Saturday, March 21, 2015

Triangulating cultures for a clear signal

There is much to be said about seeking to understand other cultures from a position of humility.

I once remember a person who at the time was challenging my religiosity as an independent decision, because in his mind no rational thinking person can lead to a belief in the unknown. Even upon telling him of my various phases of thinking and reading and self-questioning, he was convinced this was still under the umbrella of the blind belief of the religiously minded. When I asked him what exposure he’d had outside of his secular Anglo-Saxon Australian cultural medium, he told me of his various exposures to different cultures and beliefs:

1-    His grandmother going to church on Sundays

2-    Incense sticks at his Hindu friend’s house

3-    Me

So essentially this man had no real exposure to other cultures. He did not genuinely seek a humble understanding of different modes of thinking, believing or seeing the whole, and so clearly his arrogance gave him this thin veil of self-satisfaction.

The more you seek to understand cultures, the better you come to understand your own self, and the world in which you live. Whether it’s coming to appreciate the depth and power of Mohammad Iqbal’s poetry through its English translation without having the privilege of reading it in the original Urdu (though listening to the urdo recitation of his poetry has its own magic), or feeling the love in the words of an Aboriginal Elder when speaking of their connection (and the pain, and the hurt, and the loss, and the anger) to the land, or even listening and empathizing with the suffering of the Dominican people under Papa Doc’s brutal 30 year rule from reading Junot Diaz’ “The short and wonderful life of Oscar Wao”.

Failure to be open and attuned to other paradigms feeds a form of arrogance, a form of pride used to push young men into a war, killing other young men, so rich old men can get richer. It’s used to make people forget that they’re essentially the same.

A recent example in the US of a school calling for the appreciation of languages reading out the daily flag allegiance thing in Arabic, which was met with wide rejection and outright refusal of the very idea of Arabic being acknowledged in this way, some people were even offended because “they fought in Afghanistan”. The funniest bit in this incident is Fox News’ coverage under the headline “I pledge Allegiance to Allah”

The Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, continues through his speeches to call on people to seek to genuinely understand one another, and to avoid this arrogance of self-satisfaction, resigning to think what you have (culture, language, world view) is all there is to know. The more I think about this concept, the more I see its effects in every day life here and abroad.

This post is going to end just shy of 500 words, and that is to leave enough space to introduce a friend (Nina) who is going to be trying her luck at writing 500 words a day with me in my blog.

Why my blog? Because she slept with me.

The end

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