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Rex Betar

Degree:

MBA

Location:

Australia

Industry:

Travel and Transportation

Year:

2014-15

By Rex Betar

Lessons from tragedy

A lot has happened since my last blog post….

Around 9:30am on the 15th of December a man walked into The Lindt café. A café in the centre of the city of my hometown of Sydney. Lindt serves one of the better hot chocolates in Sydney and being in the centre of the city and a stone’s throw from the courts is a favourite haunt of city workers and barristers alike. Around 9:45 this man produced a shotgun and took all 18 people inside hostage. Two would not survive.

Less than one month later on January 7th 2015, two gunmen would force entry into the Paris headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. 12 people would be killed.

Both incidents rocked their respective communities and sent shockwaves around the world. Both sets of perpetrators were Islamic extremists.

At around the same time the Parisian attacks occurred (but with far less press coverage) an unknown number of people were massacred in and around the village of Baga in Nigeria. Estimates suggest up to 2000 plus victims.

What does all this senseless tragedy have to do with studying for an MBA at Oxford? Just this…

 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain

 

Much is made of the international breadth and diversity of cultures in the Oxford MBA. A diversity I sometimes overlook and doubtless take for granted. But as the attacks detailed above place greater pressure on already strained Islamic-Western relations its importance comes into stark relief. These attacks led to an understandable heightened sense of fear and a less understandable but not unexpected increase in anti-Muslim sentiment. As far-right anti-immigration politics rises in popularity across Europe and the world it is clear how few people are exposed to a diversity of cultures. It is a great privilege to look into the eyes of my classmates from Ghana, India, Zimbabwe the UAE or the US and know that many of the fears, hopes and dreams we share are the same. The world has so many different places and people, but not so different as to be unrecognisable.

Policy makers and global citizens like face difficult existential questions about whether to ensconce oneself or one’s country in the safety and limits of familiarity or to embrace diversity and the potential risks it entails.

So if you are reading this and the idea of new cultures and being far from home and the comforts of familiarity scare you then come. Come as fast as you can because it is a privilege to be exposed to such diversity and though scarily unfamiliar it is not as unfamiliar as you might think.

 

Katrina Dawson was one of the victims of the Lindt Café siege. The Katrina Dawson foundation was established to assist in providing educational opportunities for women. You can read more or donate here: www.thekatrinadawsonfoundation.org

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