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The following post is written by Dave, the founder of Atacora.

Atacora is proud to embrace the recent Supreme Court ruling making marriage equality the law of the land! This is not just about gay rights, but human rights, respect, dignity and integrity. These themes, when held dear and infused into all societal interactions, can make the world a better place.

Why do we need to judge someone unless they are doing great harm to others? Why do people view themselves as vastly different than others with whom they do not share certain sets of beliefs? Are they really that different? I do not think so!

Divisive judgement serves to disintegrate society, and renders other, commonly held beliefs null, distancing us form the possibility of inclusive society. Celebrating diversity implies that despite our differences, we can all get along, but shines more light on our differences than our similarities. I think that is a backward notion. I’ve travelled and lived abroad a lot, and checked out a lot of the varied subcultures here at home. The biggest lesson I have learned is that we humans are much more the same than we are different. This is the foundation of pluralism, and I think we should start from there and work out our differences from there!

To me, neither sexual orientation, race, nationality, religion, political affiliation nor national origin does much to show me that someone is altoghether that different from me. We all need a roof, food, water, healthy kids and a peaceful way to make a living. One might assert that a rural African farmer who has never worn shoes or travelled 50 miles and I are extremely different. Without reservation, I can tell you that we are not.

NOW, for pluralism to take hold, all parties need to begin to see things this way. This can be accomplished by building relationships and really showing one and other how very similar we are. I suppose everyone enters into situations with preconceived notions, or is influenced by stereotypes, whether they like or admit it or not. In my experience, if you give a little time to just being people…eating, drinking, meeting the kids, or working, face value will trump the preconceptions. Repeat as necessary, it will probably be very enjoyable!

Back to equality: When you’ve come to know someone, stand on level ground and look each other in the eye, beautiful things can happen. You can even identify the differences between you and have honest debate, while reserving judgement. This is called building bridging social capital, and can be the foundation for important social change. So what if you don’t agree on everything? You’ve established the very fundamental common ground we all share.

This is how Atacora approaches working in West Africa. We have built immensely strong relationships with many, many people because we start from a very human standpoint. When there is a mutual acknowledgement of integrity and trust, business can happen in a sustainable manner. We have a lot of fun and meet extraordinary people along the way.

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