© Olivier Föllmi

An old Indian woman, Cuzco, Peru.
This old Indian woman, earnestly posing beneath a thousand year-old wall in the ancient city of Cuzco in Peru, symbolizes for me the drama the South American Incas experienced with the arrival of the conquistadors.

The Other
Text: Ryszard Kapuściński
Translation: Antonia Lloyd-Jones

The real challenge of our times, the encounter with the new Other, the  racially and culturally other, also derives from a broader historical context. The second half of the twentieth century was a time when two thirds of the world’s population were liberated from colonial dependency and became citizens of their own, at least nominally autonomous states. Gradually these people are starting to discover their own past, myths and roots, their own history, sense of identity and, of course, the pride resulting from it. They are starting to feel themselves, masters and commanders of their own destiny, regarding with hatred any attempts to treat them purely as extras, as  the  background, as victims or passive objects of domination.

Today our planet, inhabited for centuries by a narrow group of free people and broad ranks of the enslaved, is being filled with a rising number of nations and societies that have a growing sense of their own importance and separate value.
This process often occurs amid vast difficulties, conflicts and dramas.
Perhaps we are tending towards a world so completely new and different that the experience of history to date will prove inadequate for understanding it and being able to move about in it.

In any case the world we are entering is the Planet of Great Opportunity – not an unconditional opportunity, but one that is only open to those who take their tasks seriously, proving by this token that they take themselves seriously. It is a world that has the potential to give a lot, but also demands a lot, and where any attempt to take an  easy shortcut is often a road to nowhere.

In it we shall constantly be encountering the new Other, who will gradually start to emerge from the chaos and confusion of modern life. It is possible that this Other will be born out of an encounter between two opposing trends that form the culture of the modern world – one that is globalising our reality, and another that is preserving our dissimilarity, our differences, our uniqueness. He will be their son and heir, and that is why we should seek dialogue and communication with him. The experience of spending many years among distant Others has taught me that friendliness towards another human being is the only attitude that can touch a chord of humanity in him.

Who will this new Other be? What will our encounter be like? What shall we say to each other? And in what language? Will we be able to listen to each other? Understand each other? Will we jointly wish to refer to what 
– as Conrad puts it – “speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to  the  sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, 
and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation 
– and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the oneliness of innumerable hearts: to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in  sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to  each other, which binds together all humanity – the dead to the living and the living to the unborn”?

Ryszard Kapuściński (1932-2007) – writer, poet and photographer. For many years a correspondent for the Polish Press Agency, he spent half his life on the road, reporting from over a hundred countries. The  author of 20 books, translated into 39 languages, he made reporting a veritable art form.