Feyisayo Anjorin

Freelance Director, Afro-Carribean Media Group


This conversation is closed.

Is it possible for an individual to be without ethnocentrism?

Ethnocentrism involves using the ideas and beliefs of one particular culture to judge other cultures.
It is so similar to pride in the sense that we loath it in other people/cultures; but we are hardly conscious of it in our own culture.
Our beliefs and worldview is as a result of years of living in our community and seeing things done in a particular way; years of familiarity with the material culture, social structure, religion, history, philosophy and ideals.
We usually percieve our culture as the logical, reasonable and normal way to live; and we often wonder "How anyone could ever live like THAT?!"
It is usually the chief enemy of marriages. The husband has grown up in a different home environment, under different circumstances, and with a different experience. He would wonder why the wife is behaving in a certain manner that is contrary to his ways; and so does the wife.

Is ethnocentrism inevitable?

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    Sep 4 2012: From a possibility perspective, yes, there is, 100%. I had written something about this topic in a different conversation.

    There's a book called "On identity" by Amin Maalouf. It basically argues that a person is an amalgamation of all whom he interacts with or the places he visits.
    So, the more well travelled or the more receptive a person is of other cultures and people, the more that person would evolve into a worldly being, and has knowledge or beliefs that are above and beyond his or her own culture, and thus would minimize his judgement on other cultures, as he himself grows.
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      Sep 6 2012: Imad. "In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong" is definitely in my top 10 lists of favorite books. Maalouf goes on to state, and I paraphrase... when we fail to notice the various allegiances{links} that we have with our fellow man; we begin to create an "other" or someone totally diferent and completely isolated from us. It is at this point that stereotyping enters the arena
  • Sep 17 2012: I work with many different cultures, and while it is evident that the people I work with always approach tasks from a familiar starting point (i.e., their own cultural perspective), what I see again and again is that we are all human first and culturally determined second. This is not to downplay the effect that cultural determination can have on our interactions with the world. It can sometimes be very significant. For example, I lived with some native Americans up near Alaska for a while and I lent one of them my jacket. He kept it! When I started to inquire about why he wasn't giving my jacket back, I discovered the idea that native ideas of private property are very different than my own. In my culture, his action might be called stealing, whereas in his culture, I was part of his community and my jacket was community property. When I discovered this, I was not angry that he kept the jacket. Rather, I was gratified that, even as an outsider, I had been included in his community. I give this example to show that cultural ideas are very powerful, yet even more powerful is our capacity for understanding each other as human beings.
  • Sep 14 2012: There are three questions:
    1. Can you not judge?
    2. What do I call 'familiar'?
    3. How am I taught to react to the 'unfamiliar'?

    Can we not judge? To a certain degree. We judge others in our thoughts - even others within our culture.
    Do I know what is familiar to me? We develop this based on what is made available to us.
    What is my reaction to the 'unfamiliar'? This is developed by how it is presented when it is made available to us.

    If I eat only 10 oranges and 1 apple every day, this will be my familiar ideal. If a friend ate 9 oranges and 2 apples everyday, I can relate to him easily. If I saw someone eat 9 apples and 1 orange, I would say in my mind 'ah, interesting. I don't think I could live that way, but I see that he does.' If a teacher (who eats only oranges) said, "beware of those who eat vegetables" I would be confused. "What's a vegetable?"
    And then my friend who ate 9 oranges said, "I have someone wonderful I want you to meet! He eats Apples, but also cucumbers!" "What's a cucumber?" All three of us meet and we all talk of apples. I am given a cucumber, sliced. I try it and because of the generosity I am experiencing, I become happy with this new experience and I agree with my friend. "Yes, this is a wonderful person. This is an odd yet wonderful ... well, what is a cucumber?" "It is a vegetable." Now, I have information where I need to make a 'grown-up' decision about. A teacher who ate only oranges, not even apples said to avoid vegetable people. That teacher did not show me love for a pure orange diet. I decide the teacher is wrong. "A pure orange thinking is wrong." I thank my friends and leave. Before I arrive home, I am attacked by a man and killed. The last thing I hear is "Long Live Cucumbers."

    What we have is the first question being the most important. Can we not judge? Should we judge? We live on a planet we want to categorize efficiently, but the distance from me to you might just be an odd yet wonderful meal.
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    Sep 11 2012: I think Humans by necessity must judge other phenomena, whether it be culture, a person or an experience, by what we already know. To not do so would make it very hard to function in everyday life. It's a cognitive bias known as the anchoring effect. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it effectively just means our perception of the present is partial to what we have already experienced. Although it is of course possible to compensate for this, I think the challenge lies in understanding how immensely subject you are to all these faults in human reasoning. And from there being able to isolate, and analyse each fault one by one. A very tedious task I think, and as such not one undertaken by an abundance of people.
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      Sep 12 2012: The obvious response to this would be to educate our children from 5 year olds up outside of the home culture?
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        Sep 12 2012: I don't think there are an awful lot of five year old children who would be able to grasp the concept of ethnocentrism. And even then do you mean that we should educate them in every culture? I suspect that being raised while being consistently told a vast amount of contradicting opinions and beliefs would not be good for a child. Also given the sheer number of different cultures out there, the parent would have a nigh impossible task set for them. Besides which, most ethnocentrism is harmless. Sure you get the extremists, but I think most people are happy to let everyone be who they want to be. For example you can disagree with religion but as long as those who are religious don't come knocking on your door to tell you about the coming apocalypse you're generally happy to let them get on with it. I'm agnostic but I have friends who are religious as well as friends from a broad range of different cultures and backgrounds. Sure I have my opinions but I also respect them as individuals, so I don't argue with them about something that doesn't effect me or our relationship. And if it ever does then we negotiate and we compromise. So while I do think ethnocentrism is inevitable, that doesn't mean you can't be civil about it. :)
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          Sep 12 2012: I was thinking for our young to grow up with a total global view,we educate them outside of nz while we do the same for another group,when they return they might not want to stay,we're very lucky in a way,we're not totally ethnocentric but a mixture of a few,kiwi/maori/islander/indian/asian, just to name the main groups,diverse and being still geographically isolated it would be great to see how it is in a hundred years or so,if we survive getting quaked and sunburnt.
  • Sep 7 2012: I have always taught that Ethnocentrism is a doctrine or policy of a specific group of people in a set location. That they share ideals, values, and culture. If that culture is introduced to another than yes, ethnocentrism is inevitable. What we as educators, and parents, need to do is teach about cultural relativism. Teaching the art of looking at other cultures through their eyes, not tainted by our own experiences, and not judging. Using what they call the sociological perspective, standing back and observing. My children have traveled and interacted with many people from around teh world and I am always amazed at the friendships they have made, even though in our discussions they may say that a certain way the kids from Romania act are wierd or different, they still understand that it is a cultural thing. (Romania is just an example, they are by no way wierd!)

