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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

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

Individualism
(in contrast to
collectivist)

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

individualistic
achievement
success
nuclear family

Collectivist
(in contrast to
individualism)

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

community
allegiance to family
extended family

Masculine
(in contrast to
feminine)

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

assertive
success
patriarchy

Feminine
(in contrast to
Masculine)

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

caring
less violent
relationships

Prefers Certainty
(in contrast to
uncertainty)

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
certainty)

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
flexibility
open minded

Long Term Orientation
(in contrast to
short term orientation)

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

future oriented
determination
purpose
planning

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
tradition
hospitality
generosity 

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
unstructured

Sense of Time:
Monochrons
(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
structured
detailed plans

Indirect or Circular
Communication
(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

story
avoid main point   
implication

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
straightforward
directness = honesty and respect for other person
avoiding ambiguity
form is less important than content
communication is information

get to the point
straightforward
directness

Low Context
Communication
(in contrast to high context)

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

clear explanations
overexplaining

High Context
Communication
(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
“underexplaining”

underexplaining
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

emotional
feelings
subjective

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

calm/impersonal
objective

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

ideas/person
connected

Formal Communication

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

official
proper

Informal Communication

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

casual
informal

Task Oriented

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

efficiency
meritocracy

Relationship Oriented

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

affiliation
collaboration

Equality

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
fairness

 

Inequality

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

hierarchy
stratification

questions-to-consider

  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: http://www.harley.com/writing/time-sense.html and Janet M. and Milton J. Bennett Geert Hofstede, Edward T. Hall, Hampden and Turner.

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Worldviews: How We See the World, Part 4

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. 00-bent-tree

The Center for Global Awareness is pleased to announce a forthcoming conversation program to enhance global awareness for adult learners called GRASP (Global Awareness Adult Study Program). GRASP’s mission is to enhance adult learners’ global awareness by offering conversation materials that present significant global topics using a unique four dimensional approach: see, know, evolve, and engage (SEEK). Participants will be able to see different perspectives and views, know more about significant global topics, evolve attitudes and shift behaviors, and engage more actively in helping to solve pressing global concerns through interacting more deeply with others.

We at CGA think it is as important to see different perspectives and views of global topics as it is to know about the topics. Therefore, we are developing new materials to enhance this “see” skill for adult learners. One of the ways to help us see different perspectives is to understand different worldviews. One of our forthcoming books, Worldviews: How We See the World, addresses the see dimension. I would like to share with you a condensed version of the first chapter of this book: An Introduction to Worldviews. Please follow our 4-part blog series on worldviews.


Worldviews: A Tool for Understanding Other Perspectives

When worldviews are not in our awareness nor acknowledged, stronger parties with more dominant worldviews may advertently or inadvertently try to impose their worldviews on others. Therefore, understanding worldviews can be a tool for recognizing and analyzing conflicts and tensions when fundamental differences divide groups of people. 12-burning-ritualsWhen each side of a conflict is understood according to their particular worldview, places of connection and divergence may become clearer, leading to a better understanding of the conflict or situation.

Worldviews, with their embedded meanings, can be the seedbed from which new shared meanings may emerge. By looking at the stories, rituals, myths, and metaphors used by a group of people holding a similar worldview, we can learn efficiently and deeply about their worldview and what matters to them and how they make meaning. These shared meanings may arise as people co-create new stories, design new rituals, establish shared values, and find inclusive metaphors. In any given contentious debate or conflict, established societal values, such as security, family, and responsibility, will emerge. Because people relate to these values differently when they hold different worldviews, misunderstandings and negative judgments about “the other side” may follow. As people become aware of the existence of different worldviews, they may stop expecting “the other” to make sense of the way they perceive the world, and realize instead that “the other” makes sense of the problem from their own worldview. In other words, the other side’s perceived outrageous or nonsensical ideas may actually become reasonable and sensible when seen from their point of view.

Below is an example of recognizing common values and shows the existence of divergent worldviews in conversations between advocates on both sides of the abortion conflict in Canada and the United States.

Both pro-life and pro-choice advocates value benevolence, universalism, and security, but their worldviews lead to them to see these values differently. Pro-life advocates, for example, may see all life as sacred from the moment of conception, and suggest that no human being should second-guess God or the Universe in its life-creating and life-ending capacity. Their idea of benevolence thus extends to the unborn fetus as well as to the other people involved in an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. Pro-choice advocates are no less benevolent, but are apt to focus their efforts to improve and enhance welfare on those already born. 13-pro-life-demonstratorsTheir worldview may place more credence in science, or involve a different notion of when human life begins, such as at the point the fetus is viable outside the womb or when a woman first discerns life within.

