Five Worldviews: The Way We See the World, Part 1

The Center for Global Awareness is launching a new initiative in the fall of 2017 called Global Awareness Conversation and Study Circles or Gather for short. The mission of Gather is to enhance adult learners’ global awareness by offering conversation materials that holistically present significant global topics using a unique four dimensional approach called SEEK: see, evolve, engage, and know. SEEK By participating in this conversational program, participants will be able to know more about significant global topics, see different perspectives and views, evolve positive attitudes and shift behaviors, and engage more actively in helping to solve pressing global concerns through interacting more deeply with others. This blog series will focus on the See dimension.

Many different variables influence our views. One of the influences is our particular worldview. I believe worldviews are such an important contributor to the way we see the world that I have written a short book called Five Worldviews: The Way We See the World. In this blog series, I will share with you excerpts from the book that I think are relevant to understanding and helping to transcend the deep gulfs that divide people today.

02 coverWorldviews have always fascinated me. Even though I hadn’t yet conceptualized the idea of worldviews, instances in my life when there was a clear clash between worldviews alerted me to the different ways in which people react to different events. My father, a World War II veteran, and I, a rebellious college student, experienced heated clashes over opposing views of the Vietnam War in the 1960s. While residing in Mississippi in the 1970s a friendly neighbor came to my house to introduce and promptly asked what Baptist Church I went to. She assumed I was a Baptist, since the church influenced her worldview. When I visited the Native American pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico in the 1980s, I was surprised to hear one of the visitor’s criticize the pueblo’s system of collective land-ownership. He grumbled that more money could be made by dividing the land into individual plots and selling them off to the highest bidder. During the 1990s when globalization was heralded as the savior of the Western world, I found most people in the business community thought it was an inevitable process and could not be stopped, even though I and others had some misgivings about it. 03 Iranian Women When I visited Iran in the 2000s, I was disturbed that the “culture police” could arrest me or any other woman for not dressing in the traditional way and looking too modern. All of these events and many others gave me glimpses into different worldviews that people hold. 

I first started to think about developing the concept of worldviews during my writing, teaching and research of my world history college course and the subsequent publication of my book, Waves of Global Change: A Holistic World History. In my teaching and book, I organized world history according to five waves of human development: communal, agricultural, urban, modern, and global. This was far different from the traditional chronological format that organized world history according to the march of time rather than the less-sequential way of human development. But I also found that within each wave there was uneven development, and not everyone in each of the waves marched along to the same beat. I found this especially true with the Global Wave, which starts around the turn of the new millennium. 04 Waves of Global Change, 2nd ed. cover

I found that during the Global Wave, there were many contentious and conflicting ways of seeing the world. Iranian fundamentalists established a theocracy in Iran after a revolution in 1979, while fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson were drawing many followers in the U.S. into the fold, mostly through television programming. The nationalistic fervor characteristic of the Modern Wave, which was supposed to decline with the upswing in globalization, was continuing and intensifying in the U.S. and other countries, even as the world was becoming more interconnected and global in scope. The traditions of the Communal and Agricultural Waves were being reasserted during this time, as many indigenous people resisted the pressure to modernize or let resources on their lands be exploited for extraction by multi-national corporations. 5worldviews The push for globalization, both economic and cultural, by the U.S. and other countries was a growing phenomenon that was supported politically, economically, and by the media. It appeared as an “inevitable” process, and we better jump on its bullet train of untold progress and riches or get left behind. Yet, there were those who resisted fundamentalism, modernism, and globalization and took action to create a different way of life. Although globalization supporters were garnering the most attention and putting forth an optimistic vision of the future, many other people were voicing different visions. But every individual has different ways of “seeing” events, facts, data, situations, people, movements, information, evidence, spectacles, and ways of living, which make the world appear as a very unpredictable and confusing place. Therefore, I decided that the Global Wave was not a homogeneous view of the world, but that many differing views within it needed to be heard and recognized.

As a result of my research, observations, and experiences, I decided to organize the Global Wave into five worldviews—indigenous, modern, fundamentalist, globalized, and transformative. I wanted my students and others to remember them, and the five worldviews coincided nicely with the five waves in my world history. I would use the term worldview since it most closely described the phenomena that I was identifying. 06 Reading Glasses I was attempting to show that each individual’s reality is filtered through different lenses, and learning about these different lenses can help us improve communication and relations with people who are similar to and different from us.

Find out more about the five worldviews in the next three blogs on June 27, July 5, and July 11.  If you find this information interesting follow and like us on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy reading about worldviews as much as I have had writing about, teaching, and researching the topic. If you are interested in getting more information about Gather (Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program) or starting a conversation group this fall, please email us at Our purpose is to connect with others, to learn deeply, to unfold our hearts in empathy, to see with new eyes, and to activate our hands in engagement. Good luck to all of you!

Kind regards,

Denise R. Ames


  1. Can you think of other worldviews?
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A Populist Worldview, Part II

With bubbling tensions simmering in a cauldron, along comes the 2016 presidential election. Just a year ago, no one would have imagined that the forces of globalization would be challenged from both the left and right. The Populist Worldview was taking shape.