    As to the point of marraige, this is what makes a good sitcom. If husband wife and familiy are all the same, they would be boring!! The trick is acceptance and understanding. Extreme ethnocentrism to the point of prejudice and racism is not inevitable in all situations.

    Just so you know, many of my students have responded to this question. They are 10th graders from Pennsylvania learning about European History and grasping the ideals of what culture is. Thanks for the opportunity to be involved in this discussion.
  • Sep 13 2012: Well by definition, ethnocentric is 1. Belief in the superiority of one's own ethnic group.
    2. Overriding concern with race. I think both of these things are not good for human beings. You can have an overriding concern with race I suppose without arrogance, but not with the belief that your group is superior. I just wish we could finally overlook the color of skin and the cultures we come from; we'd see that people are pretty much the same.
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    Sep 7 2012: Ethnocentrism has to give way to 'Humancentrism' if the Earth is considered as a paradise for all forms of living organisms with equal right to live and prosper so long as we live. After all, birth as well as death are inevitable happenings for all living organisms be plant, animal or human wherever they are. LOVE devoid of selfishness can easily drive out ethnocentrism to give way for humancentrism. It is worth making constant and consistent efforts towards this goal. We need to change our mindset. That is all. I thank the initiator of this topic. This concept has been very much in my mind since long.
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    Sep 4 2012: I would actually say, it's not just possible... but, it's a yin and yang. As much as we desire to interact with people who make us "comfortable", or conform to our social norms. Human beings are also naturally curious, and fascinated by difference. I would almost suggest that in reality, the individual is as heterocentric, as he or she is, homocentric. The violence created by homocentricity, and ethnocentricity however, is so palpable, that it makes us almost unaware of the part of our brain that says "Oooooh... That's exotic, unique, rare.... What's that all about?"
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    Sep 4 2012: So now my view is split. I admire what thinkers have done to shatter tradition, I admire their courage and their curiosity. But I also look back at what we've also shattered, tradition as stories that have gone down countless generations, heritage from our ancestors, people like us struggling with the same issues, standing underneath the cosmos at night and wondering what to do.
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    Sep 16 2012: I don't believe ethnocentrism is inevitable. Take the example of the 5 directions, north, south, east and west the fifth is the beginning position to judge where you go to. Think of yourself and your cultural view as being this fifth direction or yourself about to got either north, south , east or west. Then place yourself in this position from somebody else's cultural point of view.

    A phrase for this philosophy was cultural anthropology and became very prominant in the 1990's out of a university in Hawaii, native american studies and maori studies in New Zealand.

    For example in NZ maori culture in the past was judged from a european or UK cultural perspective it was now being studied with the cultural values of the culture which spurned it, maori culture. Then this viewpoint is presented to other people from other cultures as an academic study.

    I'm trying to remember the first thesis my mother Mina Mckenzie was involved with these discussions. It is her analogy the 5 directions. These anthropologists were looking for a way to view and look after the treasures in there museums. I believe one of the upshots of this process was the asking of the maori preserved heads held in foreign museums to be returned.

    I hope this makes sense.
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      Sep 17 2012: hi Anna.
      your example makes me think a lot .it can't help leting me think 'is an american's english level better than a noenglish-speaking person.i don't thnk so .
      i think it is a question of tolerance.when we think at a hight of world .your people are my people .your culture is mine.then we won't have a differernce.now with the developement of the tecnology.people from differert countries can talk freely exchange our ideas.then we are getting much in commom we are towards the same.
      if this is the year a thousands year ago.we don't learn about each other .when we koncked.what will we do i think we will metch each other .because we just have fearness.
      so communication can make us learn more about each other.then we can feel much safer!
  • Sep 13 2012: Yes and no. I believe if one is truly centered and in touch with the truth then they will naturally live by different principles, not being xenocentric or ethnocentric. People are ethnocentric for many reasons, ignorance, fear, gain etc. Although ethnocentrism is not inevitable, it has proven nearly impossible to avoid within the human species. Perhaps it’s just the animal in us.
    People grow up absorbing the behaviors and values of whatever culture they are in and consider anything outside to be "different", while at the same time feeling different and apart themselves... which I think is part of the beginning of ethnocentrism. (Please note that even within cultures social stratification occurs often which seems, to say this behavior begins within us early and exists even in our own families) Until humans can see themselves as being one with all things and each other, we will continue to have this problem.
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      Sep 13 2012: Yvette, I don't think ethnocentrism is a problem.Don't you think there is a way of being ethnocentric without being arrogant?
  • Sep 12 2012: I don't think it is possible to be ethnocentrism. It is not natural. If it is possible then there would not be so many wars in the history of humankind post human civilization. Which (wars) are happening even today and will happen in future. Humans are community-centric by nature meaning they feel that their community is superior over the rest, this feeling implicitly creates the boundaries. The most of the population (because nature hardwires this feeling in us for survival) feels the following way 'I am better than others' then 'My family is better than other families' then 'My community is better than other communities' then 'People from my state are better than people of other states' then 'people of my country are better than people of other countries' and this goes on to 'people of this world are better than aliens of other worlds' is it not true? Take this example in sports (it applies to all the fields where you exhibit one can exhibit excellence!), if there is a race between you and your brother you would strive to win the race, if there is a race between your family member and neighbors family member would want your family member to win, you can keep extending the boundaries to whole universe with simple mathematical induction! Forget about humans concept of altruism is NOT a natural selection.
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    Sep 10 2012: It is interesting that even within national boundaries there are subcultures with very different views, values, behaviours etc.

    I guess it is difficult to assess other values, traditions, separate from your own values. Perhaps you can be open and empathic but I'm not sure we need to accept things as reasonable that clash with our core values.

    I wouldnt say our culture is particularly logical. Some aspects are positive and some negative. Same as other cultures, more or less on different dimensions.
  • Sep 9 2012: Many people don't have the ability to realize that the eyes they see the world through are not unbiased. The prevailing culture one grew up in coupled with values instilled by parents creates an identity that is deeply ingrained within each person.
    Even as an educated adult, I have to ask myself to take a step back and see my own motives, pre-conceived notions, and insecurities when looking at a situation.
    The propaganda in the news and advertising often taps into our own ethnocentric and egocentric tendencies to pull at us to lean in a direction.
    We are not a blank slate. This being said, many ideas of other have been carved deep into our minds and remain a part of us forever.
  • Sep 7 2012: Ethnocentrism probably can't entirely be eliminated, because it is going to always take more effort to think in ways alien to one's own culture.
    However, this is an area in which it pays to be conscious of that judgement, and to consciously suspend it.
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    Sep 7 2012: After gaining Nation status when the Revolutionary war ended in America, we experienced internal problems in the individual states. I think this Statehood, sense of Ethnocentrism culminated in our Civil War. While we do continue to have patches of this in the separate states, as a nation I think we are developing many workarounds to deal with it through our Federal System of checks and balances.

    Is it inevitable? Perhaps it is inevitable. I think as long as we can find viable solutions that keeps the idea of “neighbor” alive in everyone’s mind, we can deal with it.

    The application to marriage between husband and wife is very easy to deal with:

    Yes Ma’am: it is as you say my wife. I will do this. No, the dress does not make you look fat. Of course it’s not my money, it’s ours.

    It probably has similar variations in partnerships and business: Yes boss. The dress looks very pretty boss. Your idea is much better than mine boss.
  • Sep 7 2012: Ethnocentrism is indeed inevitable because comparing yourself or your culture to another is simply unavoidable. Years ago, cultures were distinctly separated, as opposed to now a days when cultures are more mixed in most areas, especially in the United States. Even though everyone knows it is fact that no one culture is better than another, people still feel the need to be ethnocentric and compare cultures. Comparing culture is not necessarily a bad thing if it is peaceful and harmless; although it can be dangerous if one is insisting his/her culture is superior to all others, for this could get violent and start riots, etc. Everyone has the freedom to believe in what they wish and it is unfair for one to ridicule or mock other cultures that are not their own. It is not your culture, so just leave it be; if you do not agree with it, still keep your opinion and comments to yourself. Eccentically, ethnocentrism is "judging a book by its cover" because if you do not practice the culture or religion, you do not know enough about it to judge it as so. This is why I believe ethnocentrism is inevitable.
    • Sep 7 2012: I believe that you are pointing at an area we all need to look at here, when you say that ethnocentrism, which i understand as a collective form of egoism, has to do with our comparing each other and making judgments about each other, which is unfair. I do not believe that our habit of comparing is inevitable or unavoidable. I believe we do well to be conscious of it, and to recognize when we make comparisons and to feel what that does to us.
      I feel that just the thought that it could be possible to engage with one another and one anothers cultures without the need to be more right or less, or more developed or less or more or less anything, is freeing.
      • Sep 8 2012: That is a very good point and I completely agree with you, but that is only SOME people who are conscious of their habits of comparing. Some people do not recognize that they are doing wrong by making a comparison and therefore do not understand how it makes others feel and how it puts them down. In conclusion, I can say that I believe ethnocentrism is inevitatble only for some people and for others it is avoidable.
  • Sep 7 2012: It would seem as though ethnocentrism almost certainly is inevitable. As humans, we automatically see the things that we do, as the only and right way of doing them. We all have our cultures, and look at ours as "the best". However, there really isn't any culture that is "better" than any other. We are entitled to our own opinions, but that shouldn't give us any right to judge the way others do things. I think that we shouldn't make ignorant judgments of any one person or group because of their culture. We should keep an open mind, and realize that "our way" isn't the only way things are done. Hence, ethnocentrism may be inevitable, but it can be overcome.
  • Sep 6 2012: I was born in post-war Germany of Austro-Hungarian roots. I have a son whose father is Peruvian and daughter whose father is half Choctaw Indian. My only grandson is part Delaware Indian. It's been interesting but never dull. Where we always all agree is in human rights. How did that happen? Perhaps I was blessed. And perhaps it just takes an open mind and an open heart, firmly rooted to Mother Earth and Father Sky, so to speak. .

    Human rights of course takes into account all humans regardless of sex, ancestry, race, colour, creed, national origin, sexual persuasion, ethnicity, familial status or education & economic/social standing.

    It's really simply to be ethnocentric and have globally-conscious values, I think and usually it takes a lot of soul-searching into the question: "Who am I?*
  • Sep 6 2012: I do think it is possible to experience a reality beyond ethnocentrism, but it's very uncommon. I dated an Austrian man, who was so severely ethnocentric that despite his travels to many other places he had never been able to see his own cultural bias AT ALL. To him it was THE TRUTH, and he could not see around it despite simple explanations. It was the platform from which everything he experienced was measured and judged against.

    I think it has much more to do with early exposure to other cultures and being taught acceptance of differences and critical thinking as a child, than travel and exposure as an adult. I find that most (not all) people who are strongly ethnocentric only become more so when forced to “deal with” or accommodate other perceptual frameworks.

    Too, I see it as a functional mental template, so long as we keep it flexible. When we inherit a totalitarian cultural prison in our minds we are limited and our personal reality and growth is stunted. What we think of as ethnocentricity is an inherited paradigm, a rigid mental structure, which limits us. None the less, a healthier open use of this necessary mental structure allows us to define our values and purpose, as well as enjoy and appreciate our experiences, and it's something we can upgrade as we learn more. We are limited in part by the way the brain understands and organizes input, but with the cultivation of an open mind and awareness we can define our own rather than inherit one.