Part of the reason that the abortion debate has become so heated and volatile is that it is bound up with social and legal rules. Both sides would like their views to be universal, at least within the countries of Canada or the United States. Many pro-life advocates argue against public funding for, or provision of, abortion services. Many pro-choice advocates argue for public funding and universal availability of these services. As these two directions for universal application of norms, standards, and public services have clashed, the intractable conflict between the two sides has escalated. The value of security also plays out in the pro-life, pro-choice conflict. Pro-life advocates are concerned about the security of unborn children and the families into which they are born. Pro-choice advocates focus on the security of those involved with unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. While both are concerned with security, they differ in some important ways on what security means.

How did pro-choice and pro-life advocates come to see each other’s worldviews, thus building a base of respect for each other that was broad enough to support dialogue and discover shared values? Dialogues convened by the Network for Life and Choice helped pro-life and pro-choice advocates become aware of their differing worldviews, and made the process of uncovering shared aspects of values possible. The facilitators asked participants to do two things that helped reveal their worldviews. They were asked to share personal stories of how they came to their views and to tell each other about their heroes and heroines. In doing so, they revealed things about their identity, what they found meaningful, their ideas about the nature of life, relationships, and “right living.” Listening to these stories, the dialogue participants found it harder to sustain negative images of the other, recognizing instead commonalities that had previously been closed to them. From this base of empathy, they were able to explore shared values with more ease, while not losing sight of the aspects of values they did not share. Similarly, sharing heroes helped participants see what was precious to others, and find values they shared.

Through dialogue, advocates from pro-life and pro-choice perspectives came to see that they shared some values. Both sides agreed about some aspects of security, for example that action to alleviate female and child poverty is desirable and necessary. Similarly, both pro-life and pro-choice advocates agreed on benevolence in the form of adoption services and on ways to limit behavior outside clinics that might hurt or intimidate. 14-pro-choice-demonstratorsThey also agreed that some values should be universal: dignity and respect for all, including the right to advocate for a point of view without fear of violence or reprisal.

As mentioned above, those with different worldviews may find shared meanings as they co-create new stories, design new rituals, and find inclusive metaphors. One of the ways that the pro-choice and pro-life advocates came to see these shared values was through the dialogic process of creating new stories and new identities. Participants in ongoing pro-choice/pro-life dialogue groups reported no diminishment of their ardor as advocates, but they did report that they assumed additional identities as participants in the dialogue. These new identities led them to humanize each other even as they pursued their social and legal agendas about the issue of abortion and ways of dealing with unwanted, unplanned pregnancies.

Worldviews influence how we see ourselves and others and how we make meaning of our lives and relationships. Since resolving conflict and negotiating through a multi-cultural, complex world necessarily involves some kind of change or accommodation, it is essential to understand the operation of worldviews. When people are asked to change their worldview, identity or what they find meaningful, they will often resist. Worldviews keep our lives coherent, giving us a sense of meaning, purpose, and connection. Conflict resolution processes need to help people look into each other’s worldviews without trying to change them. As illustrated by the abortion dialogue example, it is possible to uncover shared values without fundamentally changing worldviews. Developing approaches to uncover shared values is an important area for future development in conflict analysis and resolution.

As long as life continues to be lived, a worldview is susceptible to alteration. An adult’s worldview may, but need not, remain consistent. As a person precedes through his/her life there may be events that compel a radical reformation of outlook. For example, exposure to new ways of thinking through education may induce varying degrees of a changed perspective. Vivid experiences or persuasive encounters may engender dramatic alteration of outlook. Exposure to different cultural practices or mores, or changes in geography or living circumstance, or significant tragedy or success—such experiences may revamp one’s way of thinking about life and meaning. 15-darwin-and-jesus

Purposeful attempts to modify another person’s worldview may not be successful. Stress and internal conflict (for the one who is the target) may show up such an endeavor. For example, when an educator teaching evolution challenges a student who believes in creationism the result may be the student resists or opposes the intrusion. Even a person intimidated or persecuted to change his/her worldview may privately hold fast to his/her outlook. Presenting facts that reinforce a particular worldview does little to persuade other’s to change their worldview to the one that is perhaps more factual accurate.