On the left, and arguable also part of the Populist Worldview, was the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. Sanders attacked Hillary Clinton where it hurt: on her globalization policies—trade and outsourcing—that have contributed to greater income inequality and pain for the working and middle classes. To many people she seemed too adjoined to corporate America, which was blamed for all ailments of American society. The two candidates seemed to agree on other policies such as immigration, identity politics, catering to the youth vote, and social issues. Sanders drilled down hard on the inequality issue and it especially resonated with the college-educated youth, who saw shrinking opportunities ahead of them while tethered by student debt. 7-bernie-sanders-at-rutgers-university

On the right, along comes Trump. He was different, both ideologically and emotionally, than the other Republican candidates. He promised to smash through the ideological divide and do what was best for the American people. He promised to “Make America Great” again. Enough people believed him, and despite his crass outbursts, he is now the U.S. President.

So, what characteristics define the Populist Worldview? I believe there will emerge two factions to this worldview: the left and the right, each trying to seize the issues that will define this worldview. The Democratic and Republican parties of old will cease to exist as in the past several decades and will be shaped anew. I will describe several issues that I believe will define this new worldview and describe how the right has grabbed the momentum in crafting its agenda. Actually, Trump seems to have borrowed aspects of other worldviews, which I will describe below, and also invented some new characteristics.

8-trump-familyTrump has borrowed the tribal notion (see indigenous worldview) of loyalty to family and to a very few close advisers such as Steve Bannon. He is fiercely loyal to the family business, and doesn’t entrust its operations to anyone outside the inner circle of his family. He regards his family members, especially his daughter Ivanka and her husband, as heirs to his fortune and political empire.

During the modern worldview, there was a fierce division between two political approaches in the 20th century: authoritarian rule and liberal democracy. Of course this confrontation came to a head during World War II when the authoritarian governments of Germany and Italy (fascism) fought the liberal democracies of the U.S. Britain, parts of France, who allied for convenience sake with the authoritarian communist regime of the Soviet Union. 9-mussolini-and-hitlerTrump’s administration has not, in my opinion, crossed the line to fascism but many of his policies and actions are uncomfortably close to that ideology. Fascism is a complete rejection of liberal democracy. Trump seems intent on dismantling the levers of liberalism and the checks and balances on his power. He derides the press at every instance; a sure way to try to discredit those who check his power. His fascist tendencies should be carefully monitored.

Trump railed against free trade agreements hurting the American worker during his campaign. He has nixed the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement with Asian counterparts. On occasion he chastises American corporations planning to send jobs to Mexico or overseas. However, it will take a lot more than these token efforts to fulfill the promise he made to American workers that their jobs would be returned to American soil.

Even though he is against some segments of the neoliberal policies of the last several decades, such as trade and outsourcing jobs, he seems to be supportive of others, such as establishing oligarchical rule by appointing billionaires to his cabinet. He is intent on lowering taxes for the wealthy, removing “burdensome” regulations, privatizing public assets such as education, and many others.

10-betsy-devos-secretary-of-educationGlobalizers, Republicans and Democrats, have been very supportive of immigration the last several decades. Immigration has added many pluses to American society by making it more diverse and in my opinion more interesting. But the influx of immigrants has also supported the globalization agenda by providing cheap labor for its enterprises and attracting the brightest workers from around the world to the tech industry. Trump has promised to stop illegal immigration and has conducted a few raids to “round-up” criminal illegal immigrants. However, his ill-conceived orders have created more chaos and fostered more ill-will than necessary. Although the immigration issue has been passed on down the line by Democrats and Republicans for too long, Trump’s policies are problematic.

So what are the characteristics of a Populist Worldview? I would argue that it is essentially undemocratic, a characteristic that doesn’t seem to be that problematic among Populists. It wants to curtail if not eliminate immigration and “round-up” immigrants who are here illegally, especially if they have a criminal record. This means approximately 11 million illegal immigrants, probably a number too large for deportation efforts.

11-nafta-logoPopulists want an end to free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, and a return to bi-lateral trade negotiations. They are in favor of levying a tariff on goods imported into the U.S. from American firms manufacturing in countries who have taken advantage of low-wage foreign labor. Many voters hailed Trump’s business experience as a reason for voting for him. They want an end to regulations and want the economy to grow, fast.

Some of the policies advocated by the Populist agenda may seem reasonable and within the Constitution. However, the implementation of the agenda by Trump is what is problematic. His constant and blatant lies, unstable rantings, gloomy future scenario, and unwarranted attacks on the press are unacceptable to the majority of Americans and a threat to democracy. He has anemic policies and no idea how to channel these policies into actual laws. This is the real problem with the Trump presidency. The executive branch of the government is supposed to execute the laws, under Trump this is absent.

12-border-wall-with-mexicoThe wall provides an apt metaphor for the Populist Worldview. Trump and his supporters want to wall themselves off from the rest of the world by embracing a nationalistic, isolationist foreign policy agenda. They want to wall themselves off from outsiders, the out-group, while protecting the loyal in-group. They want to wall themselves off from democratic institutions such as a free press, constitutional guidelines, and etiquette, manners, and what has been considered “decent” behavior by mainstream society. Practically every day a new wall is being “built,” dividing our nation from the traditions, customs, and laws of the past; tearing at an already tattered social fabric holding the nation together by just a few threads.

The good news is that the U.S. is a well-established liberal democracy with long-standing institutions run by committed people. We have withstood deep divisions through history—slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Depression, World War II, the 1968 rebellions—that could have easily torn apart a country with less sound institutions. It is up to these institutions—judicial branch, press, civic institutions, local/state governments, and empowered ordinary citizens, and others—to help us weather the storm of the Populist Worldview that seems bent on disrupting more than building, excluding rather than including, and hating more than kindness. 13

Will this Populist Worldview become the dominant worldview, during this time that I call the Global Wave? Will enough people embrace this worldview creating a tipping point in which this worldview begins to holistic effect all the technological, social, political, economic, and religious patterns in our society? We can hope that once the Populist Worldview becomes more exposed and the policies become more defined that enough people will say “this is not what we had in mind; I want no part of it.” Working with others to resist this worldview seems very important at this time in our history. We all have a stake in the outcome.


  1. Why do you think there are such deep divisions in American society today?
  2. Why don’t politicians have an answer or solution to these deep divisions?


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A Populist Worldview, Part I

A new worldview is emerging! Worldviews have been on my mind lately. I am just finishing up a short book entitled Five Worldviews: The Way We See the World. In this book I describe five worldviews that I have been writing about and formulating for some time now—indigenous, modern, fundamentalist, globalized, and transformative. But a new one is taking shape right under our noses.

A worldview is a way of understanding or a lens through which one explains events, phenomena, and actions that happen in our everyday lives. It refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it. The following is a brief description of each worldview:5worldviews
1. An Indigenous Worldview is where people share a similar ethnic identity and usually inhabit a geographic region with which they have had an early historical connection.
2. A modern worldview traces its history to the expansion of Western European power and influence around the world. It upholds scientific reasoning, praises individualism, commodifies nature, promotes liberal political traditions, separates church and state, encourages industrial capitalism, and places faith in technology.
3. A Fundamentalist Worldview is a strict belief in a set of principles that are often religious. Many supporters defend what they see as traditional religious beliefs of the past, which they claim give them comfort and security in a rapidly changing and complex world.
4. In a Globalized Worldview “time has speeded up” and the pace of economic growth and development has spread to the farthest reaches of the earth. It affects all aspects of society and individuals’ daily lives.
5. Supporters of a Transformative Worldview say a different worldview or a different story is needed to make sure our human species and life as we know it on earth continue. They support curbing economic inequality, creating greater well-being, and welcome diversity.

I have confidently thought that these five worldviews encapsulated prevailing thought in the 21st century, in what I call the Global Wave. But with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the U.S. in 2016, I have had to rethink my ideas on the five worldviews. Donald Trump doesn’t fit into any of the five worldviews very comfortably. Perhaps he needs his own worldview category! 2-president-donald-trump-us

I am tentatively calling this emerging worldview a Populist Worldview. From all indicators, it is gaining steam in the U.S. with the election of Trump, in the United Kingdom with the pro-Brexit vote, the popularity in France of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, and other European countries. In this blog I will mainly concentrate on the Trump agenda, but note that his agenda is not being carried out in isolation but follows similar patterns that are emerging throughout the world.

marinelp First of all, I would like to give some context to this emerging Populist Worldview. Since the 1980s, the U.S. has led a globalization agenda guided by neoliberal principles. Economic globalization, in particular, has quickly spread around the world. This globalization/neoliberal process has been characterized by four major shifts in the U.S.: 1) national corporations shifting their operations to low-wage countries to increase profit margins, 2) the government loosening immigration quotas or ignoring illegal immigration in order to have a supply of cheap labor at home and a bulwark against unions, 3) rapid technological changes creating greater efficiencies in the workplace that have eliminated many jobs and disrupted everyday life, and 4) the changing nature of the nation-state and patriotism caused by the influx of immigrants and an allegiance by the global elite/educated class to a global rather than local/national agenda.

The results from these four major shifts have been 1) historic levels of income inequality and concentration of wealth at the very top 2) technological advancements that have been celebrated by Silicon Valley but disrupted jobs and the social fabric 3) a shrinking middle/working class (non-college educated) who have experienced stagnant wages and fewer opportunities 4) a disruption of shared, core values revolving around a shared love of country and a fraying of the social fabric (social institutions) that binds our country together.4

These four global forces have hit all of us in many ways but arguably the group hit the hardest in the U.S. is the white working class who hold less than a college education. Their wages have stagnated for decades and opportunities for well-paying jobs with non-technical skills have also declined. These four forces have occurred in many core countries (Western, industrialized countries) in Europe with similar results. As the middle class grows in Asian countries and other emerging economies, the middle class in core countries is shrinking.

The frustration of this group at the political class for ignoring their plight has been building for years.

5-democratic-party-logo The Democratic Party, long a champion of the working class, has turned to the globalizers and technology industry as a core constituent, and hasn’t found a way to blend the working class agenda into their platform of contending constituents: the young, immigrants, people of color, LGBT, urban, and college-educated. The left with their embrace of immigration, even illegal immigration, has angered this working class group who experience competition from these low-wage workers for a shrinking pool of good manufacturing and well-paying but low skill jobs. None of these disparate groups resonate with the needs of the working class (mostly white).

6-republican-party-logo The Republican Party, long the party of the globalizers, has also melded a diverse constituency into a tension-filled mass. Their core group, evangelicals, holds the party together despite the fact that Republicans haven’t implemented much of their agenda. The Reagan Democrats, many of the white working-class who switched to Republicans with the Reagan election, can switch back and forth between the two parties depending on the candidate and agenda.

For many years now, I have thought that the political parties in the U.S. have drawn a line with a permanent marker between their ideologies. If any particular member of the Democrats, for example, strayed from the “established” stances on same sex marriage, abortion, health care, immigration, trade, taxes, foreign policy, or a host of other issues, then their constituents would spring into action to challenge their views. Same with the Republicans. Even though both parties did share views on a globalized economy and appeasing the corporate world, grid-lock still resulted.

With all these bubbling tensions simmering in a cauldron, along comes the 2016 presidential election. Just a year ago, no one would have imagined that the forces of globalization would be challenged from both the left and right. The Populist Worldview was taking shape.

Part II of this blog will post on Tuesday, February 28.


  1. 1. What do you think are the major shifts in American and world society that are creating such tension and division among Americans?


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Reviving Local Traditions in Arles, France

I have a new gig! I am an occasional cruise ship lecturer. My first cruise destination was sailing along the Mediterranean coast. The cruise ship was luxurious, by all definitions of luxury. But I am not writing these blogs to tell you what I had for dinner. I want to share with you observations that I gather from this experience that may add insights into how you see the world and how people outside of your own locality live their lives. And if you are an educator or student, I hope you will share these insights with your students or others.


Areal view of Arles, France

It was a warm, sunny day with a slight chill of autumn in the air as I toured the delightful city of Arles, located in southern France with a population of about 50,000. It seemed like a prosperous small city with bustling sidewalks and lively small businesses surrounding the old plaza. Tourism obviously contributed to the vibrancy of the city.



Roman coliseum. Photo by: Dinise Ames

The city has a long history and is the site of monuments and ruins from ancient Rome, which were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1981. The well-preserved Roman coliseum built during the first century of the Roman Empire is, remarkably, still used for concerts and other festivities! It seated about 40,000 during ancient times, but a mere 16,000 today. The Greeks left their imprint on the city as well with the ruins of a theater still visible. As a world history educator, it was delightful strolling among the antiquities and imagining how others might have lived in this very place that I was visiting today.



Cafe Terrace at Night by Van Gogh

The Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles from 1888 to 1889 and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there. Although he is revered today, during his stay in the city he was regarded as an aggressive oddball, and tried the patience of the town’s residents. He only sold one painting while in residency, hardly indicative of the mark he would make on the art world after his death.


Cafe Frequented by Van Gogh. Photo by: Denise Ames

He was drawn to the area around Arles because of the light, and on that warm, sunny fall day I finally realized what he and other painters meant by the magical light of Arles. It was diffused light and cast a magically, surreal impression on all subjects. It had to be seen, rather than just described.

This leads me to an insight that I would like to share with you. After several inquiries and observations, I found that the people of Arles are purposely and intentionally creating a different way of living, working, and carrying out their everyday lives. Among many of the residents, there seems to be a rejection of the globalized worldview that has spread throughout the U.S., Europe, and rest of the world, in which everything is replicated and mass-produced with maximum profits the ultimate goal. There is a real push to return to local traditions and pride in the heritage of the region. To dispense with the mass-produced entertainment options of a globalized world, and return to simple walks along the boardwalk next to the coast, or encouraging children to ride on a small merry-go-round playing old tunes or sliding down a water slide next to the sea.


Local  Butcher Shop. Photo by: Denise Ames

The museum in Arles was allocated money for renovations by a wealthy resident. He stipulated that the curators highlight the local traditions, and insisted that the museum staff and guides wear the local and traditional dress of the area. Traditional music blared from the speakers as construction was getting underway. Even the local dialects of southern France were being preserved by the local museum and other venues. Boutique shops showcased local designers and their unique interpretation of traditional southern French dress for the modern shopper. It was exquisite!


Local Traditions. Photo by : Denise Ames

After witnessing the ostentatious lifestyle of the super-rich on the shores of Monte Carlo, it was a relief to see the small town atmosphere and pride in local traditions and customs coming alive in this lovely city. Since I am a big supporter of returning to local traditions and creating identities associated with local place, I was thrilled by what I was experiencing.

Could it be that the globalized worldview that has infiltrated every corner of the world with its mass-produced goods and services is experiencing a push-back to its dominance in some corners of the world? If we as global citizens are to counter the dehumanizing conformity of globalization and the concentration of wealth among a tiny elite, the efforts in Arles are inspiring and worth emulating.


