Barriers


This is in continuation of my last post on Privilege.

I’ve been thinking about the various barriers that we erect, both consciously and unconsciously in our world. What they are for and how they affect our society.

brick fence

There are the obvious barriers. Locked doors, gates etc, that require a key or a pass code to get past and there the more subtle barriers that mutely prevent passage to groups of people based solely on physical attributes, ethnicity or education.  A long flight of stairs for example is a barrier for the physically disabled just as  an English only sign is a barrier for a recent immigrant.

Some of the barriers we erect are there for our own safety and security others are there to intentionally create in group and out group distinctions. In a democratic society we like to think we have created a meritocracy that allows access based on achievement but many of these barriers are set so high, and so arbitrarily that the only way to achieve or “merit” access is through an arbitrary, often hereditary head start.

Equality, openness and tolerance of differences have been big buzz words in recent years. It has been said that the great struggle of the 21st century will be the struggle for equality in human rights. This will be achieved in part through the removal of barriers.

We cannot remove them all. Safety and security will still require us to lock certain doors. We also need to limit access to certain areas based on merit but we can take steps to remove some of the more arbitrary barriers based on physical limitations, ethnicity and gender. Yes gender is still a barrier to some professions even in the more enlightened and progressive regions of the world.

This is not a how to post. I have no solutions. I’m not even sure I completely understand the problems. I am simply becoming more and more aware of barriers that exist all around us and questioning why they exist.

And I think that’s the first step, to ask why. Why is this door locked? Why are their stairs here? Why can’t a foreign trained engineer/doctor/professional, get a job in their field of expertise in any country in the world simply be demonstrating a grasp of the local language?  I think a lot of barriers exist simply because no one has had the courage to ask why.

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