World views have common components. It is important to keep these in mind as you establish your own worldview, and as you share with others.

1. Absolutes. This is a value or principle that is regarded as universally valid or that may be viewed without relation to other things; good and evil are presented as absolutes. Examples of this concept include, democracy is the best government, individualism is better than collectivism, power always corrupts, competition leads to best outcomes, and economic growth is essential.

2. Infinite Reference Point. Although many will try to deny this fact, all of us seek an infinite reference point. Whether it is God, science, power of the Universe, Man, the nation/state, Agnostism, love, mother Earth, 16-mother-earthor other types of reference point, arguments fall back on this point.

3. Faith. All of us presuppose certain things to be true without absolute proof. There are many inferences or assumptions upon which a worldview is based. This becomes important, for example, when we interact with those who allege, for example, that only the scientist is completely neutral. Some common assumptions are: a personal God exists; man evolved from inorganic material; man is essentially good; reality is material, beliefs form our behaviors.

4. Provides Meaning. All worldviews provide meaning to those who hold fast to their principles. A New Age adherent firmly believes that science does not hold all the answers but quantum waves of energy shape our destiny. Those protesting social injustice believe they have the moral high ground in supporting the downtrodden. Donald Trump supporters believe that a “strong man” can most effectively help their lives.


Even though the globalized worldview seems to have emerged as the most dominant at this time, I have come to the conclusion that none of the worldviews will disappear. If this is so, it means that it will behoove all of us to understand and learn to negotiate different worldviews in order to have a more peaceful, tolerant and viable future. We all have a voice and a critical stake in the future outcome.

questions-to-consider

  1. How would you engage with someone from a different worldview to resolve a contentious issue?
  2. How would this engagement make you feel?

 

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Worldviews: How We See the World, Part 3

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. 00-bent-tree

The Center for Global Awareness is pleased to announce a forthcoming conversation program to enhance global awareness for adult learners called GRASP (Global Awareness Adult Study Program). GRASP’s mission is to enhance adult learners’ global awareness by offering conversation materials that present significant global topics using a unique four dimensional approach: see, know, evolve, and engage (SEEK). Participants will be able to see different perspectives and views, know more about significant global topics, evolve attitudes and shift behaviors, and engage more actively in helping to solve pressing global concerns through interacting more deeply with others.

We at CGA think it is as important to see different perspectives and views of global topics as it is to know about the topics. Therefore, we are developing new materials to enhance this “see” skill for adult learners. One of the ways to help us see different perspectives is to understand different worldviews. One of our forthcoming books, Worldviews: How We See the World, addresses the see dimension. I would like to share with you a condensed version of the first chapter of this book: An Introduction to Worldviews. Please follow our 4-part blog series on worldviews.


Within the Global Wave there is not one all-pervasive, homogenous way of thinking and seeing reality. Instead I have identified five often contentious and conflicting worldviews, with contradictory ways of knowing and understanding the world, each promoting dissimilar visions for the present and future. In the United States and throughout the world, most people identify with one or another of these worldviews or hold a combination of ideas from these five worldviews. The following is a brief summary of the five major worldviews: indigenous, modern, fundamentalist, globalized, and transformative.

1. An Indigenous Worldview
Very few people today hold an indigenous worldview. Indigenous peoples share a similar ethnic identity and usually inhabit a geographic region with which they have had an early historical connection. “Indigenous” means “from” or “of the original origin.” 07-kung-huntersOther terms used to describe indigenous peoples are aborigines, first people, native people, or aboriginal but the United Nations prefers the term, “indigenous peoples.” The world population of indigenous peoples is hard to estimate, but recent counts range from 300 million to 350 million. This would be just under 5 percent of the total world population. This number includes at least 5,000 distinct peoples in over 72 countries.

Indigenous peoples today live in groups ranging from only a few dozen to hundreds of thousands or more. Many groups have declined in numbers and some no longer exist, while others are threatened. Modern populations have assimilated some indigenous groups, while in other cases they are recovering or expanding their numbers. Some indigenous societies no longer live on their ancestral land because of migration, relocation, forced resettlement or having their land taken by others. In many cases, indigenous groups are losing or have lost their language and lands, and have experienced intrusion and pollution of their lands and disruption of their traditional ways.