Mode of Transportation. Photo by: Denise Ames

I am sure Arles, France is not alone in this experiment of making the local come alive once again, but it was wonderful to observe a localizing process in this lovely region of southern France. Perhaps, it has to do with the misty, magical quality of light in Arles that allows people to clearly see what is really important in their lives and to follow that light in shaping a more livable future.


Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the benefits of a local economy?
    2.  What are the drawbacks of a local economy?
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Monte Carlo: The Yacht Epicenter of the Upper 1%

The sky was a refreshing azure blue that the French Riviera claims as its very own color. The waves lapped at the sides of the yachts lounging by a stretch of harbor clinging to the sharp incline from the Mediterranean Sea that goes by the name of Monte Carlo, a part of the Principality of Monaco. Perched on the hillside and jutting into my line of vision was the Monte Carlo Casino, one of the main attractions of the area, and it commanded a presence for all to see. Just the name Monte Carlo conjures images of irresistible allure, glamour, and the fruits that only the very, very wealthy can possess. In fact, it looked as rich as it really was

img_0164As I gazed at the landscape before me, I was mesmerized by the beauty and tranquility of the scene. It was the first stop on my new gig as an occasional cruise-ship lecturer and I was having breakfast on the upper deck of the ship aptly named Riviera. My mind started racing about all kinds of thoughts that the images below were channeling to me. The first image was serenity and peacefulness, since it was a perfect late autumn day, and the cool breeze only hinted at the sharp, damp winter ahead. But more complex thoughts about the incredible wealth I was witnessing soon clouded my view and the beauty of the surroundings took on a more somber tone

img_0165Wealth intrigues me, like many people I imagine. Since wealth can afford one a life of many diverse and interesting experiences, it is appealing to me. But the trappings of wealth, such as beautiful clothes, expensive jewelry, luxury cars, the best food, or even luxury yachts, doesn’t interest me. I find that many of these coveted objects are actually distractions from living a rich, full, and meaningful life.

I am not against acquiring wealth, in fact, I am happy that through my life I was able to save enough for a comfortable retirement and to give me the means to modestly help support our nonprofit organization, the Center for Global Awareness. But I do question and I am more and more disturbed by the increasing gulf between rich and poor that I witnessed at the harbor in Monte Carlo. Just how much difference in wealth is too much? Well, that is a difficult question.

If we measure the “too much wealth” by the sale of luxury yachts over the last few years, we can say that the gap is too much. The French Riviera is a major yachting and cruising center with several marinas, including Monte Carlo, along its coast. Each year the French Riviera hosts 50% of the world’s superyacht fleet, with 90% of all superyachts visiting the region’s coast at least once in their lifetime.


According to Boat International, a luxury yacht is “a crewed yacht, most often owned by the richest people in the world who enjoy the unrivaled luxury and exclusive privacy of these floating abodes.” The popularity of luxury yachts continues to grow, with over 700 luxury yachts for sale in 2015 and over 700 new yachts on order in 2016. And you will be happy to know that the world’s largest yachts keep on growing in size. In 2016, there is a record number of new yachts, currently 50, being built that surpass the 100-meter barrier (328 feet).

Who owns these massive beasts? One name that caught my eye was Larry Page, the founder of Google. He was the inventor of the technology that was supposed to democratize information, but he seems to have profited mightily from his invention.

img_0169Yacht sightings and the increase in yacht sales is just one indicator of the yawning gap between rich and poor, a disparity that has detrimental and far-reaching consequences throughout the world. I will not flood you with facts supporting this claim, since facts alone only go so far in conveying the disheartening feelings that accompany this growing gap, and often numb us into despair at the enormity of the problem. We all know it is occurring in a myriad of ways that affect our everyday lives and those of our communities, nation, and world. Perhaps these images can serve as a reminder that inequality still exists and is growing, and will not be resolved by a political leader who is long on promises and short on policy. Remember, a rising tide can lift all yachts, but it can also give rise to a full-throated resistance and rebuttal to the policies and actions that sustain the yacht-class.

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Why Donald Trump is America’s President-Elect: A Cultural Look

Like so many of you, I was stunned by the recent election! Crushed I said, destroyed were my daughter’s feelings, and my son was in disbelief. I was an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter and eager for a woman president. What happened? All the polls indicated a comfortable Clinton lead, a majority of the experts in media and academe spoke of a foreordained Clinton victory. But the reality is, Clinton lost the election according to the Electoral College, and we now have a President-Elect Donald Trump.

My first indication of possible trouble was when I heard from my cousin living in my former childhood home of Rockford, Illinois that her two sisters were voting for Donald Trump. I was perplexed. They had always been committed Democrats, part of the large swath of blue-collar working class in the Midwest that has been hit so hard by economic globalization. Why were they switching to this untested candidate?


President-Elect Donald Trump

What can I add to the millions of words already written and uttered by the punditry on this election? I am struck by the fierce divisions in this country, as I had with my Trump-supporting cousins. I find that one of the most intense divisions today is a cultural divide between rural and urban, college and non-college-educated, and white/people of color citizenry. Trump was able to speak to the white, rural and non-college educated voter in ways the college-educated, elite media were unable to understand. Instead, they wrote it off as ignorant, racist, misogynist, homophobic, and other judgmental attacks that feed into more divisiveness.

