Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cultural Suicide: USAF Edition

Air Force 2A Culture General Course (ZZ133104)

Lesson 1:

Slide 19:  Oftentimes, a society has a divided view on certain values.  Take for example racism.  Some people strongly believe that a particular race is superior or inferior to another due to biological differences that predetermine one’s social, intellectual, and moral traits.  This view oftentimes results in racial separatism or the belief that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another.  While the basis for racial discrimination is unfounded, this argument has led to unnecessary animosity and violence.

Slide 21:  Ideally, you should view other people’s behavior within their cultural framework and respect their traditions.  Their perspectives are equally important as yours, just different.  This view of culture is called relativism or the ability to temporarily withhold your opinion in order to understand another standpoint.  This understanding facilitates better planning and more effective action.  However, it’s human nature to judge different societies by your own cultural standards and, by doing so, potentially impede your ability to understand and appreciate other people’s lifestyles.  This rigid view that your own culture is “right” and theirs “wrong” is known as ethnocentrism and should be avoided because it could ultimately hamper your mission effectiveness.

Slide 22:  Geert Hofstede, an influential Dutch writer, illustrates cultural relativism by comparing culture to a computer system or software of the mind.  Inn other words, while human beings all have the same “hardware,” which corresponds to the human brain, our “software” or programming is rather different.  Some of us are running Windows software while others run Linux.  The key point is that computer hardware normally works find regardless of the software it uses.  Culture is no different – no single culture is better than all others.  When you interact with individuals having different cultural backgrounds, at first their ways may make little sense to you.  This is because your cultural upbringing or your “software” is different.  Therefore, your challenge is to be able to effectively operate across different cultural systems with the assistance of cross-cultural communication.

Lesson 2:

Slide 7:  Personality is primarily determined by environment, although biology or heredity has an influence by determining our physical appearance.  While biology may not predetermine our personality, it does determine our gender and the way we look which in turn affect our self-image.  It also influences how others see and interact with us.  Some people believe that behaviors are inherited.  For example, children are expected to acquire a personal temperament or a level of intellect that resembles a parent or relative.  The key point is that while biology is important to personal development, the environment takes the lead in shaping both the individual’s and society’s personality and character.

Lesson 3:

Slide 8:  It may be more accurate to refer to America as a salad bowl rather than a melting pot because we have both shared and rather distinctive cultural aspects.

Lesson 4:

Slide 5:  Humanity’s physical diversity is primarily a result of our ancestors adapting to their environment.  For example, skin color is believed to be influenced by humans adjusting to the equator’s tropical climate or to the Arctic's frigid environment.  As humans interbreed, physical differences change and become visibly more diverse.  While groups of people differ in appearance, there’s no scientific basis for linking intellect or achievement to physical diversity, no more than assuming there’s a relation between skin color and blood type.  Notably, beneath the skin we’re all biologically the same, although ethnocentrists tend to label people with different physical features as inferior.

Slide 6:  This practice of categorizing different cultures based on appearance, known as biological determinism, began when early global travelers noticed physical diversity throughout the various regions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and made judgments about different people.  For example, Europeans, who explored the world from the 15th to the 19th centuries, considered societies both biologically and culturally different from them as inferior.  Their later domination of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries resulted in regional boundaries, exploitation of valuable natural resources, and slavery.  Regional ethnic groups were merged under colonial rule causing internal strife and loss of ethnic identity.  When colonial rule ended after World War II, Africa stood divided into independent countries in which ethnic groups competed for power by engaging in ethnic cleansing or genocide.

Slide 7:  Then there was the early 20th-century eugenics movement that attempted to promote selective breeding.  It centered on a socio-racial philosophy that certain privileged people had desirable traits worthy of preserving, while other people’s heredity was classified as unfit.  Eugenics pre-dated the discovery of DNA and was widely embraced throughout academic and social circles as the so-called blueprint for humanity, reaching its heights with the WWII Nazi dominant-race movement.  Today eugenics is remembered as a brutal form of racial discrimination that inflicted massive human rights violations on millions of people.  wile many societies frown upon this practice, some cultures continue to discriminate through racism.

Slide 8:  Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another due to biological differences and therefore suggests that social, intellectual, and moral traits are genetically predetermined.  This view oftentimes results in racial separatism or the belief that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another.  While the basis for racial discrimination is unfounded, some governments have used it as a means to exert power.  Popular examples of racism include 18th and 19th-century American segregation of whites and blacks and apartheid in Africa.  In Japan, despite the presence of a substantial minority population, the dominant racial ideology describes the country as racially and ethnically homogeneous or the same.  This theory stems from Japan’s isolationism in its early history.  Her ruling monarchs shunned foreign visitors and closed its shores to non-Japanese settlers and influences.  As a result many Japanese believe their heritage is hereditary.

Slide 10:  Contrary to Japanese racial consistency, Brazil’s race structure is known for its flexibility.  Brazilians are able to determine their own identities as influenced by their surroundings.  They tend to modify their identity through achieved status, maturity, and physical changes.  A Brazilian can claim multiple racial identities because differences are insignificant.  Notably, racial discrimination is less likely to occur there than in other societies.  Unlike Japan’s unfounded perspective, Brazil’s approach illustrates how societies more rationally use race as a social method of categorizing its members into ethnic groups.

Slide 11:  In daily interactions, some people commonly use race and ethnicity interchangeably, although race is one of a broad set of cultural traits that collectively define ethnicity.

Slide 13:  Multiculturalism is the view that cultural diversity is good and desirable.  It promotes cultural relativism and the acceptance of other ethnic traditions and practices.  Multiculturalism has taken root in both the United States and Canada, with noticeable growth in recent years.  It counters assimilation or the belief that minorities should renounce their own views and adopt the cultural traditions of the dominant group.  Ideally, when deployed to different societies, you too will effectively embrace a relativistic perspective.

Lesson 5:

Slide 11:  The honeymoon phase comes at the beginning of deployment, whereby Airmen experience high expectations and a positive attitude.  You would typically expect the new environment to be adventuresome and exciting, although you may initially look for familiar similarities to help you adjust.  This phase normally lasts for a week to a month.

Slide 12:  The Honeymoon fades as cultural differences begin to make you uncomfortable.  At this point you may become irritable and withdrawn, instinctively avoiding contact with local inhabitants.  Some people even become aggressive and hostile.

Slide 14:  Adaptation means you’ve adjusted to local customs and gained confidence when interacting with the local people you've grown accustomed to a new lifestyle that you’ll likely miss when you leave.

3 comments:

Justin said...

No one takes this crap seriously do they?

samsonsjawbone said...

Multiculturalism has taken root in both the United States and Canada, with noticeable growth in recent years. It counters assimilation or the belief that minorities should renounce their own views and adopt the cultural traditions of the dominant group.

I'm upset to see this. I know my Canada has embraced the "salad bowl", but I thought the US still held strongly onto the "melting pot" theory.

trumwill said...

I'm upset to see this. I know my Canada has embraced the "salad bowl", but I thought the US still held strongly onto the "melting pot" theory.

It's an ongoing debate. When I was going through school, there was a big "We're a salad bowl, not a melting pot" but I haven't heard that in years (starting in late high school). I think the current metaphor is a stew. Some things blend, some stay distinct.