Sorry I couldn't be there on Wednesday, but I'd like to offer my 40
cents* on the topic.
* - 2 cents adjusted for inflation
> Why is it so difficult for people from different backgrounds to connect and
> is it important in the first place?
First, the word "connect" should be defined. Does it mean to merely
understand someone else w/a different cultural heritage, or does it
mean the ability to EMPATHIZE with them?
Empathy is a completely different matter, and it needn't be said that
the ability of one person to internalize the experience of someone
else depends entirely on whether that person had a similar genuine
experience in the past. In other words, empathy is not something one
can develop at will--it's an ability only acquired through shared
But regarding the ability of someone to simply understand cultures
foreign to his own, the greatest obstacle to that is FEAR. People
inevitably develop comfort zones, or fixed value systems throughout
their life, usually subconsciously, that serve them well. These
values, in reality, are what have proven to have worked for a person
in the past, as opposed to something contained in a book.
When a particular belief system has proven its mettle over time for an
individual, or at least is perceived by him/her to have done so, that
individual is unlikely to not only abandon it but even consider any
other beliefs, for fear that doing so could potentially cloud his /her
judgement in the future.
The irony, of course, is that in a multicultural world--the one in
that is modern day America--ignorance of other cultures ultimately
proves impractical. In the workplace, where interaction w/others
(coworkers, supervisors, etc.) is a must, a complete lack of
understanding of others' frame of mind makes it difficult to work
together and hence becomes an barrier to maintaining a job.
Consequently, I believe that eventually one's fear of losing what one
has will ultimately FORCE people to understand cultures alien to
his/her own, because, in a Darwinistic world such as ours, it will
become a matter of SURVIVAL.
The bigots and other closed minded folk who take comfort in the fact
that they may be part of the mainstream are going to end up broke and
helpless. Consider it--in many states it's still culturally
acceptable to actively resent and intimidate undocumented Latino
immigrants and other non-resident foreigners.
But in the short run, though it may gain them local supporters, they
will inevitably have to face the unpleasant reality of being displaced
by them, or ask one of them to give them a job.
IN a nutshell, the global economy is merciless to the culturally
ignorant, even if one's social circle welcomes it.
On 4/26/12, Jon Anderson <[address removed]> wrote:
> 4/25/12 questions and discussion
> 1-just how much control do we have over ourselves?2
> 2-should we be optimistic?3
> 3-why is untethered freedom so valued?4
> 4-at what point does an action become OCD?0
> 5-what was it that changed your life for the better?4
> Why is it so difficult for people from different backgrounds to connect and
> is it important in the first place?6
> Jess: this is about people with different personalities, interests. The
> kinds of things we tend to stereotype about each other. We're all human, we
> all want similar things. What is with the fluff, the layers that keep us
> apart? Or, we all actually basically different? I'll show a great book to a
> friend that I love and my friend will say it means nothing to them. I feel
> represented by the author, they feel totally unrepresented.
> Jon: does "fluff" have any good purpose?
> Jess: I don't know. Why would I spend time with someone who doesn't
> understand me? if fluff tells me we don't have much in common it can work as
> a shorthand but it can also prevent us from even starting a conversation.
> Jon: in the book The Happiness Hypothesis the author argues that "fluff", or
> sources of external happiness have a biological function for all species.
> These surface ways of getting along help us feel a part of something and,
> being social animals, we need that in order to best function.
> Jess: Facebook is fluff. How does Facebook really describe oneself?
> Tor: there is some research: marriages last longer when they have more in
> common. People marry for what they have in common but then stay married
> because of their differences. Getting to know people, one at a time, is
> best. Much of it depends on coincidence. "Fluff" is only important for
> Mike: I keep coming back to a belief I have. Our country is supposed to be a
> smorgasbord of cultures. But don't we end up just going through the motions,
> being polite/accepting, just to get along? This isn't good interaction. No
> one really gets to know anyone. We more and more seem to insist upon this
> smorgasbord approach.
> Jess: there's a difference between the social and the deep. I feel it when I
> don't connect. I wonder if it's worth it. I have travelled a lot and lived
> for years in different cultures/countries, so I have reliable experiences
> with being amongst people I know nothing about and who seem very different
> from me.
> Mike: this culture is fueled by TV and the internet encourages superficial
> Mary: manners are very important. Even though they appear superficial they
> are not an immediate barrier. It's about a modicum of respect. Once that's
> achieved you can deepen the relationship. Is it interest or need driven? Is
> it curiosity? Is there a need for a good friend? Looking for a good friend
> requires many tries. If you're curious it's much easier to find people to
> get to know well.
> Jess: are all people fundamentally the same, or not?
> Mary: I think we are different but don't know to what extent our differences
> are shaped by culture.
> Jess: some tell me all everyone wants is to be loved. I prefer being
> Mary: Is it a difference between kind, or degree?
> Tor: you may disagree but I think the purpose is to find your unique gift
> and your responsibility is to give it away. This is what makes a person
> interesting, worth getting to know.
> Jess: if they're depressed and have no motivation, thereby making themselves
> uninteresting, then what?
> Tor: I know someone like that. He's now on his way back. His gift was hidden
> by his being boring.
> Jeremy: I feel we're all blindly flailing! Is anybody friends with anybody?
> Jon: so why do you have friends?
> Jeremy: I'm puzzled about my friends. I find myself thinking "he's mad at
> me." Lo and behold, nothing's wrong! Yet I have friends I should doubt but
> Jermy: Whenever I'm with both of my parents I argue with my dad constantly.
> If it's just me and dad, we don't argue at all.
> Jon: the decade or so I attended AA meetings taught me that there are
> interesting things about everyone. At those meeting I got to know people who
> superficially offered me nothing of interest, yet turned out to be
> interesting and in some cases very valuable friends. The key ingredient I
> think was the baseline assumption all who attend such gatherings possess:
> we're in trouble and we need one another's support.
> Eric: I think we need connection. You never know who you'll need, and when.
> I don't know if we're always prepared for it. There's something always going
> on that prevents connection. I'm concerned that we're going somewhere as a
> civilization where we can't connect no matter how much we want and try to.
> Technology enables us to separate (earphones). Connecting can be risky. Some
> prefer not to be understood (even though it's believed to be a common human
> Mary: if one approaches meeting others with a fear of being judged/rejected,
> one will not get to know people. A fear of what others will think can
> paralyze us. As a result of my involvement with the Minnesota Peace Project
> I learned (via working with politicians) the difference between a genuine
> getting to know others versus using other's ideas as a way to convince them
> to think differently.
> Jon: is that effort to convince ever positive?
> Mary: only if invited!
> Jeremy: recently I realized my true friends like my strengths and
> Tor: a foreigner is fooled by Americans when they first comes here.
> Americans behave like they've been friends for years when they first meet
> you. This is crap. To decode this is the hardest thing for a Scandinavian.
> In Scandinavia breaking through the social barriers can take centuries! This
> is also the most charming part about Americans. The ugly American is
> accepted, largely, in Europe (ironically).
> Tor: What's been fun tonight is how each of you has noticed what's
> interesting about what each other has said. Only here in America can we take
> from all the other cultures while remaining American. No other country has
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