Social distance is not measured in miles

It exists in our society as an observation of the level of acceptance people have of others outside of their own social group or class. It can be seen or felt in such places as the general feelings we have towards others, and how much social interaction we are willing to have with people who are not like us.

We can see it happen person to person, group to group and globally country to country.
Social cooperation and control is engineered in societies and cultures according to the values and beliefs they embrace. Societies recognize, create and structure mechanisms to smooth interactions between various perspectives and facilitate necessary collaboration to work together. Countries engage diplomats to mediate differences and nurture cooperation.
Parents serve as mediators to nurture cooperation and acceptance between children. Schools through teachers facilitate perspectives and strategies to play and work together.

It is important to understand that social distance is a ‘perceived difference (or distance)’. Perception is in our minds, created there and reinforced there. If ‘perception’ is to be changed, the work is in our minds.

Recently a young man wrote about his personal experience living on Calgary streets …
“Life on the streets … has proven to me to be very tough, especially for youths. We are constantly battling stereotyping discrimination.” He goes on to suggest strategies that might nudge the reality to change. “… if there were ways these young people could be seen as part of the community, … it would be possible for the traditional ‘9 to 5’ citizens to relate to our struggle and they wouldn’t be so quick to judge our imperfection.” Social distance here is deeply seen and felt.

There are so many ways people think of ‘difference’. Fear is a most significant reason for social distance. ‘What if we can’t understand what we see and hear?’ ‘We do not have tracks in our head to think about it.’ ‘It is unknown and so we do not feel safe.’ ‘We cannot understand the difference.’ ‘We cannot see ourselves ever being part of what makes that person different.’ …

Our values and beliefs are in our minds. Our minds decide ‘how to see’, ‘how to talk to someone’, ‘when to offer empathy’, ‘when to challenge’, ‘what and when to change’…

Somehow then, when we have a value that says difference is important to understand, we will find a way to learn more. The human spirit, led by the mind, is indomitable! We can do and be what we think

To be continued…

M.D

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