Mich Bondesio - Doodles - What if I can respect you, despite our differences?

When your world is a state of flux, it might feel easier to treat those who think and act differently to you as enemies.

So, we start out as good people. What often ends up making us enemies is simply our opinions, values or beliefs. Because we think or act differently.

But labelling me an enemy won’t alleviate your flux, will it?

The simplest, common solution for creating peace – be it in your home, at work, in your community or between countries – is to practice acceptance.

A lack of acceptance breeds contempt, causing more hurt, pain and destruction. It can become a self-perpetuating, destructive cycle. We need to break that cycle by finding a different way to connect with those that are different.

Stephen Russell talks about accepting your enemies by employing “aikido politics” where you show love, respect and honour towards those who may wish you harm.  The essence of Aikido (a form of martial arts) is not to dominate your opponent, but to resolve the conflict with minimal damage to both of you.

So, how do we find common ground when our social, cultural or political beliefs might be radically opposed? How do we find a way to connect and respect each other if we can’t see eye to eye?

We use food to communicate

Kamal Mouzawak is using the power of food to bring together displaced and warring communities in Lebanon. With the rallying cry of #MakeFoodNotWar, Kamal started a revolutionary food movement by creating the Souk el Tayeb farmer’s market and the Tawlet restaurants.

I was fortunate to meet and hear him speak at the Do Lectures in Wales. His projects have successfully helped opposing groups find commonalities of experience beyond their obvious cultural differences. All through the simple acts of making and eating food.

“It’s what prompted me to work around the most obvious common ground between all these different factions, which is the produce of the land, our agriculture and Lebanese cuisine.

This is my main drive with Souk Tayeb, it’s not just a food project or a restaurant, it is how to look for the similarities behind our differences.”

We Heart Interview with Kamal Mouzawak

(emphasis mine)

So, eating together bridges our divides

Such a simple yet powerful idea. Whether we’re brokering world peace or trying to diffuse a family squabble, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The nutritional and psychological power of eating together has been scientifically proven and written about extensively.

But, even without the added potency of political or cultural tension, it often sits low on the table of importance in our busy, modern lives. Mealtimes in conflict-free homes often look more like this:

  • everyone on their mobile phones at the dinner table
  • takeout or ready meals that are wolfed down so we can bolt when done
  • eating on the run, in front of the telly, or at our desks instead of around the dinner table

A recipe for disaster!

We forget that the simple act of preparing a meal and eating it together can drive social connection, provide intellectual stimulation, aid digestion, encourage healthier eating and promote mindfulness.

Cody Delistraty writes about “The Importance of Eating Together and how “the dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community.”

He also touches on Alice Julier’s theory from her book “Eating Together: Food Friendship and Inequality which supports the results of Kamal Mouzawak’s efforts:

“Alice Julier argues that dining together can radically shift people’s perspectives: It reduces people’s perceptions of inequality, and diners tend to view those of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds as more equal than they would in other social scenarios.”

Cody Delistraty

Food is our common language

If you’re not yet convinced, this short National Geographic video sums up the power of food as humanity’s common language.

So, how can we act to bridge the divides in our personal lives, in our workplaces and in our communities?

  1. Learn to accept and respect others despite their differences. We are all different in some way and those differences are usually insufficient reason to hate someone.
  2. Second, celebrate our diversity by sharing a meal with someone you ordinarily wouldn’t.

In this way, we can find the similarities behind our differences. Apart from all the other benefits, breaking bread with strangers is an opportunity to develop new tastes and make new friends.

And that’s at the heart of things… we are all just people looking to be accepted, despite our differences. :)

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