Monday, October 11, 2004

Welcome to the Clash!

Okay, so I have never blogged before. Not formally. Though I do post to message boards and wrote editorials. And I'm not a big blog surfer either, so it's learn as I go, but I do spend a lot of time interacting with other cultures. I am an American. And as I interact with other cultures, I become more and more aware of what that means.

Believe it or not, I once told a friend of mine "America has no distinct culture." Okay, I've since changed my opinion. The American culture is a dominant influence around the world. This is not always a good thing, but it is a reality. Everywhere I have been from Africa to Europe to South America, people are knowledgable about American pop-culture and its icons. From Madonna to Mel Gibson, Bruce Springsteen to James Taylor, Dallas to Dawson's Creek -- people around the world are being influenced by us.

I once sat in my friends house in Accra, Ghana, West Africa, and their four-year-old turned on the TV to JERRY SPRINGER! I was mortified. Is that the best our culture has to offer? People are learning who we, as Americans, are and what we are about from crap like Jerry Springer's show. How embarrassing.

There are many people around the world who hate Americans, not because of the culture, but because of the wealth and power we as a nation have now and have had throughout history. Ironically, as you engage in dialogue with them, you find that many of these people would be the first ones to hop on the boat or plane if they were given the chance to come here.

So I thought I could blog with you about my experiences with other cultures and belief systems. Perspectives on being an American in a foreign land and trying to fit in. And how that changes who you are when you come back to your own culture. Maybe very few people will find this interesting. Maybe a lot will. I will admit that I speak from American cultural bias and understanding. And as a Christian missioanry, I also have that. But I wish to just be honest. I don't seek to discriminate or offend anyone. And I am open to learning from you if you feel I am wrong. I also have a number of friends who are serving in foreign countries, whom I will invite to dialog with us from time to time. I currently am in St. Louis, MO, but I travel several times a year doing Leadership Development training with my ministry, Anchored Music Ministries. I invite you to dialogue about your own experiences so we can learn and grow together.

My bias is in favor of other cultures. I think we have a lot to learn from each other. There are many things about African life and culture, which, if we examine them, can be quite beneficial to improving our own. I feel the same about places like Brazil and Mexico. So welcome, and please share your thoughts. And I'll share mine. And I hope together we can promote better understanding and cultural awareness, and maybe even have some fun.

Before we go on though, we need a Disclaimer:

It is funny how people react to honest expression. I never claimed to be the world's foremost expert on cross cultural realities, nor did I expect to find that honestly blogging about my cross cultural experiences would be an issue for some people. People love to pass judgment and snap judgments at that. They read a few words and they automatically assume they know who you are. So silly.Anyway, if you read this blog, please don't do that. If you are a foreigner reading this blog, don't take too much offense that I see the world differently or that I report on things since as both positive and negative. You do the same when you travel and I am sure you would have just as much to say. I try and be graceful about what I write and how I write it, but all of us have prejudices we are not always aware of. My daily quest is to overcome those prejudices and reeducate myself, but it takes time. As much as I am aware of them, I acknowledge them, and I hope you can respect that, as many people do not.

For anyone else, I am writing this blog as much to relate honest experiences and reactions as to provide positive information. And sometimes the reaction to those experiences is negative, but I always try and put a positive spin and my heart's desire is that people who read would desire similar experiences themselves, because I think the world will be a better place the more everyone interacts with each other, especially cross culturally.That being said, the purpose here is to discuss culture clashes. Not to pass judgement on them. If you cannot do that, then you shouldn't read it. But there are culture clashes occurring every day and if we never discuss them, we will never get past them or stop them from occurring. So be it what I will, I will write honestly. And I will try my best to be respectful and sensitive. But at the same time, it will be mostly from my point of view, as I have no other point of view to write from.However, I would welcome comments and discussion as long as they are not vulgar, rude, insulting, denegrating, or otherwise inappropriate (disrespect being inappropriate). I will gladly respond and we can learn from each other. It does no good to share my point of view, if I am not open to yours.

And I cannot become a better cross cultural citizen without learning from others. I do however have it set that I have to approve comments, so if you are of the type I said won't be welcome, don't waste your time. I will not allow it on the site. Otherwise, let's discuss.Finally, a definition of culture might be somewhat helpful. When I talk about culture, I am not just referring to the rich cultural heritage of architecture and arts, etc. Nor am I just referring to history. I am referring to daily life. Those who look at the cultural heritage are right to wonder what some of the daily minutae mentioned here have to do with culture. But those minutae have everything to do with daily culture and that culture, I believe, is what most visitors have the most struggle with or at the most immediate reaction. So that is what fascinates me the most. Everybody deals with different aspects of daily life in unique ways. That is as much a part of their cultural reality as music and design. And it is what makes us different in ways that are more immediately noticable for many people. So I choose to include those things in my definition of culture for the sake of culture clashes, and I discuss them here.



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