vendredi 10 janvier 2014
CULTURAL DIVERSITY, NOW AND BEFORE IT WAS, MULTICULTURALISM
COULD CULTURAL DIVERSITY DISAPPEAR THE SAME WAY AS CROSS CULTURE AWARENESS
WITH A SOCIAL ACTIVIST IN HANGA ROA
While I was studying Anthropology in London, the buzzword of the day was Cross Cultural Awareness, how it is necessary to become aware of other cultures! Professor Adam Kuper lamented how the word “Culture” had been used in the media and public worldview, rather than what it actually means. Another lecturer added that for most people, Multi Culturalism of the day meant that they could get chicken curry at the canteen!
Cultural Diversity is the buzzword now. In the Jan 9, 2014 of Business+Strategy, it stated in a lead article:
When we recently surveyed more than 2,200 global businesspeople to get their take on culture’s role in business, we saw that culture is widely seen as more important than companies’ strategies or operating models. This view of culture’s importance holds true around the world.
Every time I travel in the USA, I am delighted how diverse this country has become; in fact, it is the most diverse country on this planet.
On arrival at the airport, the shuttle bus driver, the lady at the reception at the hotel, the waiters at the local restaurant, the entire staff at Versailles or La Carreta restaurants in Miami was all-foreign born. In fact, Miami holds the distinction of any city with the largest number of foreign-born citizens in the world! (Gulf States don't count since indentured labourers, both European and Non European there are not citizens)
(Asia, Middle East, Africa, South America represented in the above photograph)
This is very positive! Each of the migrants come with the strong values of the culture from their homeland, tend to adopt the best work ethic and the positive values of the American Culture, thus they are an addition to the sociocultural and economic landscape. They tend to be happier, apart from the usual longing for their countries of origin, they are usually grateful to be in the USA.
They are anchored to their cultures, they are happy to be in the USA, and grateful for the opportunities which they take full advantage.
I asked myself the posed question, would this concept of Cultural Diversity also disappear, when I pondered the darker side of this phenomenon, culturally speaking, while my flight was about to land in Honolulu, Hawaii recently.
My Meskwakia teacher once said: I am baffled by the white people, when I ask them, who they are, they say I am ¼ English, ¼ German. ¼ French and ¼ Scandinavian. That makes no sense to me, four quarters do not add up to one, it adds up to Zero!
The European immigrants to the USA have been mixing among themselves for a while now, the famous “melting pot” theory. I am a mutt, is a frequent answer heard in the USA, when you ask them about their origins. I speak more Swedish than most Americans who identify themselves as Swedish. In small Midwestern towns, it is not unusual to see: Czech days, Bohemian Festival, Norway, Sweden, Poland and Italy fondly remembered-usually with extremely superficial song and dance and a very Americanised cuisine of what might have been once a great cuisine.
What does this loss of culture lead to?
A line from Pablo Neruda floats up the mind.
Un alma sin raices es injusticia
A soul without roots is injustice
One could say, they have become Americanised (Australianised or canadianized?), but what does that mean?
Especially in societies which are conscious of colour of the skin of the inhabitants? (Could that disappear over time as well?)
What would be the relationships with each other? Across the lines of lineage? (There is greater tendency for Native Americans to marry Mexicans, for example, rather than whites; does it have a cultural or economic basis?)
How does this affect the “success rate”? (Doing well functioning in the integrated society)
(Aloha from Hawaii, Iorana from Rapa Nui, Bienvenidos from Miami!)
I am an American, a Mexican living in Texas will inform me, in his broken English, while cleaning the hotel lobby. Yes, I would encourage him and at the same time tell him, don't forget your ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower, teach your children Spanish and let them know about Montezuma! This self-denial, as Octavio Paz called it, a sense of shame, affects their chances of rising through the social ranks, an anthropologist would say.
I have felt that the designation of Hispanic, to include the predominantly Mexican population of America but with Cubans in Miami (a high achievement group) and other Europeans from South America (Chile, Brasil, Argentina, all better integrated into the American society), was constructed to hide the consequences of this sense of shame. A Cuban in Miami is never ashamed of being a Cuban and of speaking Spanish.
On my flight, my seatmate was an elegantly dressed Chinese lady. She told me her story.
23 years ago when I came from Shanghai as a student to the USA, most people expected me to be from Hong Kong or Taiwan, and I felt a sense of neglect, said this “successful” corporate lady from Dallas, Texas. Now I feel the respect accorded to the Mainland Chinese, proud of being part of a powerful nation on Earth!
My father, Olav ha shalom, told me of Zhou En Lai who seems to have understood the reason for this lack of respect for the overseas Chinese. Not even a Chinaman’s luck was an epithet for extreme misfortune! When all of us get ahead, Zhou En Lai was said to have professed, then the whole world would respect the Chinese. What a visionary!
Being a member of the “other” group, from more than one sociocultural point of view, I am well satisfied with the reception and respect accorded to me in various parts of the world, even in countries with peculiar xenophobia such as Jamaica.
A recent compliment was from a social activist in Hanga Roa- you look like you are from here too!
(Miami Beach from the air)
Look at the successful “groups” of people who are migrants to another country.
There are wonderful stories of “culturally distinct” groups in the USA
Early 20th Century Jews, Armenians
Late 20th Century Cubans and East Indians
Knowing the Cuban situation well, I can say that Cuban migration to Florida since 1962 has to be considered one of the most successful integration into the host society by any group, especially in the economic and educational spheres.
I was happy to see my friend Jawar at his supervisory capacity at a hotel in Waikiki. When he gave me his email, with promises of a good rate on my next visit, I noticed that his last name had a distinct Spanish tilt to it: Bautista
You are a local, right? I enquired
Yes I am a Hawaiian but I am of Pilipino/Puerto Rican/African heritage. Since he has no native Hawaiian blood in him, he passes under my Meskwaki teacher’s rule: four quarters don't make one but Zero! At the Sakura lounge at Honolulu International Airport, the receptionist told me she was Filipina/Chinese/Spanish and wanted to know how that mixture would affect her health. The Chinese and the Spanish (European Spanish and not Hispanic as in Mexican) parts would compensate for the ill health suffered disproportionately by the Filipino migrants to the USA- in a nutshell.
I am born in Miami, my mother is Mexican and my father is Cuban, said the AA agent. He had no shame to speak Spanish, he did it well.
I told him:
Welcome to the USA! (He should welcome me?), with a Kenyan-European President, Cuban-Americans rapidly ascending the corporate ladder (check out Cuban-Americans in Wikipedia and you would be astounded how many are CEOs of major companies in the USA including McDo!), Chinese American doctors, Vietnamese manicurists (mine is! From the delta)…etc. etc. etc.
It is good to be a Jew among them all!
Even the wines offered at a recent party in Miami reflect the cultural diversity: France, California, Chile, South Africa)