The progressive Democratic left boils down the divides into economic issues. “It’s the economy stupid,” is a common refrain. Jobs are the answer to all divisions. I don’t dispute the fact that economic dislocation is a huge factor in swinging the rust belt to Trump, but I also think that cultural factors are at work in the disconnect between the college/non-college, rural/urban, people of color/white divide. Until we are able to more effectively communicate and understand each other, the distrust, hatred, and further divisions will continue and intensify.

Effective communication and understanding is essential if you are a progressive Democrat or Trump supporter and wish to broaden the base beyond those who have similar cultural values and worldviews. For many years, I have done work in promoting cross-cultural understanding of different cultural, ethnic, and national groups of people around the world. However, I now feel that these cross-cultural skills are desperately needed in the United States to better understand our fellow citizens and heal divisions.

Since this topic will involve generalizations about large groups of people, I would like to describe in this blog the cultural outlook of non-college-educated, white working class people in the Midwest. How could they identify and vote for Trump? By looking through the prism of my experiences growing up in a working class extended family, I can hopefully shed some light on these cultural differences. Let’s start with a story.

My extended family in Rockford, Illinois was typical of the movement of people to large industrial cities in the Midwest after World War II. Almost all of my family moved from the bogs of central Wisconsin around Tomah to Rockford to work in the mass assembly factories that desperately needed unskilled workers. My father was among them.


Rockford, Illinois 

After the war my father worked in the road construction business. Latched to a rope dangling from Mississippi River cliffs with sticks of dynamite in hand, he blasted away rock for new roads to weave through rural, southwestern Wisconsin. A dangerous occupation by all stretch of the imagination, but he caught the eye of the company’s pretty bookkeeper, who happened to be the boss’ daughter. After repeated marriage proposals, my father’s persistence prevailed and they were married in 1947. It was an odd pairing, my mother, a sophisticated,well-dressed, educated (she knew French) member of the middle class and my father, the oldest boy of a family of eight whose father died young and his mother was disabled in a car accident, he was anything but middle class. In fact, when my father first introduced his new wife to his mother and my cadre of aunts, uncles, and cousins, my mother was purposely ignored. She was an outsider. Although the family finally accepted and loved her, it took awhile.

I grew up in a world of the working class, my father and extended family held working class cultural values. But my mother never shed her middle class demeanor, and gradually I accepted more of her values and worldview than my father’s. But my working class roots are still with me at a deep level.

Our family’s cultural values were a mix of tribal affiliations, reliance on one’s own intuition, and a fierce pride. “Book learnin” as my father described it, wasn’t all that useful, “your gut” would tell you the best way to make decisions and it was best to follow it. Trump repeatedly said he followed his gut; he didn’t rely on experts or data to drive his decisions. Clinton on the other hand had a squad of experts and data crunchers. Trump’s gut instincts seemed to win him the admiration of the working class who felt the same way.


The Ames Family

An article by Atlantic magazine reporter resonated with me when she stated: “The people who were against Mr.Trump took him literally but not seriously. His supporters took him seriously but not literally.” My family communicated with each other through story, hyperbole, and humor. Still, when I get together with them, we tell long stories, often repeated, with vivid descriptions of long ago events or relatives living and departed. Trump’s exaggerations and vivid symbols, such as building the wall, would resonate with my family. My family stories were always laced with exaggerations, even outright lies, but we didn’t take these literally. I remember once I corrected my father, who was the master of clever tales, that a particular part of his story was not true. I was told that “you just read too many books.” My life as a future academic was obviously not nurtured in my extended family.

My friends, colleagues and I were appalled at Trump’s scandals and treatment of women. But in my family, scandal was part of the colorful stories we told. Since so many of us made mistakes and exhibited scandalous or inappropriate behavior at one time or another, it was largely considered part of life. We didn’t judge these behaviors as reason for rejection of the accused family member from the extended family, since few (if any) of us escaped unscathed by poor behavior. I was not surprised that Trump’s scandals were condemned by voters but they also determined that it did not preclude their voting for him.

Our extended family had many characteristics of a tribe. We stuck together, helped each other, and were leery of outsiders. My grandmother had few friends outside of her family. As a youngster, my friends were cousins and I didn’t venture outside that cocoon until high school. Trump was able to create a visual family with his bright red baseball caps and assorted paraphernalia, which proclaimed allegiance to his tribe and membership in the Trump family.

Many pundits were perplexed about why Trump, who was a New York billionaire, resonated with white working class people. My family admired the family members who made lots of money but still “was one of them.” One of my cousins is a multi-millionaire but still comes to funerals and family reunions. This act was always greeted with a word of appreciation, and comments that “see, he still is family.” Trump wore a baseball cap along with his expensive suits but still fit in. His language and demeanor didn’t have an air of superiority or elitism about it that resonated with his supporters. It was a validation that they were part of his community: wealth, glamour, prestige, and accomplishment.  They were part of “Trumpland.”


