Multiculturalism: Learning to Understand Other Cultures by Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach
There’s an email circulating the Internet about the war entitled “Which War Are You Watching?-The View from Spain.” It appears to be from an individual. My version has it signed with “Un abrazo (a hug), Dwight.” (Dwight-if you exist-I give you credit.)
Talking about how the Spanish media presented the war, it is definitely a controversial piece, but what about the war wasn’t? “Deeply divided” applied to the US and many other countries, and as I talked with clients all over the world during this time, we all learned about one another, and about multiculturalism
Doesn’t apply here. Whether or not this incident occurred, we’ll never know. If it didn’t, it should have.LANGUAGE
One way we understand a culture is through its language. Here is an excerpt from this article, “The View from Spain”:
“In one particularly poignant moment on Spanish television, after a series of unrelenting images of children wounded and dead (far more graphic than would ever be allowed in the US), we were shown a Pentagon spokesperson referring to understandable levels of ‘collateral damage.’
“The Spanish commentator simply looked directly into the camera, shook his head sadly and mused: ‘One wonders what type of human being can refer to the death of a child as “collateral damage.”’
I have no defense of this statement. I abhor the language of the US military as much as this person does. I agree with him. And I have no idea what to do about it.
What kind of human being would refer to the death of a child as “collateral damage?”
The US military, that’s who. But not me, and maybe not you.
Intellectually I understand that if you’re going to send people out to kill other people, some of whom may be children, you have to use euphemisms.
A euphemism is “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something.”
The military uses them. The military is also not “the US.”
HOW THEY TALK
I recall sitting in a board meeting being run by an ex-colonel during Desert Storm. Half of us were ex-military and half of us had never been near it - it was a social service agency, after all. That morning the director, an ex-colonel, had what can only be described as a sanctimonious expression, and in a very in-group tone of voice, with excluding nonverbal behavior, announced that there had been “an incident of friendly fire.”
Half of us in the room had no idea what he was talking about, and the sad thing is I don’t know whether he knew that (which would be bad) or didn’t (which was worse).
Two minutes later, the most ‘fierce conversations’ member in the out-group said, “Oh, you mean we shot down one of our own guys? That’s really stupid.”
Someone else added, “And tragic.”
I hope the more discriminating out there will understand that some of us despair at our own military with their reprehensible euphemisms such as calling killing children “collateral damage.”
The US military is a sub-culture within a larger culture.
THE COMMON GROUND
The letter continues: “The day the statue of Saddam was torn down, the great divide between America and the rest of the world was briefly suspended.”
There is the common ground.
Multiculturism demands that we use our empathy and intuition (emotional intelligence competencies) to understand the other point of view, that we seek the common ground, and also that we understand there are many cultures within any given culture.
I had a conversation with a client in Australia the other day who eventually blurted out in frustration, “We hate American buzz over here. The hype. It’s too pushy.”
Did she assume I didn’t?
And should I assume she speaks for all Australians?
And should I assume she hates Americans because she hates “American buzz?”
Yes, she assumed I didn’t, while in actuality I dislike it myself. No, I do not assume she speaks for all Australians. I don’t look at things that way. Nor do I make the grand and erroneous sweep to assume she hates Americans because she hates something that some Americans do.
Check out your assumptions and challenge those of the other. Look for the common ground. Treat people as unique individuals. Brush up on your global EQ. The world is shrinking and we need to learn how to get along.