distracting me, these proved reassuring. There are people around the world who say hello from time to time. This, if nothing else, makes festivals worthwhile.

Speaking of photos, my Swiss colleague Roberta Campani sent extraordinary views of Lake Geneva from her aunt’s tiny cottage. My Swedish friend Eva Inglander sent a snow-white picture of Tällberg, a small village in Leksand Municipality 260 kilometers northwest of Stockholm. As photos came through from Argentina, Mexico, Germany, India, Tahiti and elsewhere, I could not help but wonder about the variety of geographies, topographies and climates in our vast world.

Naturally, this vast world of ours has many languages, religions, ethnicities and nationalities. These inform our worldview as does our personality. Inevitably, we are bound to have different perspectives. We are unlikely to agree with all or even most of them, but engaging with these perspectives enriches our lives.

As an editor-in-chief, my life is immeasurably richer because of the 3,000+ authors I have read over the years. Do I agree with all of them? Absolutely not. In fact, I disagree with most in one way or another. Yet I now better understand both Iranians and Israelis, Azerbaijanis and Armenians, and many others from wildly different backgrounds.

In an age of echo chambers where media organizations chase their target audience, we publish perspectives we disagree with and know that so will you. Perhaps you will disagree so much that you will publish a response, fostering debate, dialogue and discussion. Like a varied diet, a plurality of perspectives is a jolly good thing.

As I bid you adieu from the banks of the Potomac, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2024.

Happy New Year!

Atul Singh
Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief
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