The Trump Family

I find these few cultural differences fascinating and a key to better understanding the shocking phenomenon that so many working class people disregarded the “hard, factual data” showing that Trump’s policies would not help them and actually make them economically worse off, and yet voted for him. If we are to connect with people outside our inner circle of identity politics, we need to be able to reach out and understand “the other.”

For years, the college-educated, myself included, have wanted mainstream white America to understand “the other,” those from other cultures and minorities. Perhaps it is now time, to reverse the roles and for the college-educated, the media, and other “elites” to be the student and learn that white America is not monolithic and does not uniformly share cultural norms and values. Their culture is different, varied and worth learning more about. If we are to get past throwing disparaging judgments of racist and misogynist and more deeply understand who they are, then we have a better chance of advancing an agenda of greater economic justice, peace, sustainability, and inclusiveness that translates into a greater political base.


Questions to Consider

1. What do you think are the main cultural differences between college and non-college educated Americans?
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Cross-Cultural Awareness: Through the Lens of a Cruise Ship Lecturer

I have a new gig! Although I have authored six books and been the president of a non-profit organization, the Center for Global Awareness, over the last five years, I am also starting a new position as a cruise-ship lecturer. When I tell people about my new position they swoon, they think it just sounds so glamorous and interesting. Well, I agree! But since I haven’t been on my first cruise yet I should withhold my judgement. I will be able to confirm a yes or no after October 26, as I set sail for a Mediterranean Cruise from Barcelona to Venice.

This is an occasional position, so I am definitely continuing my educational work at the Center for Global Awareness. But, it adds a new twist to the work we do at CGA. zia_small_ani9One of our goals at CGA is to foster cross-cultural awareness. Our blogs, books, professional development services, and social media have focused on this skill for many years. Therefore, I want to integrate what I learn from my new position and travels with our cross-cultural awareness goals at CGA. Check the Center for Global Awareness’ Facebook page and twitter for travel updates.

The integration of my cruise ship lectures and experiences and CGA’s cross-cultural awareness program can be demonstrated in many different ways. One of the ways that is most immediate is to post on social media not only pictures of the places I visit, but make significant (I hope) comments about my cross-cultural observations. I want to share with our CGA audience, what we can learn about the people, culture, worldviews, and actions of people of the Mediterranean region of Europe. Hopefully, this will be enlightening for you the reader as you travel vicariously through a vital part of Europe.

cruiseshipThe schedule of the cruise includes the following ports: Barcelona, Spain; Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Sete, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Portofino, Italy; La Spezia, Italy; Livorno, Italy; Civitavecchia/Rome, Italy; Naples, Italy; Catania, Sicily, Italy; Argostoli, Greece; Kotor, Montenegro; Zadar, Croatia; Koper, Slovenia; Venice, Italy.

The rest of this blog is devoted to a brief description of what I mean by cross-cultural awareness. I have also included a chart that helps describe cultural differences using etic categories or patterns of expression for comparison purposes. But first, let’s look at a good definition of culture.

Geert Hofstede and others define culture as a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the member of one group or category of people from others. Culture is learned, not innate. It derives from one’s social environment rather than from one’s genes. Next, let’s distinguish between two types of culture: objective and subjective culture. Objective culture refers to the institutional aspects of culture, such as political and economic systems, and to its products, such as art, music, cuisine, fashion, consumer products, sports, leisure, labor, and other topics. History is objective culture. Subjective culture refers to the experience of the social reality formed by a society’s institutions; it is the worldview or values, attitudes and behaviors of a people (Bennett, et al.). It is hidden beneath objective culture, all the while shaping how objective culture is expressed. It is not something that is normally comes to the light of day but it is extremely important.

You may ask, “Why is it important to be cross-culturally aware?” I have a ready answer to that question. We live in a more integrated world than ever before. We communicate and interact with people different from ourselves if not on a personal level, at least through multi-media sources whether it is Facebook, twitter, or sporting events. It behooves us as responsible global citizens to be aware of other cultures. A second reason is that there is a need for us to acquire more sophisticated cultural skills; one of these skills is perspective shifting, which is generally understood as becoming aware of how others would like to be treated from their own perspectives, acknowledging the difference and attempting to respect the equal (but different) humanity of others.

The cultural skill of perspective shifting, as described above, invites categories of comparison across different cultures. These categories of comparison are called etic categories. An etic account is a description of a behavior or belief by a social analyst or scientific observer in terms that can be applied across cultures, an etic account attempts to be “culturally neutral,” limiting any ethnocentric, political, and/or cultural bias or alienation by the observer. These etic categories are observational categories that generate comparative distinctions.

The model that I have developed organizes several of the common categories of cultural expressions that various noted researchers have compiled over the years to designate cultural diversity1. The model assembles cultural generalizations expressed by different cultures around the world.

The diversity of cultural patterns described in the model is better understood if placed on a continuum.

collectivism ___________________________________ individualism

For example, the first two cultural patterns – individualism and collectivism – if placed at opposite ends of a continuum occupy varying points on the continuum in which the extremes are muted. In other words, there is much variability among these cultural patterns rather than rigid categories. These cultural patterns may also change over time. But examining the patterns in isolation, for our purpose in this exercise, is merely a way to understand cultural variability and differences.