2. A Modern Worldview
The modern worldview traces its history back more than 500 years to the expansion of Western European power and influence 08-industrial-machinesaround the world. The modern worldview has been especially powerful over the last two centuries and has today expanded to the farthest reaches of the world.

A modern worldview continues today as a way of understanding the world and solving problems. It has ushered in a host of astonishing achievements such as the equality of women, medical breakthroughs, technological successes, educational progress, a high material standard of living for some, and the advancement of human rights. But it has also promoted terrible failures, such as values of rampant consumerism, cut-throat competition, unlimited economic growth, the use of punishment as a way to correct behaviors, military force to resolve conflict, and individualism over community.

3. A Fundamentalist Worldview
Fundamentalism is a strict belief in a set of principles that are often religious. Many who hold to these ideas wish to defend what they see as traditional religious beliefs of the past. Although fundamentalists believe they are following the exact traditions of the past, this would be impossible in a modern society. 09-iranian-womenInstead their beliefs have grown out of a rejection of modern ideas along with a response to the unsettling effects of globalization. They see their religion as true and others as false. There are fundamentalist sects in almost all of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Across cultures, fundamentalists share several common characteristics including a factual reading of scripture, a mistrust of outsiders, a sense of separation from modern culture, and a belief in the historical correctness of their religion. Some religious fundamentalists are politically active, trying to shape the political and social order in line with their beliefs. Many feel that the state should be run according to religious principles. Fundamentalists see the choices for organizing their nation as limited to a Western/modern society or a traditional society. Since they reject a modern society, the only other choice they see is the continuation of their traditional ways. Also many people in modern nations find that their traditional values give comfort and security in a rapidly changing and complex world.

4. A Globalized Worldview
A fourth worldview, a globalized worldview, is sweeping the world today. It has grown out of the modern worldview and has many of its characteristics. But one of the differences is that in the globalized worldview “time has speeded up” 10-mcdonalds-mega-mac-in-malaysiaand the pace of growth and development has spread to the farthest reaches of the earth. A globalized worldview affects all aspects of society and individuals’ daily lives.

In a globalized worldview, global capitalism is the dominant economic system. One global economic system governed by capitalist principles has enveloped national and local economies that governments have regulated and protected in the past. A global economic marketplace conducts business, currency exchanges, and trade policies that ignore national boundaries. Global multinational corporations make many of the economic rules and conduct the business of the world marketplace. They promote a consumer-focused economy and support a powerful financial sector. As we will find out, the globalization process, and in particular economic globalization has both negative and beneficial aspects.

5. A Transformative Worldview
At this point in time, diverse people are actively challenging the negative parts of the four other worldviews. These people say a different worldview or a different story is needed to make sure our human species and life as we know it on earth continues. 11-mexican-organic-farmersLeaders from diverse fields – religious leaders, students, entrepreneurs, international political leaders, indigenous farmers, political activists, environmentalists, entertainers, scientists, working people, artists, writers, academics, educators, economists, concerned citizens, and others – are contributing to the creation of what I call a transformative worldview.

Critics say that none of the other worldviews are able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. For example, some think that fundamentalist beliefs will not help build a more culturally tolerant atmosphere in an increasingly interracial world. Yet, they admire the sense of community fundamentalists support. Some people advancing a transformative worldview admire the sense of local place and the importance of the environment that many indigenous people have connected with for millennia but don’t want to lose a shared awareness as global citizens. Some people say that we need to move beyond the modern worldview without losing the value of scientific inquiry and rational, logical thought. Many people supporting a transformative worldview admire the advances in technology, transportation and communication, while rejecting the despoiling of our planet. They draw upon the globalized worldview idea that we are all global citizens yet want to limit the dominance of the world’s economy by giant, multinational corporations.

questions-to-consider

  1. What worldview do you most closely identify with? Least identify with?

 

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Worldviews: How We See the World, Part 2

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. 00-bent-tree

The Center for Global Awareness is pleased to announce a forthcoming conversation program to enhance global awareness for adult learners called GRASP (Global Awareness Adult Study Program). GRASP’s mission is to enhance adult learners’ global awareness by offering conversation materials that present significant global topics using a unique four dimensional approach: see, know, evolve, and engage (SEEK). Participants will be able to see different perspectives and views, know more about significant global topics, evolve attitudes and shift behaviors, and engage more actively in helping to solve pressing global concerns through interacting more deeply with others.

