My name is Daija. I am human.
I challenge you to find an upbringing more ordinary than mine. I grew up amidst the northern German peatlands between Hamburg and Bremen, a place anyone rarely find reason to visit. Unless you are really interested in the history of geodetic surveying and followed the foot steps of Carl Friedrichs Gauß. The renowned mathematician visited Zeven, the town that hosted my secondary school, in 1824.
Back in the 1980s, everyone in my home town was the same: German, White, Protestant, a farmer, or a very recent descendant of a farmer. Human monoculture. I was eight when I saw a person of a different skin colour for the first time, 10 when I met a Catholic, 12 when I heard someone speak whose mother tongue wasn’t my native language. I was 14 when I discovered that being different was as easy as being vegetarian and liking books more than ‘Zeltfeten’ (for the uninitiated, these are small village parties in large tents occurring for no particular reason, featuring mediocre live rock music and cheap alcohol).
Fast forward two decades, my daughter’s experience of childhood is as different as it could be. Out of 16 children in her nursery class just three grow up in monolingual households. My daughters first babysitter was Muslim. From the day she was born, she encountered people from all over the world with different cultural, religious and economic backgrounds, on the bus, in playgroups, in their homes. That’s inner city London reality. In Kindergarten she learns that we may be different but that we are all special, that each of us is unique.
The country I am calling home at this point in my life just voted to leave the European Union. It deeply saddenes me to read, hear and observe how seemingly over night it has become OK to make racist comments, to tell strangers on the street to pack their bags and go back to where they came from (even though that may well be the neighbouring town), and to call fellow human beings vermin. What was in people’s head is now coming out into the open. And it’s not pretty.
We are humans first. I believe that all people are born with a good heart, but, as my daughter also learns at nursery, people make good choices, and bad ones. I challenge you to find an upbringing more ordinary than mine because if I can choose to embrace the diversity of human kind, anyone can.
I am human, and I bow to the divine in you – namaste,