Patterns of Expression: Cultural Norms and Values
adapted by Dr. Denise R. Ames, Center for Global Awareness

Cultural Pattern

Description of Patterns

Key Traits

(in contrast to

ties and responsibility between individuals are loose
expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family
express personal achievements
individual rights above collective well-being
nuclear family more universal than extended family

nuclear family

(in contrast to

people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups
extended families (with uncles, aunts, grandparents) more universal
protects family in exchange for unquestioning loyalty
rules and values govern individualistic behavior

allegiance to family
extended family

(in contrast to

assertive and competitive
materialism/material success
self-centeredness, power, strength, and individual achievements
patriarchal attitudes
strict codes of sexual conduct and modesty


(in contrast to

women’s values differ less among societies than men’s values
caring, avoid violence, sharing, other-centered, value relationships
fewer constraints on women and their sexuality
long term focus, more risk-averse

less violent

Prefers Certainty
(in contrast to

uncomfortable in unstructured situations
try to minimize uncertainty by strict laws and rules, safety and security philosophical and religious belief in absolute Truth; ‘there can only be
one Truth and we have it’

rules, laws, customs
wants security
more structure

Accepts Uncertainty
(in contrast to

tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity
feel comfortable in unstructured situations
unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising, and different
less likely to follow proscribed religious strictures

less structure
open minded

Long Term Orientation
(in contrast to
short term orientation)

holds values, actions, and attitudes that affect the future
ordering relationships by status and observing this order
thrift, save for the future
sense of shame,  future orientation

future oriented

Short Term Orientation
(in contrast to
long term orientation)

values and attitudes that are affected by the past or the present
immediate stability, personal steadiness and stability
protecting your ‘face’
respect for tradition
reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts; generosity, hospitality

the past

Sense of Time: Polychron
(in contrast to monochron)

time is continuous
time flows from the past, through the present, into the future
unstructured, changing from one activity to another
does not like or want to make detailed plans
works on more than one thing at a time

time flowing
no detailed plans

Sense of Time:
(in contrast to polychron)

time divided into fixed elements — seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks separate blocks of time that can be organized, measured and scheduled
plan in detail
making lists, keeping track of activities, organizing time into daily routine
prefer to do one thing at a time, working on a task until it is finished
after task is finished, only then, moving on to the next task.

time planned
detailed plans

Indirect or Circular
(in contrast to linear/direct)

avoid directly addressing the main point
let the story make the point
stating the point is seen as insulting to other person
elegant, flowing remarks
meaning conveyed by subtle means such as stories
indirectness = politeness and respect for other person
frequent use of implication
communication is art

avoid main point   

Direct or Linear Communication
(in contrast to circular/indirect)

getting to the point is important
point is stated explicitly
not getting to the point is a waste of time
directness = honesty and respect for other person
avoiding ambiguity
form is less important than content
communication is information

get to the point

Low Context
(in contrast to high context)

context is not assumed to be known
clear explanation, precise description, spell out everything
reliance on verbal messages

clear explanations

High Context
(in contrast to low context)

context is assumed to be known
explaining everything and state meaning precisely considered insulting
leave understanding up to other person

making assumptions

Attached Communication
(in contrast to detached)

communicating with feeling and emotion, very personal
subjectivity valued
sharing one’s values and feelings about issues is desirable
communicate from the heart


Detached Communication
(in contrast to attached)

communication should be calm and impersonal,
may be considered unfriendly
objectivity valued, communicate from the head
emotional, expressive communication is seen as immature or biased


Idea Focused Communication
(in contrast to person focused)

hold ideas and person separate
open disagreement acceptable
disagreement with person’s ideas not seen as personal attack

ideas and person separate

Person Focused Communication
(in contrast to idea focused)

ideas and person connected
feelings important
disagreement handled very carefully
disagreement is attack on the person


Formal Communication

strict rules about forms of address, acknowledgement of status
ritualized communication
respect, titles important


Informal Communication

fewer specific rules, relaxed, casual, familiar
use of first names
more flexibility in what one can say to whom and how


Task Oriented

priority is getting the task done
efficiency, competency, productivity
people’s feelings are secondary to goal


Relationship Oriented

relationships primary, above efficiency
associations and family priority, friendliness, respect
maintaining group harmony is central
collaboration valued above achievement



members of formal institutions and the family recognized
equality of all citizens, emphasizes equal opportunity
no large gaps between haves and have nots
people relate more as equals, regardless of formal positions
subordinates contribute to and critique the decisions of those in power
diffuse authority,  less  stratification

diffuse authority



less powerful members accept/expect power to be unequally distributed
inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders
large gaps between haves and have nots,
more power differences, high stratification
less powerful accept power relations that are autocratic or paternalistic
subordinates acknowledge power based on formal hierarchical positions
a “pecking order,”  “chain of command”
high power differences



  1. Do you think we need more cross-cultural awareness? If yes, what do you think is the best way to gain more awareness?


1Harley Hahn, Time Sense: Polychronicity and Monochronicity, website: and Janet M. and Milton J. Bennett Geert Hofstede, Edward T. Hall, Hampden and Turner.

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