Communication, they say, is the key to maintain global peace and equilibrium. However, peace and equilibrium seem farfetched in the prevailing crisis situation. As Covid-19 ravages the world, people are increasingly getting to comprehend the sheer importance of communication and resultant collaborations.
Whether it is the development of vaccines and medicines to combat the dreaded virus or its possible control, humanity is decidedly dependent on international and intercultural communication. Concomitantly, it becomes critically important to examine the factors that affect the flow of communication between individuals, communities and nations.
While we are at it, let us carefully analyze the primary factors:
- Language: Language is probably the most important element in the communication chain. To put it simply, language is the medium through which the group speaking that particular language expresses its culture. A cursory glance at world history will prove that language has not only been the biggest unifying human force, but it has been the largest bone of contention as well. To make it easier to have global collaborations, it is essential to have one connecting language. Let us take an example to understand this. Internationally, English has been a great unifying force between countries.
- Ethnicity: In a multiethnic world, ethnicity is as important as language. Often misunderstandings crop up from ethnic differences. These misunderstandings in turn hamper the communication chain. We can take a very easy example to illustrate this point. India, which has multiple ethnic identities, often goes through ethnic churnings thereby destabilizing the communication chain. This is equally true for communications that happen between two different ethnic communities from two different countries. The primary way to deal with ethnic differences is to forge a human bond that respects the differences but tries to create a unifying factor that is beneficial to all concerned.
- National Identities: The concept of nationhood is a very complicated proposition. The concept of national pride at times inundates other humane considerations. We can take a very pertinent example to illustrate this point. The current military spat between India and China has created an often overzealous national consciousness in both India and China that threatens common sense. Such spats overwhelm the necessity to have communication and subsequent collaborations. From time immemorial, the group consciousness associated with nationhood has been the reason for multiple wars. The Nazi dispensation in Germany used ultra-national pride to trample human rights and hence make communication secondary. The best way to make way through this negative national consciousness is to develop the penchant for having rational humane considerations that doesn’t bank on jingoism.
- Religious Identities: History has been witness to the fact that religion has played the role of the biggest human divisive force. If we take a sneak peek into the history of humanity as a whole, we would be able to find out that religion has been the single largest cause of conflicts. Whether we talk about the crusades or we deliberate about the current religious unrests, religion has fomented the maximum trouble among fellow human beings. To tackle it, the best way is to have a personal take on religion. Human beings need to appreciate that differences in religious orientations are natural and the same should not deter people from having communication and forging collaborations.
- Social Class: No wonder that social positioning and economic status of people put them into certain brackets. This artificial division again creates rifts between the haves and have-nots thereby leading to a breakage in the communication chain. All throughout the world, the existence of different social classes is a crude reality. Let us take an Indian example. As the pandemic keeps getting worse, the biggest victims have been the migrant labourers. The reason why this class has taken the toll is their economic and social status. The best way to deal with this differentiation is to reduce the gap between the social classes.
- Gender: Let us now come to gender. As basic as it is, the reality remains that gender can also become an impediment for the flow of communication at times. The difference between genders across the world is very real. In India, the transgender community has to face social ostracism all the time. The communication channel in this case is broken. There is hardly any discourse on the community. The best way to deal with this stalemate is to accept that gender can’t be the basis of any discrimination. However, like many other things, it is easier said than done.
- Age: Across societies, generational shifts can cause a lot of miscommunication. As the world changes, meanings and communication channels change. At times, older people can’t cope with these changes, which in turn creates an imbalance in communication. At other times, the younger generation fails to understand the frame of reference of the older people thereby creating an unnecessary rift. Mutual acceptance and sustained dialogues constitute the only way to get out of this imbroglio.
While there are multiple other factors, the ones mentioned above are the biggest factors that either propel or inhibit the flow of global communication in the current context. As communication students, it is extremely important to be aware about the factors. This is exactly where the role of institutionalized media education comes in handy. International Communication is one area that a lot of media institutions are emphasizing upon these days in order to convert the students into comprehensive media professionals.
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