(Below is blog post. It contains naive ramblings and no great conclusions—and lots of mizpellings and grammatical errors.)
Why is it hard to mix cultures?…What is a culture?
A culture is a collection of people who share certain beliefs and values and, to some degree at least, share ideas on how those values should be expressed. For example, I was raised a Catholic, but I’m not Catholic anymore. To become a Catholic, I adopted Catholic values and beliefs; indeed, to become a member of the Catholic Church I had to profess those values and beliefs in various rituals.
So why did I leave that culture, that community?
Quite simply because I no longer shared some of its core values and beliefs.
Even so, I still enjoy being around Catholics; I even enjoy talking about religion with them, though that’s not always a welcomed subject. So I can’t say I’ve left the culture behind entirely. I still attend mass occasionally, and I’m not triggered by belief I no longer share, even though some Catholics are very triggered by my beliefs. To each his own.
Why our community got along
I used to live in Fremont, California, in the Bay Area. Fremont is a bit of a bedroom community with a very diverse population. The schools my son attended had something like an 85 percent non-white, mostly “Asian” student population. The cultures clashed at times, but generally we got along. You might say we got along to the extent our values didn’t clash; but I think that was achieved more by silence than by expression and acceptance. As long as everyone followed the common law, things worked out.
But this brings up an important question: Can different cultures successfully mix WHEN each culture openly expresses its values and beliefs?
I’m fine the way I am
I don’t think people want to change their values and beliefs, especially ones that are a close part of their identity, like religious beliefs. It’s why we tend to associate with people who are like us.
More often than not, openly sharing differing values and beliefs leads to conflict—and why not? If a person places great importance on certain beliefs, and another person declares them wrong, that defines conflict.
So we can’t communicate our differences without creating conflict. Where does that leave us? We could choose to not listen to others with differing views. But that creates an echo chamber of inbreed ideas that don’t develop and grow. I’m afraid much of our bifurcated culture is doing this right now.
Debate vs. Dialogue
A better goal is to figure out how we can communicate our differences without creating a debate where each side strives to win. Instead, we need to create a dialogue, where each party speaks to inform and the other party listens to understand. In a dialogue the goal isn’t to win, but to understand and inform.
How do we structure our communication to favor dialogue instead of debate? I’ll have to explore that in later posts…