BY GERRY CHIDIAC
Lessons in Learning
The Dalai Lama recently stated, “I feel optimistic about the future because humanity seems to be growing more mature.”
He specifically mentioned the increasing importance of inner values, the study of the mind and emotions, the desire for peace, and concern for the environment.
What signs are there that the Dalai Lama is correct?
A very important piece of growing in maturity is accepting accountability for your actions, especially your mistakes and even the mistakes of your ancestors. A mature attitude allows you to look objectively at the world and its problems and ask, “What can I do to make this situation better?”
Many countries are taking responsibility for the horrendous crimes they committed over the last centuries.
Germany, of course, has taken full responsibility for the Holocaust and has made reparations. The Germans have not stopped there, however. They’ve also accepted complicity for their role in the Armenian Genocide, which happened with their military advisers present in the Ottoman Empire. Germany is also in talks with its former colony of Namibia over the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples, and it’s plausible that Germany will apologize to other victims of its colonial policies in the not so distant future.
Denmark has apologized to Ghana for its role in the slave trade. And it has gone as far as accepting responsibility for the role its Vikings played in pillaging Ireland. Though this may seem insignificant to many, the Danes have clearly established a global precedent.
Norway, Sweden, Finland and Greenland have taken accountability and begun making reparations for their treatment of Indigenous peoples.
A number of other countries, most notably New Zealand, Australia and Canada, have also apologized to their Indigenous peoples for their efforts to assimilate and even destroy their populations. Though all have stopped short of referring to their crimes as genocidal, they are clearly moving in the right direction.
There’s something to be said about accepting accountability, even though one isn’t personally responsible for the crimes committed. It lifts a veil of secrecy and opens a space for open and honest dialogue. We move away from finger pointing and welcome transparency. Acknowledging that wrong has been done makes it easier to forgive and forgiveness is a powerful step in the long walk to healing.
As a Canadian educator in a school with a significant Indigenous population, I play an important role in the healing process. I’ve never been made to feel blame for the residential school system but I’m deeply saddened by it. I see the impact of intergenerational trauma every day, knowing that this is the result of years of abuse toward past generations.
A mature attitude doesn’t judge, it tries to understand and asks how things can be improved. One is also able to embrace compassion, have patience, celebrate small victories, and acknowledge the need for continual growth in knowledge and wisdom. It’s clear that I must embrace humility and gratitude as I walk forward with and learn from the Indigenous people I live and work with.
Taking a step back from our small piece of the planet, we see that we’re not alone and there’s indeed reason to be optimistic. There’s much to do and so much to learn from each other, but we’re moving forward.
The standard has been established. As we become more enlightened, it will become impossible to ignore the crimes of our ancestors or even the impact of our own negative attitudes. It becomes clear that healing our world and healing ourselves are one in the same.
There truly is reason to feel optimistic about the future of humanity. But that future depends on us.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac