Are the suggestions, challenges, relevant to all cultures?

by Rod Smith

No culture is perfect....

No culture is perfect....

I am regularly informed that my message (speak up, define yourself) may be culturally relevant to an audience in North America but that it is not relevant to, say, Indians in Asia, to Koreans, or to British housewives. “We (whomever is writing or taking) are closer, tighter, more conservative, not like you Americans. We don’t allow women to express their opinions in our culture.”

While of course, I acknowledge the beauty, the power, and significance of unique cultures within all of their many forms – there are some aspects or things about most cultures should be challenged* and changed.

Here are a few:

1. When the voices of some are ignored or silenced because it is “cultural” (as in come caste systems).
2. When violence is par for the course because that’s our culture. (“He beats me, but that is how men are in these parts.”)
3. When boundaries are violated and one person or group is constantly the victim. (“Children get no privacy in our – insert place, race, religion, or language – families.”)
4. When thoughts and actions are monitored and suppressed in order to perpetuate the power of one group or person over another group or person. (“In our religion we are not allowed to think such things!”)
5. When the powerless are victimized and silence is the expected response. (“That’s just the way it is in the south – this county, this neighborhood, whatever!”)

The Differentiation of Self is applicable across all cultures and to consider it not so, is to misunderstand the concept at its core.

* I cannot prance around the world uttering racial slurs and then claim that, as a white South African reared under Apartheid, I am expressing my culture. Some things about my culture are despicable and ought to be harshly rejected. The same is true when a culture (or church, or family, or boss, or significant other) robs people of their voices for any reason (gender, race, age, economic status, or religion). Domination, manipulation, so-called co-dependence is not good for anyone, no matter where he or she is born, what language he or she speaks, or what faith he or she claims or proclaims.

By the way, one of my first Egyptian students wrote in response to a week of exposure to my lectures: “You are welcome to visit Egypt but do not say anything.”

One Comment to “Are the suggestions, challenges, relevant to all cultures?”

  1. There is no where in the world that this is not relevant and needed. Thank you.

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