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A Brief Interview with Andrew Solomon

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by Nissa Rhee

In Far and Away, you write that if all young adults were required to spend two weeks in a foreign country, two-thirds of the world’s diplomatic problems could be solved. What do you mean by that?

Andrew Solomon: I think a lot of the time people assume that their values are universal. And they don’t understand which aspects of their values are actually universal and which aspects are very specific.

So I think what would be helpful about instituting that program of early travel is not so much the particulars of what people would encounter in the countries that they went to, but simply the fact that once you’ve been somewhere else, you will know that there are other ways of doing things. And there are other people who are doing things in that other way, who actually prefer doing things their way, and that they don’t want to turn into you.

I think an awful lot of the diplomatic problems that exist in the world come from people assuming that their society is the one with a purchase on truth. It’s deeply humbling to realize that there is no such thing as a society with a purchase on truth.

(To read the full interview, please visit Chicago Reader.)