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Framework for Discussion Across Cultures


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I have asked others to provide elements of a framework for discussion, generally, of 'cultures' on MLW without much success.  As such, here's a strawman for you to comment on.  I will only give some high-level thoughts, not deep or well-considered, off the top of my head:

--  --  --  --  --  --  

-The goal of discussion should be greater understanding of how cultures do and don't mesh together

-Nobody can discuss anything from a cultural vacuum so we are necessarily speaking about relative comparisons between cultures here.  As such, blaming groups and individuals isn't useful.  

-Likewise, you can't deny differences or even deficiencies in areas of human behaviour within cultures.  Nothing should be off the table.

-Clarity and specificity in the discussion, referencing values and principles of cultures involved are the best ways to create a clear conversation

Anything else ?

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-The goal of discussion should be greater understanding of how cultures do and don't mesh together

Off the top of my head:  Culture changes over time.  When two cultures "meet", they learn from each other and will adopt each other's practices, to the point where it can be difficult to know where or when a particular practice or belief originated.   

Cultures also change as a result of uncertainty or instability: if a group perceives itself at risk, they tend to become more conservative and more religious, demanding more conformity from the group.   

Do cultures move 'backward' speaking specifically in the area of individual freedoms?   It seems that in the Middle East some have; in the 50s and 60s there was less religiosity apparent than there is currently.   The reversion to a more fundamental and conservative religious belief seems to have coincided with the imposition of Western geopolitical manipulation in the region and the resulting instability.  

Could such a thing happen in the Western world?  I certainly think it's possible, but I think it would more likely come as a part of climate change societal disintegration rather than military invasion or even a cultural invasion.   As the threat to humans increases due to environmental deterioration, people will tend to become more conservative and less willing to tolerate behavior out-of-the-norm, however that 'norm' is defined.  Many will look for a savior - often these saviors are a charismatic human with a line to God and the rules for salvation allow no deviation from whatever "God" demands, through the words of the savior.   History certainly shows that God (however he is named) often demands adherence to rules that create divisiveness, outcasts and oppression of those perceived as 'different'.

 

 

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19 minutes ago, dialamah said:

 1) Off the top of my head:  Culture changes over time.  When two cultures "meet", they learn from each other and will adopt each other's practices, to the point where it can be difficult to know where or when a particular practice or belief originated.   

Cultures also change as a result of uncertainty or instability: if a group perceives itself at risk, they tend to become more conservative and more religious, demanding more conformity from the group.   

2) Do cultures move 'backward' speaking specifically in the area of individual freedoms?   It seems that in the Middle East some have; in the 50s and 60s there was less religiosity apparent than there is currently.   The reversion to a more fundamental and conservative religious belief seems to have coincided with the imposition of Western geopolitical manipulation in the region and the resulting instability.  

3) Could such a thing happen in the Western world?  I certainly think it's possible, but I think it would more likely come as a part of climate change societal disintegration rather than military invasion or even a cultural invasion.   As the threat to humans increases due to environmental deterioration, people will tend to become more conservative and less willing to tolerate behavior out-of-the-norm, however that 'norm' is defined.  Many will look for a savior - often these saviors are a charismatic human with a line to God and the rules for salvation allow no deviation from whatever "God" demands, through the words of the savior.   History certainly shows that God (however he is named) often demands adherence to rules that create divisiveness, outcasts and oppression of those perceived as 'different'.

 

 

1) Understood, and there are many difficulties with discussing matters so dynamic and subjective.  It may be better to keep the discussion to more static and objective aspects if that's possible.

2) It's arguable.  Self-determination ) 'forward' but fundamentalism is 'backward' in my view.

3) Time moves forward and I believe progress continues even if localized areas try to turn back the clock.

 

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1 hour ago, Michael Hardner said:

-Nobody can discuss anything from a cultural vacuum so we are necessarily speaking about relative comparisons between cultures here.  As such, blaming groups and individuals isn't useful. 

