The rapid increase of population to this effect as well, and today, countries and cultures interact more than ever before. With this increased interaction, interesting issues have arisen. Cultures are slow to evolve and adapt to new situations created by the much more rapid changes of technology. As technology connects us, culture divides us–and in ways that we never realized it could, simply because certain cultures would never have had the chance to mingle before. Cultures meeting for the first time may regard each other as alien, and find each other’s practices to be odd, even shocking.
Though morals are fairly similar worldwide, the specifics of cultural customs are often different. Appiah writes of the Akan and their concept of abusua, a matrilineal idea of what constitutes “family” (381). While harmless, and certainly not immoral, this idea is starkly in contrast with family concepts in other cultures, and it can easily be imagined that two cultures with differing ideas on this topic might view each other as odd.
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The idea of family is ingrained in members of a culture from birth, and naturally, having this idea challenged unexpectedly could cause discomfort.
There have been many examples in the past of serious, even violent culture clashes, especially with regards to religion. The Crusades, for example, an extremely long and vicious example, still has ongoing echoes to this day. While most countries today aren’t actively waging actual war against those of differing ideas, religions, and cultures, it’s not a large conceptual leap to imagine that people of a culture feel most comfortable with others of like minds, and may speak or act to keep themselves surrounded with others of familiar ideals. Frankin Foer notes instances of this.
In “How Soccer Explains the World,” he writes, “… a loud portion of the [United States] actively disdains the game, even campaigns against it,” (411). Members of Congress have campaigned against the USA supporting soccer because of its “socialist” origins (411). This group of people would rather United States Americans play a more locally accepted sport, such as football or baseball. It only takes a few loud members of a community, and relative silence of others in that community who may have opposing viewpoints, to change the way others view them.
It is often the case that we assume what we know of a culture to be representative of that culture as a whole. This generalization has been a part of humanity for all of history, and despite being widely recognized and discouraged, will probably never go away. We lose something in this generalization, in this inherent dislike of other cultures. By generalizing so much from a small representation of a culture, from such small cues, we neglect to go further and learn more. We fall prey to the illusion that we already know enough, when in reality, that is never true.
Programmed into us, it appears, is a tendency towards closed-mindedness. This is an unscientific mindset, to say the least. As we know from science, a small sample is a useless sample, and can throw us wildly off track. This mindset prevents us from discovery and learning, from adding new items to our personal frames of reference, and, as has been seen in the past, it causes war and oppression in the worst cases. However, there does exist true science, driven by logic and observation, instead of absurd generalizations and fear.
This shows us that it is possible to overcome these cultural clashes, if only everyone would make a conscious effort. Critical thinking and openmindedness can fix this problem, but it takes work. People must consciously check themselves to make sure they are not generalizing, and should be open to exploration of other cultures and to learning of others’ customs. Adoption of other ways is not the goal here; awareness and an attempt at understanding is enough to turn the tide from a fearful, introverted collection of cultures to a melting pot of tolerance and understanding.