Tear Up the Boxes

On 12th November, the day of the terrorist attacks in Lebanon and one day before those in Paris, a conference delegate approached me in confusion following my interactive keynote address entitled “Reframing Intercultural Education”.
“You’ve torn up all of my boxes,” she said, referring to my direct challenge to our habit of artificially categorising people, which itself is governed by our complete misunderstanding of the notion of culture.

I now realise that my frame of reference for the talk to an international audience of Professors, Lecturers and Administrators of Applied Science Universities was far too limited. We not only need to reframe intercultural education and our understanding of “culture”.
We need to reframe our perspective of the world by tearing up all the boxes we have created to artificially divide it.
These boxes – that exist only in our minds – are the fundamental cause of our conflicts.

We create divisions in the world then surround them with dogma, laying the foundations for violent conflict.
This violence is nothing new: blind adherence to dogma has led people to fight, murder, physically and psychologically torture each other for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Today, in 2015, 7 billion people populate our earth: 7 billion human beings.
There are no english, americans, french, chinese, syrians, iraquis, chinese, etc. on this earth.
There are no christians, moslems, jews, hindus, buddhists, etc.
There are no whites, blacks, hispanics, arabs, asians, etc.
There are only human beings.
These descriptions have all been created by humans.

Some people choose to identify with, and then apply the labels to themselves. Fine! As individuals, we have the right, indeed the responsibility to make our own personal decisions concerning our lives.

Frequently, we attribute these labels to others. This is not acceptable. Attributions can only be based on assumptions. We can never know … until we ask.

So, let’s look at some FACTS about the categories that we humans have created, and use to divide …


Countries are areas of physical space surrounded by borders defined by human beings with military and/or political power. These borders are constructs of our minds that become lines drawn on maps. And these lines on the maps change – continuously.
A country is a concept.


Religions are belief systems created and defined by human beings.
Two ‘religions’, with a major influence in today’s world (christianity and islam) are both less than 2000 years old!


The term ‘Ethnicity’ is generally used to describe features of human beings, different, because their origins lie in different geographical regions of the world.

When people migrate, marry others with a different background, have families, the original artificial labels can no longer apply.

And now??? … An Alternative … ???

Tear up the boxes!
Reframe our World. Remove the artificial descriptors and make them irrelevant as definitions. Encourage CONVERSATIONS and concrete ACTIONS among people to co-create purposeful generative living and working environments.

This is my work in organisations.
Perhaps it’s time to expand it to the education system and society in general.
Who would like to join me?


  1. The author was born in a country we label “Canada”, whose borders to its neighbours consist primarily of straight lines drawn on a map by colonial powers hundreds of years ago. He grew up in London in the country of England(?), United Kingdom(?). His parents fled from persecution in Nazi Germany, a country that at the time was violently expanding its borders. He currently lives in Berlin, a city in a country (Germany) that has only existed within its current borders for 25 years, and that did not even exist at all even 150 years ago.
  2. The descriptors used to refer to “countries” and “religions” are deliberately written in small case.