Friday, January 16, 2009

Culture, culture, culture

I'm in a biculturalism class this semester, and I'm learning incredible things already. We read chapter five called "Cultural Assumptions of Western Missionaries" from Paul Hiebert's book Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, and so many things stood out to me. We had to write a summary of the article and mine ended up being five pages or so long. I will put up the highlights-- the two things that stood out to me most about myself and the way that I am are self-reliance and need to be liked. Maybe you will relate. If you would like a copy of the summary (that is not particularly well written) facebook me, or find the book yourself. It's incredibly eye-opening. I was thinking as I read it, "What would happen if everyone in the world read one of these about their culture in relation to other cultures?" Maybe there would be less war, fewer disagreements, who knows. Before reading this article, I wasn't even aware that people could think about things differently in certain areas, but I'm learning that a lot of the way I think and react to things is because of my Western/North American culture. Whoa.

“At the heart of a North American’s identity is self-reliance. Francis Hsu, a Chinese anthropologist, points out (1961:248) that the greatest fears Americans have are to be dependent on others and to be without money. When our car breaks down, we hesitate to call friends for help. And when we need money, we would rather borrow from a bank than beg a loan from a brother or cousin. On the other hand, when others ask us for help, we take the request seriously, just because we know it is not made lightly. But we resent it when people constantly ask for loans, for help in baby-sitting, and for transportation. We expect people to take care of themselves.

Need to be liked
“North Americans place a high value on being liked and see it as a sign of success in social relationships. Since we worry over how others feel about us, we read acceptance or rejection into every coment and gesture they make. The glad handshake, the ready smile, the slap on the back, and the word of praise have all become our normal behavior. Without such expressions of friendship and popularity, we are confused and unsure of ourselves because we are denied one of the requirements for personal assurance in a highly individualistic society. Social success is an important measure of achievement. Stewart (1972: 58) notes, “Americans tend to judge their personal and social success by popularity—almost literally by the number of people who like them.” To be liked means we are worthy of love. It does not necessarily mean we need to like others in return or that our relationships with them will result in friendships” (126).

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