Sunday, April 24, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
If one is working on a project with Israelis and Palestinians, and an email is sent to ten colleagues from each side, nine out of 10 Israelis will rapidly answer, while only one out of 10 Palestinians will respond.
Therefore, Western diplomats, with working habits heavily centered around email, will have a tendency to engage the Israelis more, resulting in an increased impact of their views, as well as an unconscious sense of familiarity with the Israelis – unlike with the Palestinians who will seem disengaged.
Among other more well-known factors, this is a hidden reason for a traditional Western bias towards Israel: its work culture is Western.
Palestinians, like many Arabs, prefer a direct and personal work mode, relying far more on human rather than virtual interaction; and oral rather than written exchanges. This is simply a cultural difference, and one that must be adjusted for by diplomats working between the sides.
That is, if one is even aware of that cultural difference.
Edward T. Hall is one of the great cultural anthropologists of the 20th century. He has produced seminal books on the critical role of culture in our lives. Some of his works include The Hidden Dimension, about cultural differences in the use of space; The Dance of Life, regarding how people in different places perceive and understand time; and Beyond Culture, a summation and integration of his views.
His greatest contribution is that of revealing the presence of an “unconscious culture” in all of us that often goes undetected, hardwired into the deepest recesses of minds and affecting such basic perceptions as the employment of space, the regulation and response to time, as well as to our ‘extensions’: our technological and figurative inventions, such as email in the above example.
Hall elucidated how many human differences are often accounted for by these unconscious cultural habits. These deep-seated assumptions permit us to interact with our own group, but, if we are unaware of them, they can become the source of considerable frictions and misunderstandings with other cultures. Furthermore, if we are unaware of our own most subtle cultural underpinnings, it is most probable that so are the outside cultures that deal with us.
Hall maintains that people in any given culture assume, often wrongly, that how people behave and see the world can easily be carried over to - or be understood in - another place. Sometimes a culture will not imagine in its wildest dreams that an interaction with another is missing some crucial component of understanding of how the two differ in the most seemingly minor, or detailed (but important) aspect. Individuals from different cultures, say an American and a Frenchman, may believe they are each carrying on a predictable transaction when, beneath the surface, cultural expectations may reflect two very different, even conflicting, worlds…
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The photographs of these two men, Jared Loughner and Mumtaz Qadri, were taken after each had committed murder and assassination in Arizona and Pakistan respectively. Their smiles betray a contentment with their actions that defies the logic of everyday life: they are more satisfied with their violent and deadly actions than many simpler folks are by more peaceful acts.
The two come from vastly different cultures, thousands of miles apart. The motives for their actions differ greatly: one was spurred by allegiance to his faith and a punishment of blasphemy, the other, for all apparent purposes, is a schizophrenic with unfathomable motivations. Both, however, express a grim satisfaction for their crime.
This sense of fulfilment comes from satisfying a belief system, whether highly personal in the case of Loughner or reflective of societal currents in the case of Qadri, that have replaced healthier and more balanced “lifescapes” that would not have led to murder.
We are living in an era when this smile may tragically become more common because, indeed, basic human needs for meaning and belonging are being skewed and hijacked by extreme ideologies, or simply left unattended to. In this case, indeed, ‘satisfaction’ can only be found in schemes of madness and radicalism.
A reversion to existing systems that focus only on material consumption and physical security, and ignore the importance of meaning will only, as we see, continue to empower extremists and seed insanity.
Satisfaction, and a different smile, can be achieved without violent ideals and purposes once the central role of meaning is recognized and nurtured in our lives. Once meaning is treated as a necessary ´human given´, and incorporated into normal social development, more creative, and less destructive, human effort will certainly result.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
- a need for social approval;
- emotional dependency on others;
- susceptibility to authority figures