    I find that one thing that does seem to impact this is self observation meditation. The more we dissolve the strong concept of "I" me and mine, by observing the content of our mind and not engaging it, the more we realize how much of what we think "I think" is actually not really about us at all. This frees us from being automatic in our reactions and allows us to watch what comes up in our minds. When we can do that we have the opportunity to question it rather than take it for granted, and therefore "reality."
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    Sep 6 2012: In the past two weeks, in Belfast Northern Ireland - well actually north-east Ulster - manifestations of the age old crises of identity here have broken out again among some underprivileged (= high levels of material poverty, poor physical / mental health - much of it via misuse of alcohol - massive youth and structural unemployment, inadequate educational resources, a legacy of hundreds dead and wounded in nearly 40 years - mid-1960s to a truce around 2000 - of internecine brutal, communal violence ) people in specific areas close to the centre of the city, orchestrated and led out of sight of news/tv cameras / journalists by elected political "leaders" and self-appointed ex-paramilitary "community workers". To a visitor from Mars, this street conflict (=marching bands and 'hangers-on' mouthing racist insults at others on the side-walks, bricking, stoning, petrol-bombing the police, raucous expressions of bigotry addressed to fellow citizens, etc) would be totally confusing. Indeed it seems like a GUBU event - grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented - except that this street behaviour, sometimes backed up with the use of IEDs and automatic weapons against the police, has been going on here for hundreds of years. Since Belfast was a pup shall we say. Read all about it online in the IRISH TIMES. The major depressing aspect to this lemming-type behaviour (re foreign investment, tourism, etc and the goal of a peaceful shared society) is not its longevity, but its intractibility. You see the armchair leaders of this self-destructive street shinnanigans are almost invariably fundamentalist and creationist in their values, beliefs and philosophy which, as TED readers know, means that everyone else is wrong - except them. Help? Of course Feyisayo is right. It's all down to an endemic, pathological deficiency in human and humane empathy about our fellow humans. All ideas welcomed by the First and Deputy First Ministers in the north-east Ulster government.
  • Sep 6 2012: I neglected to thank you for asking the question, Mr. Anjorin. It is in asking questions such as these,....the ones that beg us to contemplate on who we think we are, and in so answering who we think the other is--that human beings learn critical thinking and reasoning skills.

    If we never question our assumptions about what we think we know and why, who we think we are, and how we came to these rock-solid conclusions of ourselves, each other and the world, well... the results are evident to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Yes? No? Perhaps?

    Wisdom comes at a price. Letting go of what we think we know is the *only* truth. From here we can enter into and conduct a dialogue consistent with *human values* under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United nations on December 11, 1948.

    The unfortunate and fortunate thing is that those of us who are familiar with TED already are on the cutting edge of things...the ones dancing to a tune that *others of us* who haven't escaped *our boxes/paradigms* have yet to hear. ;-)
  • Sep 6 2012: Ethnocentrism has been expedient for the propagation of our species. A necessary survival tool. We all know how that is played out in the real world... wars, systematic annihilation and/or assimilation of the *other* under some banner of politics and government.

    However, it is in the evolution of our *humanity* which creates and recreates a world in which survival of our species is possible in this time period--with the possible destruction of the world as we know it. It's a choice we must make individually and collectively.

    Beyond ethnocentricity is a world that embraces its ethnocentric roots but sees itself as a global village. Compassion and a sense of shared humanity are its hallmarks. It's living beyond the survival game/meme. Us and them. We have very little experience in the bounty of this type of shared experience of existence.
  • Sep 6 2012: With the definition you give, it seems to me that ethnocentrism will continue to be inevitable as long as we are not able to recognize that we do not see others as they are, but rather as we ourselves are. Maybe when we recognize this, that we cannot really see another, whether individual or group, in wholeness, but that we only see what we are able to see in our own limitedness... knowing that the appearance is not the truth, then we can begin to relate more respectfully.
    Is not each one of us and each of our groups just one possible of so many realities? Some of these realities are truer than others, and I believe we are all moving in the direction of more truth, even if indirectly.
    There are some words of Franz Kafka which I would like to share. I am thankful for these words, because I know they can help me to stand with my own truth, which I often wish were other than it is, and which I know will be other than it is.
    “We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours. And if I were to cast myself down before you and weep and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell.”
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    Sep 6 2012: From all my travels and experiences, from being French in Australia, Germany and America where English speakers have an aversion to calling me Jean-Luc (except for Star Trek fans), I have always had a detachment to classifying people and was/am able to accept people on their own merits, but like Occams Razor generalizations are only that but are useful nonetheless. In the end I decided to take on my own nickname instead of the many I have been labeled with, and that is The HyperLinker, because I connect people to unfamiliar concepts/cultures to give them food for further thought, but then I get labeled as "lecturing" because I know of a better way of doing things.

    In the end all I can say is "Jai Shat-chit anand" - "I see myself in you". We are all souls ready to merge with the souls of creation one day, it would be soo Blissful if we could experience the similarities of our souls, while we are alive.
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      Sep 6 2012: At a certain level of awareness, there is no such thing as a black or white man, Jew, Christain, or Muslim, etc. etc. - there are only individuals. To see All as One, and One as All, is truly Seeing.
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    Sep 5 2012: I have lived with ethnocentric people all my life and i could easily see the reason for it. I had lived in metropolitan cities and the people I had to put up with had not been beyond a certain Valley. Ethnocentrism becomes dangerous too when it gets justification from religious beliefs. I have seen it happen in 1989-90 in the Valley of Kashmir. Because of the topography, demography and geography, the people have a stupendous firm belief that the way they live is the best. It is what has time locked the region and produced conflict too. But as to your question is it inevitable.

    I think not. The Internet seems to have broken that belief to a large extent. I see a lot of promise in the young generation there who are traveling outside, studying abroad, gaining an understanding of their conditioning. Since I am in constant touch with their sensibilities I have a window into their changing worldview. I think the diminishing of ethnocentrism is inevitable as the world starts shrinking virtually. But there is a long way to go.
    It has to be understood Ethnocentrism stops the human community from benefiting from the diversity of different cultures, which in turn hampers the evolution of societies.
  • Sep 5 2012: Ethnocentrism must be anathema to world peace and critically to relationships. We need more cross cultural education to provide insights and cultural understanding. The more we understand, surely, the more tolerant we would be. It does not mean loosing ones own sense of cultural pride and dignity, everyone relishes their own culture, it means more intercultural understanding.
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    Sep 5 2012: Question 1 - Is it possible for an individual to be without ethnocentrism?
    When I interpret your question in absolute terms, no.
    However I do not believe in absolutes.
    Therefore, yes.
    More later,

    Question 2 - Is ethnocentrism inevitable?
    Please clarify your use of the word "inevitable."
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    Sep 4 2012: But why i ask, are we judging other cultures, can't we just imbibe it all and increase our own horizon, broaden our sense of being. There is a reason why the wife is doing things differently, maybe it's the better way, maybe she has some beliefs, experience it.

    Each person is different and has their own ways of doing things, i don't think it's the culture or religion that's making them different, it's their experiences in life. We all are what are experiences have made us. I have hardly not experienced any culture, being from an Army background seen the world, seen India, seen everything and i don't think it is what you are conceptualizing it as. People's behavioral study is something that can't be explored to a full extent ever.

    Just understand why certain people do things the way they do, maybe you'll gain an insight into the life of other, a rare and special gift.
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    Sep 4 2012: That was a tough one for me.
    I always had a fascination for different ways to live as human beings. But at some point, I became something of an optimist and began believing in the virtue of progress and knowledge. When I did, the world became a dark place, all of a sudden. Especially, I nourished contempt for tradition. People doing things they didn't understand, and worse, killing innovation.
    So what's to like about a tribe somewhere in a forest, where children are learning to shut down their curiosity instead of getting an education?
    So here's the conflict : I grew up with the idea that Western values were ruining the rest of the world, and despised what christian missionaries had done to it. Yet here I was. Yet another Westerner claiming to know better than everybody else. But I was right, and that was the worst part.

    So here's how I fixed my ethnocentrism. I noticed few people in the Western world did carry the Western values I cared for. Quite the opposite, it appeared most Westerners around me were agressive to my values. So my values were not Western after all, democratically speaking. Most people I meet believe science is not the best way to investigate nature, including human nature. Or believe that scientific rigour interferes with vital energies. Etc...
    That was a relief. Now, most people all around the world were just uneducated, and it wasn't about ethnicities anymore.
    But then something else happened. I began to take interest in mythologies and to see what happened if I considered traditions as something more than the opposite of innovation. That completely turned the tables around. Now I saw societies where everyone in it had a sense of purpose, received a thorough education about how to become a human being, how to cross the stages of life peacefully. In my innovating dreamworld, with its unlimited and ever increasing freedom, people had no clue about how to be people. We look at publicities to tell us how a women looks, and buy the necessary stuff.
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    Sep 3 2012: Wouldn't you have to be a total recluse to not be ethnocentric?
  • Sep 3 2012: No, not completely. "Possible", yes, but rarely.

    I could imagine a child growing up while traveling around the world with his/her parents, picking up culture from many different peoples. Especially, If the parents intentionally wanted to avoid ethnocentrism, then yes, it could be avoided to a great extent. Obviously, this would be a rare person. You might be able to simulate this experience today, somewhat, by using the internet to expose a child to different cultures. Still, much of the child's basic values and ways of doing things would still come from the parents. So if it could be accomplished, would this be good? It certainly is not natural. Perhaps the child would grow into adolescence and find that it is much more difficult to establish her/his own values and sense of identity.

    IMO, ethnocentrism is not bad. It is just an ordinary part of being human. Most cultures consider it important to learn about other cultures.

    It is important to be aware of ethnocentrism and to value it; to consider the differences as opportunities rather than cause for fear.
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      Sep 3 2012: You are right. There are dimensions of ethnocentrism that are not bad. One would definately have a worldview, which would have a basis in one's culture.
      But how would you avoid extreme and negative expressions of ethnocentrism?
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        Sep 4 2012: Extreme ethnocentrism could be avoided through proper education among students. Nobody can be truly indifferent to their ethnic origins.However, extreme prejudice over other cultures and the assumption that one's own culture is dominant can be redirected into a positive output through education and compassion.
        The internet can only provide so much information, but if you actually visit different countries and experience the culture and its shocks, then you will truly understand the differences. The education about being respectable about other cultures will assist on your journeys.
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    Sep 3 2012: My grand father told my mother "Don't come home with a Maori" He was'nt racist against my people but knew that since we were small in numbers she could've come home with a distant cousin and in my own way i tell the girls in the family the same thing but from a genetic view,we have indian now,i'm hoping for some asian bloodlines,we've already been euronized now i want some spice,maybe even turkish or african.

    Culture is in the mind,ones blood means nothing.


    Sadly even amongst my own they still worship blood,the Aryan way if you want to compare it and amongst my countries Pakeha there are still vestiges of it though they are not Euro's anymore but a distinct people unto themselves like that of the Australian,singular.When i was young and dumb and would go pighunting with the family uncles they never used pedigree dogs,can't sew them up when they got ripped to pieces,imperfect and in a way it's the same culturally so i'm glad i belong to an imperfect culture,my forebears would kill us on sight if they were to pop into existence today.
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      Sep 7 2012: I think the fact that many young people are thinking this way, rather than the old, will be the key to real progress in the future.
  • Sep 17 2012: People have influence over one another in ways that are mostly not very well understood much like dark matter and dark energy.Interesting you highlight it as a problem in marriage as ethnic and gender issues share common traits.

    Physical attraction and the complex decision tree choices we make socially are inherently self-biased or alternately altruistic with an undercurrent of self benefit.
  • Sep 17 2012: For myself, i struggle with it. A total rewrite of my neural pathways appears to be unavailble to me at this point, which may be directly related to the nature of my struggle...as in, insufficient to the task of it. Activities like this in the meantime may help to mitigate it. Also, discovering for oneself an "Objective" place which one may own....lol...is a very subjective pursuit...one must first understand ones own individuality...a very private affair at first?....Below chin xin mentioned "safety". Feeling safe to pursue the truth of a thing is important. My regards to the wisdom of those who provide for such. The quality of our humanity is at stake, as individuals and collectively?
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    Sep 16 2012: Oh I just remember in researching the 5 directions idea my mother believed it was easier to see another culture from that cultures point of view if you knew your own culture well and you knew your fifth direction. i.e you can't move forward unless you know what your present position is, that is the fifth direction.
  • Sep 16 2012: Yes. Read Madison Fritzmusrice reply below.
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    Sep 16 2012: As we integrate with the virtual world our identity is confirmed by words and metaphor rather than flesh and blood. The less we look up from the displays the less we will be bound by the effects of ethnocentrism.

    When the power goes out, all bets are off and we will revert to the local nature of things. Technology makes the virtual, possible. In the past, such a notion would be virtually impossible because the technology did not exist.
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    Sep 16 2012: my answer is on .here i want to ask why ,why we have ethnocentrism.what is ethnocentrism?
    only can u answer this can we find out the problem.take china as example .i am a chinese,i live in china what i can all telated to china .so i have fellings with china here i can play with my friends i can chat with my relatives.day by day i am fallng love with china .then i have the ethnocentrism.suppose i was born in japan .and from the early time i am related to tokyo.to islands.then i think i will fall in love with japanese!
    so remembe existence is the original of things .when we are one year old we know nothing .when we are twenty we know almost everything.that is it
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    Sep 15 2012: Ethnocentrism is inevitable therefore cultures will only continually clash and mix together.

    Great thoughts here*
  • Sep 14 2012: A genuine individual is one who not grounded by ethnocentrism, one who has taken at least a few steps outside the cultural matrix of values in which he/she was born and raised - especially stepped outside the now global culture of diffuse but definitive imposed values by the global culture - most of these are actually junk values for a genuine individual who desires an autonomy of thought and action that defines who he/she is and it is in that autonomous and creative action that the individual transcends culture and even death.
    This is possible when one starts by undergoing a critical examination of one's cherished values - the source of these values - whether internal or socially imposed and their contrast to value systems of different kinds of people or cultures.

    "Mass culture is a constant assault upon this autonomy. This assault causes despair of the Kierkegaardian kind - and this despair is not a mood but a structure that belongs to a seized garrison - not an accidental feature but part of it, fundamental to it. It is the goal of mass culture to bury any rebellious movements and to take that part of the culture where we have begun to reflect and understand and to reverse this and make it unconscious. The parts of our culture that we can understand and reflect on are just those tiny garrisons - surrounded by the mass of the culture."..Rick Roderick ( Philosophy and Human Values)
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    Sep 11 2012: Let me say that it is possible to not be ethnocentric. I know people who are and I myself am a citizen of the world. I do not judge another by culture or any other criteria. We are all one and yet in some ways unique.
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      Sep 11 2012: I agree with your assessment of yourself. But how can you possibly know that someone else is not ethnocentric?
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        Sep 11 2012: Hi, I don't know about everyone in the world. I only know about some people that I associate with and there are those who are still judgemental, compartmentalize people. I did not mean everybody.
  • Sep 10 2012: in this time and space it's unavoidable in my opinion, though educated and intelligent people are at least aware of it. i think that during the many years we grow up in a certain environment, we absorb its culture, made of believes (what we believe is what motivates us to act) expected behaviors, knowledge, ways to interpret the world that surrounds us and ways to look at it. we create our own scale of values and compare everything we get in touch with to this scale. i think of myself as being a very open and not judgmental person, but when i see, let's say, a report where a taleban is kicking in the ass a woman, or a woman being lapidated (just to make two examples but it could be also something i judge bad, happening in a western country like discrimination based on race or religion) i can't help comparing these acts to my scale of values. i do agree with you that in some circumstances ethnocentrism can be a serious obstacle for marriages, the more the difference, the more the difficulty even if hubby and wife are both open minded, as the problem is extended to relatives and friends. i think though that the trend will be a gradual, slow (i think it will take a few centuries) loss of importance of ethnocentrism and it's effects, as we will become again one human nation, as it was at the beginning.
  • Sep 10 2012: I agree to that, and I would add that also for those of us for whom it is unavoidable now, it will not necessarily be always unavoidable. Life makes sure that we all become more conscious, at first usually against our will.
    Also, I would like to add that I do not believe that making comparisons is always wrong. For example, if I apply for any job, I expect and agree to be compared to others. Whether or not I am chosen does not make me more or less human than another. Bad and good humans, ethnocentric ones or more universal ones, cruel or kind, ugly or pretty, we are all equally human, and all of our judgments of each other are partial and temporary...
    I get the feeling I am going in a circle. My conclusion now is that we are all ethnocentric, inevitably, and that being conscious of this is a key to becoming free of it.... with this thought I sign off and go back to my life.
  • Sep 8 2012: Ethnocentricty is harmful when it is used to create harm. It is beneficial when used to create well-being in any ethnocentric group. Let it not be at the expense and misery of another ethnocentric group! Isn't that what has happened throughout the ages? Might not we investigate who we really are not who we think we are...based, biased and boasted by our various cultures which by its very definition must include all the i-isms and -ologies shared -in- common but not considered for any modicum of universal truth? ... Why would any of us choose to serve a ranking system/hierarchy that is the very result of these-isms and -ologies?

    Yes, *you and I* know why, don't we?

    Why can't we *grow up* to evolve as a species? And what might that look like in the real world? One of the reasons why is that we are still programmed by our roots....including what it means to be a husband and a wife.
  • Sep 8 2012: Yes, I believe it is possible that at least few people will develop into non-ethnocentrism. I was born in an international city; Shanghai, China. So I had contact with foreign cultures when I was young. Then at the tender age of fourteen, I went to work as an apprentice in a paper manufacturing company where there are Japanese staff members, even though the company president was Chinese. But I was really curious about all foreign cultures so that I also found tutors for learning Russian language from a Russian Jew. I also learned French from a French lady. I studied English all by myself because there were all kinds of contact where I worked. My curiosity is not limited to languages, but I also read a lot of world history and geography. So finally I came to the USA in 1958, and worked out a PhD in public health. I always have a "world view" free of ethnocentrism, even though I am also quite knowledgeable in classic Chinese literature. I have always been less ethnically conscious, before I had a chance to travel to many places in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa and Oceania. In other word I am non-ethnocentric that is not quite related to my travel. You might say that I had "traveled" the world over by studying world cultures "at home". Or it may also be true that I had the world view when I was young, and simply extended my non-ethnocentrism later in my life. Finally, let me also say that this is not new in the world history, that even in ancient Greece, there were few of the philosophers took the "world view" even when they had no knowledge on more than half of world's cultures. And I would like to raise the question that why we shouldn't seriously consider the damages made by the wars caused by the differences among different religions, nations or ethnic groups for no reason other than ethnic egotism and "built-in" hatred.
    Although some villages do have a wife in a marriage as the leader,
    and others have the man place his foot on the bride to be, at a wedding ceremnoy (seen video only) - - -
    ethnocentrism (ethcm) will exist unless another culture is 100% accepted.
    If in as a redeeming view of more efficient or a more desirable cultural way is accepted by all but one person (there) - then ethcm exists.
    Even if that other cultural influence is judged by the first as less desirable but veered to by just one in the first culture, leaving all - culturally , then again ethcm (people-centering-their - ism) exists as well.
    --- I have been:
    Traveling every state this side of the MI river, over 40 years and a couple over:
    - An only "people" without ethcm (a" people without a country", although citizens within, here, and) herein are found as taught as and do exist in their beliefs such as "spirit will be poured out on all flesh"
    And I believe this is about further invloving looking for a day of less and less ethnocentrism comfortably 'disturbing' cultures of say a man marrying while placing his foot on the neck of the new bride, and such throughout a marriage.
  • Sep 7 2012: Yes, absolutely. Not easy, but possible and indeed not uncommon.
  • Sep 7 2012: The concensus seems to be that it is inevitable because it is: however, be open minded. If we know that we are products of our environment, can't we also know that there are other ways to do things, and one must know that some are better some are worse etc. Of course some people are more receptive to change than are others. I have not been outside my country for years, and I meet ther Other less often than I used to meet them. Notwithstanding , it's interesting to me to learn about other cultures. While one can fail, doesn't it make sense to try to reach out, to show one's interest, and to try to speak another language. This is the way to make new friends and learn about different ways of being.
  • Sep 7 2012: Yes, We are all brought up differently with our own unique behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, etc. that make up our culture as americans. Why do we do what we do in our culture? Why are there specific "american" ways to analyze something where as other contries look at the same thing and give it completely different thoughts? Thats the kind of thought that makes us all unique and amazing. All of our different prospectives give us so many ideas that form into opportunities.
    There is exactly no reason or right to judge other cultues. They are all incomparable and radical in they're own ways. Everyone is made in an image that reflects a higher "being." Who are we to make a negative comment towards others? Either we are ignorant or have a good amount of jealousy towards others cultures, ideas and beliefs. In the end ethnocentrism leans towards the inevitable side, but its our decision to make the right choice and build our world up instead of tearing it down by pointing out flaws.
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      Sep 7 2012: We must do more than point the finger Jake. I sent TED a message asking if it is possible to start some kind of project that will list options for us to get more involved. It is well and good that we learn so much here from each other but we "Are what we do" not so much how much we learn.

      What do you think?

      • Sep 7 2012: True true, but LEARNING to observe ideas a different way and connect with others might just in fact lead us close to solving the "problem." I understand that it will be a struggle to find an answer.or main thought because we are human. Judgement is natural for us almost because it's a learned behavior that develop through experiences and our environment.
  • Sep 7 2012: To me, I believe that ethnocentrism is inevitable. Everyone has their own culture that they believe in and there is no culture that is better than another. Each and every single person that believes in a culture has the right to believe in that culture and it is not fair to judge it based on what you have heard or seen about it. I believe that more people have to be open to other cultures because they have no right to judge another culture. As long as you are proud of your culture and who you are, there should be no problem. Sure, there are some things about other cultures that we are not used to but if we gave it a try there should be no problem with another culture. In the end, we're all the same and there should be no judging without knowing the facts and keep an open mind to things that are not what you were taught.
  • Sep 6 2012: In my opinion, I believe that ethnocentrism is inevitable. I think this because everyone has the right to his or her own beliefs in their culture. You should be able to believe what you want and others should respect you for what you believe. No one should judge other cultures, because everyone has his or her own way of doing things. No matter what culture you are, you should have pride in your culture as well. No one culture is better than another culture. People may have different opinions about other cultures, but that is just becuase everyone does things differently then others. No matter what culture you are, you should not judge someone on their culture just because you do not agree with it or like something about it.
  • Sep 6 2012: I believe that ethnocentrism is inevitable throughout America. People are raised in their own culture and believe that their culture is the best. They almost never learn to except other cultures and/or think that other cultures are alien like. Me personally, I don't think ethnocentrism is inevitable because through great education and experience, I have learned to except other cultures with their beliefs and everyday life.
  • Sep 6 2012: Ethnocentrism ts our point of reference based on our cultural heritage by which we view other cultures. And only through being self aware enough to allow for an understanding of different cultures can we become open to the possibility of global equality, equal rights,and justice for all tribes. Tribalism creates unity within a group, but disunity outside the group without a universal set of principles that reflect the rights of all men to live and thrive in dignity, and prosperity regardless of our differences

  • Sep 6 2012: I believe that ethnocentrism is inevitable. Everyone comes from a culture, and everyone has different beliefs. No matter if you are Latino or Caucasian, you come from a culture and everyone should have pride in where their ancestors come from. Although people will encounter altercations as to which culture is better than the other, that's all a part of life. People takes things too far, and things should just be fair and not argue but that is also inevitable. Culture and theory is everywhere, it is impossible to get away from it. Ethnocentrism cannot be ignored, we are taught about where we come from and who created us. It will always be a part of our lives, and it could never be ignored.
  • Sep 6 2012: Ethnocentrism in my opinion is in fact inevitable. The American child has been brought up having pride in ones nation, but some people have taken it to the point where they despise another nation for its culture. Every nation has its own culture and way of doing things, no one is right or wrong.
  • Sep 6 2012: Ethnocentrism has its goods and its bads. It is very important to habve pride in your culture and where you come from. But people take this too far by believing that they are better then other cultures. It is pretty much inevitable because people these days are very ignorant and naiive about how they act. So people will always be racist and sexist. Thats just how people are.
  • Sep 6 2012: I believe that ethnocentrism is inevitable. We live in such a diverse world with so many different cultures and people that no matter what everyone will always find each other different and unique. And with that many people will find themselves thinking what they believe is correct and if someone disagrees with that you believe that other person is usually wrong. It is human nature for us to believe our own morals are correct, so with the worlds different prospects on life it will only come natural for one to think their beliefs are right and what other people do differently is wrong and weird. I believe ethnocentrism isn't a bad thing, its just plainly a fact of life.
  • Sep 6 2012: I was born to a highly ethnocentric French mother and a Californian progressive Father who had spent his childhood being moved around from the US, to Norway, France and Spain. When I was 2 1/2 yrs old, my father got a scholarship to UC Berkeley, because we were very poor we lived in the low-income student housing project called "the Village."

    It was a incredibly multicultural environment, my friends and their families came from all over the world. In preschool and kindergarten my closest friends and their families came directly from Nigeria, Bangladesh, China, and Korea. There were few poor white Americans (like us), and many more African Americans, which is yet another cultural distinction.

    My mother often voiced all of these distinctions, everything that wasn't French, the "normal" way, the way things should be, the better way. My father had yet another "world" and way, as did everyone I new. The juxtaposition was so clear: no one I knew had a uniform defined way of viewing and experiencing reality. Out there in the rest of the US there was yet another cultural interpretation of reality. None of these were 100% congruent. So, as a child I realized that there is no such one right view, from what I could see everyone had a different one.

    Growing up in The Village and having a foreign mother I realize that people from different cultures have different perceptual frameworks through which they interpret and experience the world, and that subjective definitions of events are relative and often determined by these frameworks. Many know their own as “reality,” not ever seeing it for what it is, and the perceptual frameworks of those from other cultures as wrong or distorted, something they can’t truly understand. I feel incredibly grateful for my diverse upbringing that I am able to see these distinctions.

    I think it's possible but very rare to be able to see around our own cultural frameworks, because the "seeing" itself is defined by that framework. It's a catch
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    Sep 6 2012: Firstly, we are one. Secondly our different ways are the spice of life and enrichment for the soul.
  • Sep 6 2012: Is it possible for an individual to be without ethnocentrism?

    I absolutely believe that it is not possible. A measure of ethnocentrism still exist with persons who consider themselves without ethnocentrism. There is always a part of ourselves that we cling to and hold dearest and may never want to part with despite our exposures to other cultures and worldviews. It may not always be obvious to outsiders, but deep down within ourselves, we know the reasons for our actions and in-actions.
  • Sep 6 2012: The question is not whether it is possible or not, but WHY must one be without it? A culture, as you rightly said, is a result of years of living in a community and seeing things done in a particular way; years of familiarity with the material culture, social structure, religion, history, philosophy and ideals. A culture is meant to give the beings within that culture a way of life to act, behave and even think continually so that they can sustain the vision of the culture. It must necessarily allow its people to "see things done in a particular way". And we better make sure that any culture's vision is friendly to its own people, its neighbouring countries, to society in general and to the ecology and the universe as a whole. I don't think ethnocentrism is the problem. The problem in any conflict is a lack of ability to be objective. Any culture, if one finds after due enquiry, has any demands detrimental to the aforementioned requirements, then these things in particular need to be taken care of. In fact we need to use "other" cultures as a reflecting surface to show the fallacies in the logic and beliefs of our own culture rather than throwing the baby out alongwith the bathwater.
  • Sep 6 2012: Yeah very true.Exposure is the key in the life lessons
  • Sep 5 2012: Sure, it's possible to get rid of ethnocentricism. I believe I have rid myself of it completely. I have come across sociologists, psychologists and scientists who seem to have accomplished it too. I don't know how *they* did it, but I can speak about myself. I did it with a bit of observing others, a lot of observing myself, reading quite a bit, and questioning quite a lot more. I'm not claiming I'm perfect in every way. There are plenty of things wrong with my head. This ain't one of them.

    But, in what way are *you* ethnocentric?
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    Sep 5 2012: So many different peoples, so many cultures have been destroyed. Traditions, rituals lost. I cannot support the idea of a vanilla society.

    I would hate a world where there is no ethnocentricism. If we cannot pass on our culture and pride in that culture to our children, the world will loose more than your marriage.
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    Sep 5 2012: I'd like to say it is not inevitable, but I can't say that. I think it is possible for everyone to overcome ethnocentrism and understand each other with unwavering empathy. If there is a way for me to do it it I will find it.
  • Sep 5 2012: Culture is one of many things that 2 people might not have in common. Remove culture and you still have the issue of growing up in 2 different neighborhoods, rich environment vs. poor environment, surrounded by women vs. surrounded by men, etc... I often say that all of us humans might as well be aliens to each others. Because we are shaped by our environments, experiences, people we encounter, and so much more. Add to this our personalities and BAM, we might as well call each ETs from different planets. How hard was it for those who have siblings to get along with everyone all the time? And that's living in the same house with the same culture, upbringing, neighborhood.
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    Sep 4 2012: I would also say yes but on the grounds of intellectual travel and acceptance. There are many ways to obtain serenity.
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    Sep 4 2012: Im an indian from a complete different culture, if their is some idiosyncrasy you have found among indians ask me, i'd be happy to clear your doubts and explain to you why we do certain things. It's more of understanding this concept of yours in a practical way.
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    Sep 3 2012: An interesting dimension of your question is that some places have a culture in which there is an expectation of respect for traditions and authority in the place, whereas other places have a culture in which people by and large want to consider themselves either independent of, or different from and disapproving of the dominant culture.
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      Sep 3 2012: A certain ideology within the subculture must have been responsible for such disapproval or desired independence from the dominant culture. Isn't that a manifestation of ethnocentrism?
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        Sep 3 2012: I don't know. Many people really value being independent-minded and appreciate living where that is accepted.