We The Citizens Of One Nation
I felt completely at home as I looked around the room and listened to what our facilitator had to say- a feeling that often eludes me even in my own country, a country in which I was born and raised.
Wondering why I felt this warmth, I studied my immediate environment to get to the bottom of this sensation.
It was a room full of people from over twenty different countries coming together to pursue a common interest- how to create and maintain a sustainable world by applying certain principles to our various work ethics and businesses.
We brainstormed, analysed, deciphered, assembled and interpreted information and case studies, all contributing ideas and exchanging knowledge shaped by our diverse cultures, experiences and backgrounds.
Many times we agreed to disagree as we all tried to convince each other to adopt new perceptions, expressing ourselves in a relaxed atmosphere with no judgement.
And then it hit me!
Here we were, people from different countries, races and religion who really didn’t see borders, colour or creed. In that room, we were just people!
Communication flowed without prejudice and a sweet smell of complete comfort and acceptance seemed to constantly fill the air.
We each realised that as individuals, we are more similar than we are different. Recognised with silent respect, the illumination of our faculties to the fact that more can be gained by the embrace of that difference, than from the reaction to the fear of it . This notion seemed to float like halos over our heads.
I learnt a lot from just observing and interacting with my newfound friends.
I met a lady from Saudi Arabia who works at the Saudi Stock exchange.
She totally changed my morbid perception of women’s rights in her country in a ten minute conversation.
I had lunch with a Singaporean gentle man and an Indian lady and we all discussed about our childhood and growing up, and if I had closed my eyes at that instant , I would have sworn we all grew up in Warri (my birth town) because all our experiences were so similar.
Getting to know this interesting group, I found out that most of us lived in foreign countries or had freely absorbed new cultures. Some spoke several languages and had even married spouses from other nationalities. We all seemed to share a kindred spirit for diversity.
And then of course every gathering has its little group who just naturally bond closer than others, Mark, Musa and I had that bond and still keep in touch till today.
I left INSEAD Singapore comforted that I was not uniquely disadvantaged as I had previously thought I was with my radical opinions of non-conformity. Growing up in Nigeria, I had always rejected the concept of doing things as they had always been done and questioned why set African rules could not evolve with the times.
As a child with a lot of inquisitive questions, I would most times be answered by older people with an “Because I said so” or “Because that’s the way it has always been” or “That’s how it should be” and most annoying “you ask too many questions, why don’t you just let it be and be quiet?”
But I always could not let it be and so, earned the title of being stubborn.
With the discovery of my new world and its citizens however, every question I asked was met with an answer of a personal opinion added with a suggestion of a solution to my enquiry. It was absolutely refreshing !
Armed with the knowledge that I wasn’t crazy but just misunderstood, I readily forgave those I felt harshly judged me for my intrinsic way of reasoning.
I am now more accommodating of people who regard me as “stubborn” , people I wish could let go of what I feel is a one-dimensional perspective.
How I wish we were the majority and that I could hear a louder chant of our anthem and pledge :-
We the citizens of one nation- a global nation !