The Dignity of Difference written by Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, is a plea for tolerance in an age of extremism. It was written in 2002 in the wake of the 9.11 terrorism attack on the World Trade Centre, and prophetically written before the current global economic crisis.
The book is about globalisation, the challenges it raises, the good it brings, the suffering it causes, the resistances and resentments it generates. Global capitalism and the power of technology should lead to vast improvements in the human conditions but it has increased the wealth, health and education of some at the expense of the majority through the inability or unwillingness to equitably distribute the products of capitalism. Global communication brings news instantly, and emphasises the vast differences in living conditions throughout the world leading to envy, anger, protest, violence and terrorism.
Sacks argues that great responsibility now lies with the world's religious communities which against all expectations have emerged in the 21st century as key forces in the global age. Religion can be a source of discord, or a form of conflict resolution. The great faiths must now become active forces for peace, justice and compassion on which peace in the world ultimately depend. He expresses recognition that the good life does not come from one faith.
The group had mixed views of the book, there was so much meat in each chapter, and it was not a quick read. The author had good use of language with ideas succinctly expressed, a good grasp of the bigger picture and notes some stark statistics. Several of the underpinning issues related to religious fundamentalism which linked to previous books read by the group, and it was interestingly contrasted to 'Consumer Detox'.
Sue Chilton — November 2013