Business has a profound effect on people’s lives, and in our increasingly globalized world, this has never been truer or more important. Business spans great distances overcoming barriers in range and location, yet as the world becomes metaphorically smaller, there is no guarantee the individual pieces will fit together into the new whole with ease. Cultural differences still permeate many facets of civilization, and, as distances are bridged, conflicts are no longer found only at borders, but now cross oceans and insight hatred half a world away. These cross-continental feuds can be especially corrosive, because they are often waged between populations that have had little real exposure to each other; they are based on speculation, generalizations, and ignorance and they have real, and at times tragic, outcomes. Suspicion and mistrust can breed violence and hatred and all are built on a platform of dehumanizing ignorance. We have witnessed the tragic outcomes of jingoistic discrimination too many times in our history, but in the age of information, this does not have to be the case, we have the ability to reach out and connect with people, sometimes we just need to be given the chance.
Terrorism and America’s subsequent war on terror is unlike the big wars of old in ways that make them difficult for the civilian population comprehend and it has caused serious backlash for the populations of what is widely held as the offending region and even more broadly, the offending religion. Unlike the world wars for example where the enemy nation organized on a national level, terrorism is not a national effort and the citizenry of the nations with which we have gone to war cannot be held collectively responsible. This fact has made the war more difficult to fight, but it has also made it more difficult to understand. It is unfortunately too easy to forget that we wage war against terrorism, against a small extremist and violent minority, not with the average citizen of the countries in which these terrorists dwell. Those citizens are affected by those terror organizations every day, forced to live with instability, in fear of violence and forced to live with the consequences of the international perception that that minority has created. Ignorance breeds hatred and creates enemies of what could be friends.
Terrorism takes conviction, and responding with blind animosity and solidifying the “us vs. them” mentality they thrive off of only helps them convince others of their stance and gives life to their cause. We have the ability to choose what kind of relationships we have with the Middle East and the Islamic world, we do not have to make them our enemies; they too are victims in this war and if we had the chance to get to know them, we would see we share more commonalities than differences.
Here, I come back to business: it remains the foremost globalizing force and, as it brings cultures together, it can also be a force toward peace by uniting people toward a common goal and bringing the humanity back into our global perspective. Sometimes all it takes is the chance to get to know someone, and providing that opportunity in an environment of cooperation and mutual respect is a rare chance that business can provide, and should not take for granted.
When I first began my career with Allshore, I admittedly took for granted its vision statement: “To promote cultural understanding and build international relationships through a trusted, compassionate and profitable IT staffing experience.” But overtime I witnessed this in action and began at last to understand the depth and importance of this statement and the incredible opportunity at hand. It is more than just good business, it is business doing good by bringing people together and fostering a unique environment in which people half a world half a world away with whom they thought they could share nothing in common are made approachable. It is a small start, but right now these personal relationships are more important than ever.