The largest problems in society often begin with the smallest of causes. Dutch Elm Disease, a fungus plaguing the majority of Winnipeg’s Elm population, begins with one bite of the Elm Bark Beetle which is less than five millimetres in length. Despite the city’s efforts to halt the progression of the disease, some 1500 Dutch Elm trees formerly providing the streets of Winnipeg with a lush, green canopy are lost each year. Discrimination follows a similar course to the deadly Dutch Elm Disease- a small problem, a single person with a compelling argument, or the actions of few people can lead to great disputes. The effects of discrimination are evident in our society today, and even though ignorance has existed since humans have learned to communicate, the effects of social media and the incredible interconnectedness of the world has amplified this problem to a level previously unseen. Discrimination leads to little diversity and reduced number of perspectives, resentment among members of our society, and a lack of a sense of community and belonging.
Due to this creation of a homogeneous society, members have fever experiences, stories they have been told, and less exposure to different and unique cultures, resulting in a weaker community.
At the beginning of WWII, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish Diplomat, risked his life and demonstrated great amounts of empathy by forging thousands of passports for Jewish people being persecuted in Germany. Not Jewish himself, Wallenberg attempted to break the cycle of discrimination by showing empathy towards others; empathy is one of the most vital components to a successful society.
Being interconnected with the world around us- all plants, animals and objects- lies at the heart of the beliefs of the Indigenous peoples, and they believe that modifying one aspect of the world changes another. This philosophy is still applicable to today’s society, as discrimination breaks apart this interconnectedness, tears apart relationships, and has negative repercussions for the entire society. A sense of belonging is lost for many members of society, as discrimination permits the creation of close groups from being formed, and those who are discriminated against feel as if they are cast out and considered as insignificant to the well being of the society. Excluded members feel as if they cannot partake in open conversation and discuss their concerns with others as they fear they will be ostracized and ridiculed for their ideas; the society becomes increasingly disjointed and dysfunctional as concerns for the society cannot be properly addressed, the issues only become greater as they accumulate. George and Lennie in the novel “Of Mice and Men” were victims of discrimination due to a mental handicap, a situation occurring often in today’s world and leaving millions without a sense of community. Men on the ranch were unable to see past Lennie’s decreased mental capability and tormented George for being his friend, leading George to lie about their relationship and be unable to discuss his concerns about Lennie. George and Lennie felt a lack of connection to others on the ranch and failed to attain a sense of community; the other men felt likewise about the pair and had little difficulty setting out to kill Lennie, showing that their discrimination led them to wait for any excuse to be able to get rid of him. The Indigenous peoples had a very wise approach to the world, as being interconnected with everything around us and using this force to combat discrimination will lead to more solidarity and a stronger society.
Indirectly or directly, discrimination affects every member of our society in some way. Discrimination leads to less diversity and few different ideas about how to better the community, allows little empathy to be formed among citizens, contributes to a lack of understanding of each other’s perspectives, tears apart communities and leads to a loss of solidarity. As with discrimination, the effects of Dutch Elm Disease may not be evident at first, but will eventually have great consequences. Pollution in the air will increase without trees to consume it, shade formerly provided by the sweeping trees during hot summers will be lost, and the beautiful lush canopy unique to Winnipeg will slowly disappear. However, Winnipeg is making formidable attempts to halt the progression of the tragic disease; the same can be done with discrimination. Just as the key to stopping Dutch Elm Disease exists in constant vigilance against the very root of the problem, the solution to ending discrimination lies in treating the problem at the origin and partaking in open, honest dialogue- rather than failing to acknowledge discrimination, but seeing it as something bringing us closer together.