This morning I was thinking about presumption. Presumption causes many problems in relationships, whether they be between two individuals or nations. Presumptions holds one's own views as the "only view" and acts without thought or understanding. This is what offends many about Americans. Traditions are individually oriented by the individual families that make up our nation's "tradition of diversity".
Everyone has heard and seen pictures of the stereotypical "American in Paris". This is funny, but not so funny. People have pride in their cultural traditions and some do not seem to respect these in today's inter-related world.
Our inter-related world has brought about more understanding, but there are still certain courtesies that those not privy to the "inside of culture" might not be aware. Such is the nature of unexposure to another culture.
Many years ago, when we travelled with our children to Paris and were seated at a corner table, as group of American students came in and were seated within our hearing. As they looked over the menu, one loudly asked if the "water was pure enough to drink"! IN PARIS! I was embarassed for her/them/me/Americans. What would make this teen so insensitive? Paris is not a 'third world country"!
I think sometimes insensitivity can happen because of a lack of exposure, or a lack of openness to life itself. The lack of openness can hinder even the experiences we have by being transcribed into our way of understanding or thinking about life especially if the cultural value is not based on rational discourse. This is what causes presumptuous behavior.
This has led me to question the value of culture, and which cultural value is most important. Cultural values have meaning to those that still partake of them. My husband's family has an "unspoken rule" about tea and cookies. There is a "proper way" to make and partake of "tea time". Americans have a casual attitude about such matters, because of our inability to understand why people don't value differences of opinion about ways of doing things. Our differences have made us tolerant, except where it concerns intolerance.
Today's problems "turn" around the intolerant cultures, which demand a strict obedience to certain standardized behaviors. These cultures are dangerous because they cannot tolerate the vast differences in the world. And those that adhere to "a one way of being" in the world are prone to subvert another's liberty in the name of "right", "the sacred", or some other type of presumptuous thinking.
Today, it is probably more important to remember the reasons for certain cultural traditions. These help to bind together a culture/nation and give it an identity. But, it also intensifies one's ethnic identification. This can be damning in today's world, where the world is attempting to "bind" all together, at least in understanding. But, understanding has to be premised upon rationality. And sometimes there is no way to agree or come to a compromise, because the values of certain cultures are so different and so obstinant.
Identity in America is understood, not just within ethnicity, but one's individuality. What does one want to do and how does one want to be in the world. The "world is the limit", because we attempt to protect the minority's right to opportunity and not limit or inhibit "difference".
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