Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reflections on 2007
Today, I’m going to take a breather from the interviews, and reflect a little on what we have done, and where this project is going.

I really believe these interviews have generated good content for this blog, but it doesn’t look like people are downloading them. That is unfortunate, because most of the good material is in those interviews, not in the reflections that I write about them. The reason I include them is because it is so much more insightful to hear from a real person about their own culture than to hear my superficial interpretation of it. For example, for me to say, “Some people believe that Jesus must have been black” has nowhere near the impact of hearing Makeda Dread tell us herself that that’s what she believes. And who cares if I say, “Some Imam told me that there is nothing holy about war.” Wouldn’t it mean so much more to hear it from Imam Taha Hassane? I am going to have to solve this problem somehow, because this blog is not about my opinion. It is about understanding other people’s opinions, no matter how different they are. And please, I am open to suggestions, leave me a comment or e-mail me!

On that note, this blog really is not about my opinion, and that is why I have become progressively less hesitant to talk about my own background as a Roman Catholic. At first, I thought that maybe bringing up my religion would taint the objectivity of the blog, but now I think just the opposite: As a person with a distinctive worldview and set of beliefs, I believe I can more readily identify with other people whose worldviews differ from the mainstream. I have a better understanding and more direct experience with what differences in values can mean, and how serious those differences are.

I also hope that it can help people to see that you can have a firm belief in something and still try to learn and understand other people’s beliefs. You don’t have to agree with someone to understand them, but it seems to me like people are afraid of this. I want to show people that it is much more important to try to understand why other people believe the way they do than to try to prove to other people that my way is right.

Imagine a world where people are less interested in winning arguments, and more interested in understanding the other person's side!

Imagine a world where people are more interested in learning something than in teaching something!

I have learned a great deal from doing these interviews. Every interview changes the way I think, the way I see the world. Every interview, I come away understanding things I never understood before.

Probably one of the most important things is how deep and complex every culture is. Within days of posting my Kwanzaa interview with Makeda, I ran across this blog post by an African American woman who was very critical of Kwanzaa. When people start to learn about different cultures, they want to hear “Chinese people think this, Muslim people think that, and African Americans think this other thing.” But it is so much more complicated than that. People are not deprived of their free will because of their skin color, religion, or country of origin. Any person of any culture might hold any opinion. It is impossible to pre-judge someone based on their cultural background.

That is because the point of learning about culture is not to learn to predict and pigeonhole people. It is to help us understand each other. I often emphasize that the important cultural differences are differences in values, and they are. But it isn’t enough to make lists of what we think each other’s values are, and then carry them around in quick reference guides. We have to understand the different collective experiences that people are dealing with, and the different worldviews. Rather than form lists of assumptions, we need to learn not to assume.

And obviously, the point is not for each of us to learn everything about every culture. That would be impossible. But the more you learn about different cultures, the easier it is to show understanding for our differences. Your brain starts to work differently. While you will still try to think of explanations for how a person could possibly, for example, think that something horrible like female genital mutilation is a good idea, you stop making the knee-jerk conclusion jump to “I can’t think of an explanation, therefore those people must just be bad” and you become more comfortable with the idea that the answer could be something you just haven’t thought of. You get better at being patient, and learning, and thus stand a better chance of really figuring out what is behind values differences, instead of rushing to find a band-aid answer, shut the door and move on. And this kind of deep understanding is what will ultimately prove the most productive in solving problems like the scourge of female genital mutilation that still affects so much of the world.

At this time, I am editing my ebook, The Global Diversity Crisis, to be published and sold on Amazon. It’s coming along pretty good. I am cutting out a lot of the verbose language that sounds good in a master’s thesis, in order to make it a more enjoyable read. I’m going to use the book and the blog to cross-promote each other, since they are both part of the same mission.

2007 wasn’t such a good year for cultural understanding. As our media becomes more polarized toward ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’, it remains very distant from the realities of the different cultures around the world. We hear about events in Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, Myanmar, etc., through the political filters we set up for ourselves, and we miss the most important implications of those events due to cultural ignorance. At home, with the presidential campaigns we see people raising specters about Mitt Romney’s Mormon background, or Barack Obama’s Muslim background, as if those might be good reasons to vote or not to vote for somebody. While the average person walks about with a “Merry Christmas” on his lips, government organizations and corporations still send out memos warning employees to use the more generic “Happy Holidays”, clinging to the notion that sweeping cultural differences under the rug and ignoring them is the best way to avoid being boiled in their own plum pudding… but go ahead, bring on 2008:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

-Sir Alfred, Lord Tennyson
(Retrieved from here)
Happy New Year!
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Barney's Car

Purchase with purchase
* with Barney voice
*Missing blocks


Fisher-Price Pull Up Ball Blast

Including postage for peninsular
Your little one will have a blast learning to sit, pull up and stand with this colorful ball playset that's got plenty of action. From a sitting or standing position, baby can drop one of six colorful balls into a chute and watch it roll down the spiraling track and out one of the four openings in the base. Sturdy grab handles help baby pull up to a standing position, while dancing lights, music and fun sound effects reward physical accomplishments. The convenient On/off switch and volume control lets Mom and Dad control the fun. Requires 3 "AA" alkaline batteries (not included).
**Balls missing


Infantino Go Go Rider Carrier in Navy/Blue Plaid

Including postage for peninsular
*Strong adjustable buckles designed for quick one hand release
*Baby can ride facing in or out
*Convenient head support design for use up or folded down
*Soft padded material and Velcro closure for a custom fit
*Handy front pocket for keys or cell phone or toy




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