Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Who Should Chose Your Cultural Identity?

by rdf Sat Sep 20th, 2008 at 09:05:00 AM EST

While people claim that they abhor prejudice they seem to find nothing wrong with imposing cultural behaviors and norms on their children. Implicit in this is the belief that there is something special about their culture which is to be preferred in the education of their children. Then they complain when others stereotype them.

Why should a child have to adopt the rituals and conventions of their parents? Instead of being required to practice these rites why shouldn't they be free to chose their own? Why should I learn the music of my country if I prefer that of another time and place?

I understand that one has to teach children something. I also understand the motivation which makes the older generation pass on its norms. If your children don't keep the flame burning that your life was for naught and the fact of your existence vanishes to future generations. No one wants to be forgotten.

Nevertheless there are many reasons to oppose such teaching. It breeds separatism, dislike of other and narrow-mindedness. It also preserves old feuds between groups that have no bearing on those now living. What is the point of commemorating some distant victory if not to stick it to the other group that lost? Many cultures contain myths and falsehoods which have been passed down from less well informed generations. These obsolete beliefs stifle progress by making questioning a social taboo. In some cultures such questioning can be severely punished, even by death.

Being forced to adopt the cultural norms of the group you were born into also encourages discrimination. If your parents brought you up to be an Irish-American than that is what others will tend to identify you as. But suppose you prefer Spanish or French culture? Why should an accident of birth brand you involuntarily?

Some societies try to teach "multi-culturalism" believing that this will lessen prejudice. But the students sill look at it from within the framework of their own background. It's like observing the strange natives on some anthropological expedition - curious, but not for me.

There have been some shifts in the US. For example few people nowadays have the same attitudes towards Asian-Americans as existed 100 years ago. Many Asian-Americans carry little of the cultural baggage of their ancestor's home countries. They have become "white" Americans. I think a similar thing may be happening in the EU. Young people who travel from one home country to another tend to become more cosmopolitan and less provincial. There ability to speak several languages also helps.

I realize that putting changes into practice is a near-impossible task, but I think it is more a case of changing attitudes than of actual steps. Children are always going to learn the culture and language that their parents speak (although second generation immigrants tend to do this less, and by the third generation many can't speak their grandparent's original language). Still cultural practices are passed down as part of the "heritage".

In the schools mutli-culturalism needs to be decoupled from being based upon ethnic distinctions and replaced with the teaching of more universal characteristics.

Many people grow up and explicitly reject their parent's background, but the prejudice of society still tries to force them into these categories. I claim that you are what your enemies call you. The harm can be most easily seen from the extreme example: the most acculturated and secular "Jewish" Germans still ended up in the ovens.

It is a sorry commentary on human nature if the only way people can define themselves is by pushing their prejudices onto their children.

Come on, culture is more than celebrating the defeat of others.

I consider the right of parents to pass their culture to their children one of the most important issue I can think off. Democracy, free speach, or the right to receive a solidaric treatment by the society e.g. are things I consider less important. You say, somebody might want to chose to be interested in Spanish culture, while born into an Irish family? When following your approach, there won't be a Spanish culture somebody can chose to be interested in.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat Sep 20th, 2008 at 02:54:35 PM EST
So you think that if a person is born to a primitive tribe in the middle of some tropical forest he should be condemned to live that life just to preserve his parent's values?

Perhaps he wants to move to the city of some foreign land and become a captain of industry.

I said that children will learn the dominant culture they are born into, there is no alternative, but that doesn't mean they have to be propagandized to think that theirs is "best".

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat Sep 20th, 2008 at 03:12:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I said that children will learn the dominant culture they are born into, there is no alternative, but that doesn't mean they have to be propagandized to think that theirs is "best".
Yes and No, your diary portrays children learning the culture of their parents as bad, not completely avoidable, but something to be minimised as much as possible. You speak of schools and 'universal characteristics', whatever that shall be.
Nowhere in the diary you distinguish between chauvinistic elements of a culture and the cultural norms in general. You bemoan, that children look on multi-culturalism from the framework of their own background. So you want to deny them a home, a root. They should be just a tabula rasa without anything, until they themselves by random fate decide what they want. In contrast to what you write, it is this spiritual homelessness, which allows Pied Pipers to get people into a shelter, filled with hate, anger, and the will to neglect any respect to those living elsewhere.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat Sep 20th, 2008 at 03:31:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
all cultures are connected, some more, some less.

for interesting fusion to occur, and a satisfying tension/release to a narrative, there must be a relationship either between older and newer in one culture, on one axis, or between adjacent cultures, on t'other.

since modernity 'happened', everywhere is adjacent, and fashions change faster, memes collide ever more fractally.

the one became the many, and is returning to the one.

what was potential becomes actual, and thus more potent still...

everything multiplies, complexifies, then simplifies and dies.

our consciousness is like glitter on the surface, evanescent, improbable and revelatory.

(all quotes from www.computationalwisdom.com)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Sep 20th, 2008 at 07:01:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity as a human right states that:

"The cultural wealth of the world is diversity in dialog"

"The Universal Declaration makes it clear that each individual must acknowledge not only otherness in all its forms but also the plurality of his or her own identity, within societies that call themselves plural. Only in this way can identity be preserved as an adaptive process and as a capacity for expression, creation, and innovation."

"This Declaration, which sets against inward-looking fundamentalism the prospect of a more open, creative, and democratic world, is now one of the founding texts of the new ethics promoted by UNESCO in the early twentieth century. My hope is that one day it may acquire the same force at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." -- Koichiro Matsuura

by John Culpepper on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 01:08:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries