Those Non-Ethnocentric Americans
To be a nerd, or not to be a nerd, that is the question. It is the 21st century (the year 2012 to be exact) and humanity continues to advance. Unfortunately human advances along with humanity. This includes myself, as my ignorance continues to grow. The only difference is that now I am aware of it. Since I am an American, I will be talking about America, the greatest country in the world. In our bleakest hour many of us watch football on television, hum along to Ms. Gaga and Ms. Perry, and celebrate American culture a little too much. We can see those beer-bellied Americans always eating burgers, drinking alcohol, and holding shotguns during the sacred day of the 4th of July. The problem is that Americans are uninterested in different cultures as they look towards popular culture for entertainment. What I am calling for is that everyone should decide to be a culture nerd for a day, and try to expand his or her horizons on different cultures.
Some people may argue that there is no problem with celebrating and taking pride in one’s own culture. While that may be true, Americans in general are ethnocentric and take the celebrations too far. The celebration of the Constitution that follows us into every room, the freedom flag with the 50 stars stands by in all the classrooms, and the celebration of Democracy, all of which instill nationalism into us. This results in us ignoring some countries that seem inferior to us, which is bad. It also leads to us interfering in other countries’ affairs, which is bad. It’s really a lose-lose situation. Most high schools in the United States promote three languages: English, French, and Spanish. Schools in Europe promote French, Spanish, Italian, German, and English. The rest of the world (except for some parts of Africa and the Kangaroos Down Under) realizes that they need to be more connected in global relationships. Examples of this include Chinese and Japanese students learning English, and yet Americans don’t learn Chinese and Japanese. Since our economy is one of the best, other countries learn English to delve into our private sector, while Americans do not have an obvious monetary incentive to learn other language. Since the 1940’s America has become a Super Power and a city upon a hill for the world to see. Even in 1630 we though highly of ourselves (however, we were not actual Americans at that time) as John Winthrop made his “City upon a Hill” speech, inspiring the Puritans to build a perfect city that will be the light of the world for all to see. Although in modern times, the world is willing to fight an uphill battle to raze our city that shines so brightly. After all, even monkeys like to throw rocks at shiny objects.
Americanization has occurred in most parts around the world, meeting resistance with some groups. Americanization is the influence of American culture on other cultures or be the diseases that everything we touch becomes American. The Middle East has been a victim of Americanization, with religious extremists opposing Americanization. The result was a tragedy that shook America’s world. Our response: Now don’t be messing with America, or else we’ll bring Democracy to your country. To bring democracy into other countries may upset the indigenous population. Americans need to become more aware of other cultures that they affect because they are in a state of cultural loss, which may lead to cultural death.
Now that the problem is known, let’s move on to defining the solution. The operational definition of “ cultural nerd” needs to be established. The first things that may come to mind with the word “nerd” are glasses, geek, loser, pocket-protectors, and social outcast. The fact that Americans give negative connotations to the word “nerd” demonstrates that being a “nerd” is not desired. I want to change the connotation so that being a nerd is good. Therefore to be a “culture nerd” is to celebrate the under-acknowledged culture of the foreign culture, (demographics not isolate the cultural nerd; Americans in general are called to be cultural nerds).
How does one become a cultural nerd? Simple. Select a country that is “interesting” (people’s tastes differ, I for one love the Japanese culture) and use the Internet to gain information. It does require a bit of reading that may strain some people’s minds, but the Internet is the quickest way to access information. Other than reading about the culture, experiencing the culture would provide the best results.
Two of the easiest ways to be a cultural nerd include music and food. Poorer countries eat to live, while Americans live to eat. Food is one of the most central aspects of culture. Tasting different foods is not only good for the soul but good for the stomach as well. Perhaps eating crickets will lead to understanding of African dietary practices and appreciation of American food.
Another option is music. An excellent example is the rise of the Korean guy named “Psy” with his hypnotizing song, “Oppa Gangnam Style.” When it was introduced on radios (which facilitated its popularity) Americans went crazy over this song, even though it was in Korean. This raised awareness for Korean music and may have led some Americans to appreciate Korea and explore its culture.
The solution of becoming a cultural nerd for a day would provide the best results. For one, I am not asking people to change their lifestyles for the rest of their lives. Rather I humbly ask that people just be interested in another culture for a day and then return back to routine activities, but more aware about other countries.
Other solutions that could be offered include advertising and travelling. Advertising is aimed primarily at businesses to spend money in the advertising country. Most Americans are not willing to donate money to some foreign country. Advertising of specific countries may attract a specific audience, such as die-hard fanatics of the country, descendents, or the native people who are homesick. Including everyone in the process would bring better results. Along with advertising comes travel, which is really effective, except it’s for a small audience. International trips are expensive and Americans have few days off compared to Europe (perhaps they go on vacations and experience the world more than we do), thus Americans cannot afford to spend the time or money travelling.
Study the culture, he said. It would provide benefits, he said. Now, why would people complain about studying other people’s cultures? The counter-argument for being a cultural nerd arises when one is not making money. “There’s not a enough time”, one may say. “We should improve ourselves”, another might say. Fortunately, there are 24 hours in a day. When one is not working, he or she is just procrastinating. However the old notion is time is money, but there is plenty of time to explore culture, and all I ask for is to keep in mind of another culture for a day. In order to improve ourselves, we must understand others. We can see their flaws and differences, and assess our own flaws. Maybe then we will improve ourselves.
If we do not understand other cultures, it will lead to humanity’s demise. No, I am not kidding. Remember that thing called Americanization? If not check the dictionary and spell check, the word is there. Americanization upsets other countries, and most people are not aware of it. If we show an effort to preserve their culture and back away, they might appreciate us. This presents a slight problem. To save ourselves, we must back away from the foreign country (prevent Americanization). To destroy ourselves, we back away from the foreign country (leading to ethnocentricity). The middle ground would include a state of awareness for other cultures, but does not involve ourselves extensively in other’s cultures.
We can never be rid of popular culture (unless we were to return to the dark ages). However humanity can change popular culture to consider other cultures. International phenomenon, such as the artist Psy and the food Ramen, have infected our popular culture and nestled in it. The solution lies within relatively cheap methods to learn about other cultures through the Internet. By being a culture nerd, people can investigate other countries and see their lifestyles. Listening to the culture’s music and eating the culture’s food is relatively cheap compared to travelling. For now being aware of how America impacts others and seeing how others live is enough. Being a cultural nerd that does research allows for information. Until they visit the country and practice the foreign customs, the nerds will never understand foreign countries. In fact sometimes we do not understand each other, but we must set out to understand one another as well as ourselves. If we do not understand ourselves, we cannot understand others. I have given insight about most Americans, so with that insight they can try to understand others. If we fail to do this, disastrous results include war, violence, and alienation. But do not worry; it is not as bad the Universe collapsing in on itself as time continues further. Whether one is alive to culture after the war breaks out is question that only you can answer.