By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
The tragic episode involving a British music group that (mis)performed at an event in the capital city recently provided many invaluable lessons.
Ranging from inadequacies on the part of the host and organisers to alleged “abuse of power” by the relevant authorities and personalities.
It is certainly a complex predicament that needs an in-depth analysis collectively. Meanwhile, reportedly, legal recourse is also contemplated. What a mess! Though not the first, it seems to be the worst in recent years.
What is key to all this is culture and diplomacy, vice versa.
For starters, cultural intelligence (CQ) has become a significant focus for institutions worldwide. Also known as Cultural Quotient, referring to the ability to relate and work effectively across cultures, it encompasses cultural agility, allowing individuals to navigate diverse cultural contexts successfully.
By incorporating the arts, ethics, and managerial skills into education, it further foster creativity, critical thinking, moral reasoning, and leadership skills to promote interdisciplinary thinking.
It, therefore, prepares one to meet the complex challenges of the modern world based on the concept of STREAM (science, technology, religion, ethics, aesthetics and management) vis-à-vis the limiting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) that goes beyond mere academic/scientific achievements.
In this way, a more inclusive and well-rounded society that values and supports the unique strengths of each individual can be better nurtured.
In this sense, culture serves as the “software of the mind” and plays a significant role in shaping societies and individuals because it fashions beliefs, values, behaviors, and perceptions.
It includes elements such as language, customs, traditions, norms, and social practices greatly valued for diplomacy.
Cultivating good habits and moral values are crucial for a culturally conducive ambient in a broader environment. Given deeper understanding of the different dimensions of culture and its influence on individuals, a new and critical concept in today’s globalised world is needed.
It is to allow individuals from different cultural backgrounds to better connect the dots of cultural differences, adapt to new environments, and build successful relationships across humanity. In this way, it helps us to sympathise and interpret others’ behaviours more accurately.
Besides, to empathise, communicate and immerse effectively in seeking long-lasting solutions. Ultimately, leading to compassion.
As a prerequisite to this, individuals need to develop an awareness of their own cultural assumptions, biases, and values.
This self-awareness allows them to recognise how their cultural background influences their perceptions and behaviours. In this way, individuals can become more open-minded and receptive to different perspectives.
Furthermore, CQ involves the acquiring of knowledge about their history, traditions, communication styles, values, and social norms.
With expanding cultural knowledge, individuals are better prepared to deal with the diversity that exists in the world.
In addition, the development of skills and abilities to interact effectively across cultures are also nurtured. These skills include communication, empathy, perspective-taking, flexibility, and adaptability.
Effective cross-cultural communication skills generally involves being aware of verbal and nonverbal cues, listening actively, and adapting one’s communication style to accommodate cultural differences.
Empathy and perspective-taking will enable individuals to better cope and assimilate others’ viewpoints and experiences. This facilitates to bridge cultural gaps and build more meaningful connections in positive ways.
Whilst flexibility and adaptability are focussed on for navigating unfamiliar cultural contexts, adjusting to new norms, and demonstrating respect for cultural diversity. Research has shown that individuals with higher levels of CQ are more successful in multicultural environments and diplomacy.
They are better equipped to handle the challenges and complexities that arise from cultural differences. They can build trust, establish rapport, and collaborate effectively with individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
This is why educational institutions must embrace the importance of CQ. Universities need to offer courses and programmes that focus on intercultural communication, global citizenship, and cultural competence with the aim to equip students with the goal to succeed in an interconnected and diverse world.
Government agencies and policymakers must recognise the role of CQ in fostering diplomacy, and peaceful coexistence among people and nations.
This further allows individuals to close cultural divides, enhance intercultural dialogues, and resolve conflicts through respectful and effective communication in forging a harmonious and inclusive world.
At the end of the day what this means, CQ is as vital just like the IQ-EQ nexus.
Now, adding in CQ to make the picture more holistic. In other words, culture is an integral part of education.
This is where it gives the context and arrives at the meaning of the higher purpose of education beyond the schools and universities. Beyond livelihood into life.
Culture must therefore stay close to heart of education as has been done by the Indonesians resulting in a more tolerant and confident society.
Culture is not a commodity to generate touristic income, but more importantly values for tourists to devour in ensuring humanity stays together for peaceful co-existence. Otherwise, many more tragedies await us as a nation, and the world a large.
It may provide good vibes, but terribly uncultured moves!
- The writer is rector, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)