Saturday, March 14, 2009

Richard Beck's Monsters and Hospitality and World Affairs

Richard Beck's "Experimental Theology" blog is an interesting blog site by a Christian psychologist. He has recently been talking about "monsters and hospitality". He identifies our psychological responses/reactions to these monsters, as a projection of self. This morning's report on the news made me wonder about this theory's practicality, when it comes to world affairs.

Prejuidice is the result of an "us/them" dichotomous mind-set. Social psychologists understand the dynamics that lead to humanitarian disasters, like genocide. Although humanitarians may desire to break down the walls of these identifiying barriers to "commonality", these identifiers are a necessary boundary line that defines "self" and "other". "Monster" is a term that Beck identifies as a "them", less than human label. Without identifiers we cannot discriminate or think, make decisions, as we must make judgments when we determine a course of action, which demands that we make distinctions. Multiculturalism leads to a non-discriminatory mind-set.

Today's news, as well as recent news, has made me wonder about the wisdom of this type of thinking. Russia is now expected to locate bombers in Cuba and Venezuela. Cuba is 80 miles from American shores. What are the reasons? Are we the "monster" and why?

Just last week, Great Britain's prime minister, George Brown, came to meet with our President. Great Britian is one of the closest allies to America. The usual dinner meeting as couples did not occur and a statue of Winston Churchill, a hopitable gesture, was sent back to Great Britian. I do not understand why this action occurred.

In Beck's terms, how are we to not believe in monsters in this world. We must, if we don't want the annihlation of our identifying factors. I think America's identifying factors are worthy ones, but that doesn't mean that some in our system have abused them. Americans, for the most part, are a generous, hospitable, and friendly people. Other nationalities may see us as arrogant, opinionated, rude, crude and naive.

Our seeming arrogance and opinionatedness, is just what our culture allows and condones in our "freedom of speech" and our individual freedoms. We speak our minds, but we also welcome others to as well. Our seeming rudeness is just our lack of sensitivity to a difference in culture, as we, for the most part, are allowed individuality within our culture, so what is a traditional "manner" is not even on the 'radar" of an American. And our naivete' is only because we believe in the American Dream that all men can attain and meet their highest potential, so we are optimist, for the most part. We have a 'can do attitude".

As I defend our cultural misconceptions, I do not deny that we Americans need to understand others a little better, as we don't get "world news" for the most part. And our nation's largness and diversity lends itself to belly gazing without regard for diversity abroad. So, to those whose traditions have been offended, tolerance is a value that could benefit you and your country, as graciousness is about tolerance. And we need graceousness and tolerance to live in this world.

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