I think it's legit to criticize individuals or particular beliefs from other cultures, but the very real danger that happens all the time on MLW, and has happened historically with many cultures and races, is to equate the behaviour of one or a small number of individuals from a certain culture as indicative of the whole group.  Like 10,000 violent Muslim extremists aren't indicative of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.  Or that radical Christians who vandalize mosques and assault random Muslims aren't indicative of all Christians.  Or even that racist gun-toting, Bible-thumping homophobes are indicative of all Americans.  Stereotypes are very bad and very harmful and is the cause of racism of hatred, and we must realize there's great variation within cultures.

So we can talk about certain negative behaviours/beliefs that might exist within certain cultures, but that doesn't mean they define these cultures.

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1 minute ago, Moonlight Graham said:

1) I think it's legit to criticize individuals or particular beliefs from other cultures, but the very real danger that happens all the time on MLW, and has happened historically with many cultures and races, is to equate the behaviour of one or a small number of individuals from a certain culture as indicative of the whole group.  

2) Like 10,000 violent Muslim extremists aren't indicative of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.  Or that radical Christians who vandalize mosques and assault random Muslims aren't indicative of all Christians.  Or even that racist gun-toting, Bible-thumping homophobes are indicative of all Americans.  Stereotypes are very bad and very harmful and is the cause of racism of hatred, and we must realize there's great variation within cultures.

3) So we can talk about certain negative behaviours/beliefs that might exist within certain cultures, but that doesn't mean they define these cultures.

1) Yes but that is two issues: generalizing group characteristics to individuals and assigning negative attributes to the group over a single attribute.

2) Agreed

3) But in some cases they may well do

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20 hours ago, Michael Hardner said:

Time moves forward and I believe progress continues even if localized areas try to turn back the clock.

Probably true, at least historically.  But in an age where all areas of the world are connected, isn't it possible that global instability could 'turn back the clock' everywhere?  

21 hours ago, Michael Hardner said:

Likewise, you can't deny differences or even deficiencies in areas of human behaviour within cultures.  Nothing should be off the table.

True.  I've often been accused here of defending horrific practices or ignoring serious human rights issues within a certain culture.  I don't think that's true, but it seems the only way to avoid these accusations is to agree that the most horrific actions define an entire specific group.  That isn't a discussion and it requires ignoring certain things, such as only the most unusual actions make the international news and thus by definition aren't definitive of that group and/or that the same thing happens in other groups as well and so again aren't definitive of that group.

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21 hours ago, dialamah said:

1) Probably true, at least historically.  But in an age where all areas of the world are connected, isn't it possible that global instability could 'turn back the clock' everywhere?  

2) True.  I've often been accused here of defending horrific practices or ignoring serious human rights issues within a certain culture.  I don't think that's true, but it seems the only way to avoid these accusations is to agree that the most horrific actions define an entire specific group.  That isn't a discussion and it requires ignoring certain things, such as only the most unusual actions make the international news and thus by definition aren't definitive of that group and/or that the same thing happens in other groups as well and so again aren't definitive of that group.

1) Unlikely IMO.

2) Therein lies the difficulty but worthwhile things can be difficult.

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On 4/24/2017 at 0:25 PM, dialamah said:

-The goal of discussion should be greater understanding of how cultures do and don't mesh together

Off the top of my head:  Culture changes over time.  When two cultures "meet", they learn from each other and will adopt each other's practices, to the point where it can be difficult to know where or when a particular practice or belief originated.   

What if the difference between the two cultures is so profound that one or the other is outraged by the other side's cultural practices? Let's say, for one example, that a tribe is living alone and another tribe moves in next door. This second tribe practices human sacrifice and cannibalism - preferably on outsiders. How would one expect the first tribe to 'learn' from the second and 'adopt its practices'?

Yes, this is an extreme example, but the point being that not all cultural practices can be made acceptable to external cultures simply because those cultural practices are inimical to other cultures' view of proper behaviour.

