Not of Our Culture

Cultural indoctrination is a really interesting process in that where we are formed is where we learn how to behave and from that we go through life behaving in a very specific manner. Now, this is all fine and good if you spend your entire life living in one culture (or subculture) and never step outside beyond its boundaries. But, if you do move away from YOUR culture into an another culture, you must adapt. If you do not, then all you do is create havoc, chaos, and discomfort in the lives of those you come into contact with. This discomfort can be small or it can be large. It can be a simple annoyance or it can create a life changing event. But, the one common factor in all of this is that one or more person(s) enters into the realm of another and if they behave in a culturally unacceptable manner, the person or persons whose life they have entered is altered for the worst.

How do you behave? Do you take your culture with you or do you adapt to the culture around you?

It is important to preface this writing with the fact that I am not demeaning any culture. Just the opposite, in fact. But, the fact of the matter is, cultural adaptation, guiding by the blending of cultures, ideally takes place over long periods of time. If someone attempts to immediately pressure cultural adaption by forcing their cultural beliefs into the place they newly have come to inhabit, then conflict is given birth to.

I have spent much of my adult life traveling the globe. Many years ago the foreigners I would encounter, while abroad, were most commonly Americans. This is not the case anymore. Due to the overall demise of the U.S. economy and other factors, it is much more likely that you will encounter a traveler from another region of the world than America. The point being, it used to almost be a joke about the way Americans would behave in other countries. Even me, I was embarrassed by the way they acted and would have nothing to do with them. They expected that the world should be just the way it is in America — that all those across the globe should behave in a manner that the American mindset deemed appropriate and due to the fact that they were, “American,” they should be kowtowed to. Very sad. Very inappropriate. But, this is how some people behave.

Even me, I remember the first time I travel to Berlin, (back when it was West Berlin), my German was very poor. I went to the post office to mail a package and I tired to communicate with the postal worker in English. He scolded me, yelled ay me, told me to learn German and I totally got it. This was his country. German was their language and I couldn’t speak it very well. Finally, he changed his tone and spoke to me in perfect English. But, it was my fault. Not his.

From an American perspective, in the recent decades, large numbers of immigrates have immigrated into the United States. Many, if not most, have come here hoping to be a part of the American culture. But, some have not. Though they are here, they wish to hold-fast to their own culture and simply reap the rewards of America. From this, I have witnessed conflict, disharmony, and distrust arise. For example, in the area of Los Angeles where I live there is a lot of new money and a lot of old family money. I have watched as large numbers of people of Middle-Eastern heritage have come to the area and completely disregarding common cultural courtesies. For example, I think back to a time recently when I was sitting outdoors at a Starbucks. As we all know Starbucks is a smoke-free environment. This one guy drove his top of the line BMW up and parked right in front of the shop in the red zone. He didn’t care… Went and got a coffee, came outside and lighted up a cigarette and started blowing smoke. This, even though there is a no-smoking badge on the table where he sat. Now, I really hate conflict. I think most of us do. But, was I going to let this man ruin this environment for the old guy, the high school girls, and myself sitting on this patio? No. I straight-away went up to him and told him about the rules and told him he was being very rude. But, he knew and he didn’t care. He was just going to push the boundaries as far as he could and the rest of the world be damned. Smoking was who he is. He looked at me. He said nothing. He went and sat in his car, parked in the red, drank his coffee, and smoked his cigarette.

This is just one small example about how people (culturally) invade the space of others. In his culture smoking everywhere/anywhere is fine. But, not here. But, he didn’t care. Though it all turned out fine and that was good. This is not always the case, however. This man unconsciously created conflict simply by bringing his culture with him and not caring about the culture of the land where he now resides. And, creating conflict, based upon cultural indoctrination, is never a good thing.

In various articles and in the various incarnations of this Zen Blog and in other places, I have detained how periodically people have come into my life, uninvited, and really messed it up. They have done this because they were inconsiderate of my life and the life of other people and/or maybe they just did not care. In some cases, when confronted about what they had done, they have sited reasons like that was they way they learned to behave where they were from and nonsensical excuses such as that. But, the fact is, they came in and damaged my life — they damaged the life of others. And, they did this because they were not aware enough, not conscious enough, to care. And this takes us to the heart of the matter. In life, we each move from place to place. Whether this is miles upon miles or simply across town, in each of these places we find people who behave in a certain manner and they expect to be treated in a specific manner. If you behave differently, if you act wrongly, if you go into their space and do something that negatively affects the life of anybody; you are in the wrong. It is a simple as that. And, if you do wrong things, that hurts the lives of other people, based upon how you believe it is okay to behave, you are the one causing the problem. Thus, all the blame goes to you.

Now, the fact is, some people don’t care. They take their culture with them wherever they go and the world be damned. But, that mindset is the cause of conflict. That is where all the fights, all the wars, and all of the problems of the world begin. Is that how you behave?

What are you the sourcepoint of and for? Do you care more about meaninglessly holding onto the bad habits of your culture or do you care about caring enough to care about others first? You really need to ask yourself that question whenever you find yourself in a new environment. Do you adapt? Or, do you pollute?