Quote Book -[20]-Civilsation Speech

So this is a fight we have to make everywhere which brings me to my last point, and the most important thing of all – although it may sound naive to you.

What this is all about is that simple question: which will be more important in the twenty first century – our differences or our common humanity?

This encounter we have had with the Taliban and Mr Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda and all the debate that has filled the airwaves since, has given us a picture of this debate and of the very different ideas we have about the nature of truth, the value of life, the content of community. Like fanatics everywhere throughout history, these people think they’ve got the truth, and if you share their truth, your life has value. And if you don’t, you’re a legitimate target, even if you’re just a six year old girl who went to work with her mother at the World Trade Center on September 11th.

That’s what they think. And they really believe it, like fanatics everywhere. They think to be in their community, you have to look like them, think like them and act like them and they know people will stray every now and then, so they pick a few people to beat the living daylights out of those who stray.

Now most of us believe that no-one has the absolute truth. Indeed, in our societies, the most religious among us sometimes feel that most strongly because we believe as children of God, we are by definition, limited in this life, in this body, with our minds. That life is a journey toward truth, that we have something to learn from each other, and that everybody ought to have a chance to make the journey. So for us, a community is just made up of anybody accepts the rules of the game, everybody counts, everybody has a role to play, everybody deserves a chance and we all do better when we work together. Now, that’s what this is about.

This is not complicated. The people that want to kill us over our differences do so because they think their life doesn’t matter except insofar as they are different from and better than others. Those of us who are trying to change ourselves and change them, we think our common humanity is more important and if we could just live up to its potential, the world would be a better place. And which side wins will shape the twenty first century.

What do you think is more important?

The answer is easy to give, but very, very hard to live. Think about this as you go home tonight.

Think about how important your differences are to you. Think about how we all organise our lives in little boxes – man, woman, British, American, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Tory, Labour, New Labour, Old Labour, up, down – you know, everything in the world. I like red ties, I got a blue shirt on, you laugh about it, think about everything you define yourself by.

Our little boxes are important to us. And indeed it is necessary, how could you navigate life if you didn’t know the difference between a child and an adult, an African and an Indian, a scientist and a lawyer?

We have to organise that, but somewhere along the way, we finally come to understand that our life is more than all these boxes we’re in. And that if we can’t reach beyond that, we’ll never have a fuller life. And the fanatics of the world, they love their boxes and they hate yours. You’re laughing, that’s what this is all about. And it’s easy to give the right answer but it’s hard to live.

Source: The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century

by Bill Clinton