We at CGA think it is as important to see different perspectives and views of global topics as it is to know about the topics. Therefore, we are developing new materials to enhance this “see” skill for adult learners. One of the ways to help us see different perspectives is to understand different worldviews. One of our forthcoming books, Worldviews: How We See the World, addresses the see dimension. I would like to share with you a condensed version of the first chapter of this book: An Introduction to Worldviews. Please follow our 4-part blog series on worldviews.


Much of any person’s worldview is shaped by his or her culture and upbringing. But, a worldview is not merely a philosophical byproduct of a person’s culture. Worldviews are constructed by society that is they are more collective than individual. I am also distinguishing worldviews from cultural views that I describe in another book. A worldview is a person’s internal mental framework of cognitive understanding about reality and life meaning. No infant has a worldview. Each person’s worldview takes shape over time as an individual grows and develops and as s/he engages in new events and experiences, interacts with others, and derives answers to inquiries about life and living from others.

Those involved in the early formation of a worldview for any child vary across cultural and other variables that influence a child’s upbringing, such as living in a nuclear family or collective, extended family. In the United States, those who supply answers to questions and facilitate the formation of a youngster’s worldview are usually parents and/or close family of the child. Their influence during formative years is powerful. Youngsters hold to their formulation of a worldview with varying degrees of firmness and cognitive maturity. Influences in modern society such as television, social media, and pop culture have an increasing bearing on worldview formulation and outcome.

Those involved in shaping a youngster’s worldview hope to produce a preferred outcome by exposing s/he to selected experiences and providing instruction by way of narratives, rituals and behaviors. 05-infantThis indoctrination process may involve screening out alternative worldview narratives and experiences, or at least careful managing a youngster’s acquaintance with them. Even a broad-minded approach, one which does not seek to restrict exposure to alternate worldviews, will involve instilling certain interpretations and offering guidelines that direct youngsters to accept a particular worldview. These guidelines may be regarded as helpful for understanding the universe living life well, and gaining meaning, but the unconscious intention is to frame the youngster’s worldview.

The process of education, by its very nature, conducted in public and private schools instills a particular worldview. Public education concentrates on interpreting the world in secular fashion according to authenticated, scientific standards of knowledge and molding conduct around common values of civilized society and a respect for individualism. The authentication process involves training experts in the peer-accepted standards of scientific knowledge and research. Religious schools may accept some of the scientific standards of knowledge found in the public schools, but also infuse religious ways of knowing that may conflict with scientific standards.

For those instilling a worldview, the picture is more complicated than in the past. No longer can a family as readily control major interactions of the child within a general locale and accepting local mores. The complexity and rapid changes within today’s culture are bringing many more factors to bear. 06-chinese-studentsTechnological developments and advertisers of a commercial marketplace may increasingly hold sway in shaping a youngster’s worldview. The contemporary situation presents intense conflicts for those parents who seek a high degree of command over shaping their child’s worldview. Even the most liberal of parents may be challenged by an inability to channel experiences for their progeny toward what they hold as a hoped-for outcome. If worldviews are so important in influencing what we do, what are the prevailing worldviews that we all hold so dearly?

A unique period of human history is occurring at this time, a fifth turning—what I have called the Global Wave—that is transforming our human story as this new millennium dawns. The Global Wave, as outlined in my book Waves of Global Change: A Holistic World History, is characterized by rapid technological, intellectual, psychological, spiritual, economic, social, cultural, political, and ecological changes that are profoundly altering familiar patterns of the past. coverjpgsmrevAs is often the case when deep changes occur there is today a great deal of anxiety, tension, conflict, and disruption as well. The deep changes occurring today are organized, in this holistic world history, into a fifth wave, the Global Wave. Deep transformations are not new in our human history, for punctuations of human rhythms have shifted the flow of history in the past as well. Periods of discontinuity alter the balance of continuity and create change. Now, once again, is a time of ground-breaking change.

Within the Global Wave there is not one all-pervasive, homogeneous way of thinking and seeing reality. Instead I have identified five often contentious and conflicting worldviews, with contradictory ways of knowing and understanding the world, each promoting dissimilar visions for the present and future. In the United States and throughout the world, most people identify with one or another of these worldviews or hold a combination of ideas from these five worldviews. The next blog gives a brief summary of the five major worldviews: indigenous, modern, fundamentalist, globalized, and transformative.

questions-to-consider

  1. In what ways do you or society in general socialize children to conform to a worldview? What are some characteristics of that worldview?

 

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