FGM is a more modern example. Perfectly acceptable in Egypt, however much the government is trying to stamp it out, but outrageous to virtually anyone born and raised in the West.

Cultures can mesh. Canada and the US have invited in people from around the world to come here and meld with our own population. But the general understanding is that when it comes to who adapts to whom it is the outside culture which must be largely set aside to adopt the existing one here.

 

 

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On 4/27/2017 at 7:41 PM, Argus said:

1) What if the difference between the two cultures is so profound that one or the other is outraged by the other side's cultural practices? Let's say, for one example, that a tribe is living alone and another tribe moves in next door. This second tribe practices human sacrifice and cannibalism - preferably on outsiders. How would one expect the first tribe to 'learn' from the second and 'adopt its practices'?

2) Yes, this is an extreme example, but the point being that not all cultural practices can be made acceptable to external cultures simply because those cultural practices are inimical to other cultures' view of proper behaviour.

3) Cultures can mesh. Canada and the US have invited in people from around the world to come here and meld with our own population. But the general understanding is that when it comes to who adapts to whom it is the outside culture which must be largely set aside to adopt the existing one here.

 

 

1) I agree with what you are implying here: cultures will leave things behind when they mesh.  A good discussion will tag such things and examine why they are left behind.

2) Agreed.

3) I disagree with 'must' here.  There is a conscious discussion of what is/isn't accepted when cultures blend, I will give you that.  But there is also the political push for acceptance, admittedly more from the left traditionally, as well as the far less understood unconscious blending and acceptance that happens out of view.

I don't see many people disagreeing with my precepts here.  Are we ready to try to use this framework with an example ?  I have one.

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The example I'm considering is Italian emigration to (North) America from late 19th to early 20th centuries and that experience.

This is a meta-discussion in that we're talking about how to discuss the meeting of two cultures.  Of course, the examples will be real but staying on topic means keeping it meta.  And absolutely, comparisons to other groups are off-topic.

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So I have read some pages on the Italian-American experience in summary: http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1999/3/99.03.06.x.html

There were lots of factors that set up this interaction for failure as well as success.  The overarching bottom-line factor in all of this is economics, that is clear.

How the cultures did/didn't mesh together:

-Italians were coming from a country with weak institutions, economically poor conditions which meant that the American experience would be a big culture change, even without the language barrier.   Ghettoization and criminal traditions would be inevitable.

-This also meant that they could mostly only work in factories, and satisfy a need for cheap labour but not excel (initially) or prosper.  Leaving the question of economic benefits of that kind of immigration aside, it's a legitimate question about how Italians could assimilate and prosper in American society.

-Physical differences in the peoples, ie. Southern European vs Northern European

-Strong family and religious bonds would help strengthen their foundation in society, but also separate them.

All of this meant that it took many generations to assimilate, and when you look at the reverse impact they had it seems to come down to culture, ie. food, music and film.  I think a valid criticism at the time (using present day common moral framework) could have been:

-They won't excel economically.

-They won't be accepted in larger society.

-They don't know/trust our institutional frameworks.

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Add any thoughts to those above, but I am trying to lay out how a discussion of the cultural meeting could be laid out in objective terms.  

Also, reminding that the goal is to guide a discussion/exploration.    Having a discussion on this level seems to me to be a way to broach the gap in discussion we have, wherein we can't discuss culture without, for example:

1) Calling out cultural differences as absolutes, that exist outside our cultural perspective

2) Refusing to address differences that could cause problems.

The goal is NOT to reach conclusions or provide suggestions of responses to the situation.  People can do that on their own or separately with the results of said discussion.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 4/24/2017 at 11:47 AM, Michael Hardner said:

....

-The goal of discussion should be greater understanding of how cultures do and don't mesh together

....

On this, with time, I tend to agree with Trudeau Snr.

A State can have Official Languages; a State can have no official culture. 

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