How can cultural blindspots lead us away from nature, and it’s ways? First we need to establish that we are culturally different, and not just “we are right, and they are wrong”. Or “We are smarter, and they are ignorant”.
We in North America (other then the Native Americans) have a short history here, and a modpodge of cultures -who should be- all trying to tolerate and learn from each other. We have been called “the melting pot of the world” for good reason. Unfortunately, we have a human tendency to fear what we don’t understand. . .and we don’t even understand ourselves!
We often don’t realize that people in different cultures focus their energies differently. Some on being the right kind of person, and are more introspective; some on doing, and are more task oriented. While those from the US might focus on doing and finishing the task, those from China may want to focus more on thinking about it before rushing in. Both are invaluable, but if misunderstood, could be mocked by the other, and seen as a lack of character one way or the other.
We may not see the differences of cultures in how we communicate either. While some may have their focus of formality and etiquette to gain respect, others would focus more on nonverbal and literal meaning. Yet others value accuracy or emotional communication. They are all understood as acceptable ways to communicate in their culture, but may not be understood at all in others. This often leads to misunderstandings and prejudice.
Different races also have “genetically” predisposed health issues that are somewhat unique to them, possibly linked to their diet. Health issues, a mindset, or an environment will cause certain people groups to make choices that other people groups would rarely choose. For instance, getting a tattoo for an Indian is connected with family and culture, not gangs and bikers.
Those are some differences in “personalities” within a culture, but there is a lot more that is not directly to do with characteristics.
In North America we have come to treat our “snake oil” peddling doctors with an almost god-like honor in many areas of health, and yet they have really only excelled in a few: “pain management and symptom control”. We see doctoring as a science, not the art it is, mixed with science. It has been said by a doctor, ” We doctors are not gods. Nor should we wish to be. The concept of medical godhead reflects a mistaken notion of medicine, in my view; I call it Galenic, because it stems from the medical theory of Galen, which has seeped into our profession and our culture after two millennia of wide acceptance. This is the view that nature causes disease, and that the doctor fights nature to cure the disease. The doctor provides the cure: only a step is left to godhead.
The other view, long lost but deeply correct, I think, is the Hippocratic view of medicine: The idea here is that nature heals disease, as well as causes it, and the role of the doctor is to help nature in the healing process. The doctor is the not the central hero, but the handmaiden to nature. This does not mean that cure does not occur, but it occurs less than we think, and nature deserves the credit, not any human being. There is no room for doctor as god, and our purposes are more humble: to cure sometimes, to heal often, to console always.”
The medical people in many cultures are their witch-doctors, blending medicine with unexplainable “magic.” We have an aversion to magic in our culture, because of the unknown. Someone put it this way:
“Some folks will tell you that if you don’t believe in it, it’s not real. Others will say it’s real, but it’s a tool of the Devil/Satan/MyLittlePony so you shouldn’t use it. Only you can decide for yourself. In a way, a lot of people do (magic) but don’t realize it. Do you ever make a wish and blow out your birthday candles? Cross your fingers for good luck? Pray that you’ll get an A on a math test? Some people might consider that magic. For some people, it’s simply a matter of preference. In many cases, it’s a matter of not believing. If you don’t believe in magic, or if you think that it only exists in the realm of Harry Potter and the movies, then why bother trying to learn it? After all, it’s fiction, right? For other people, there’s a perception that magic is evil. In some religions, any power that doesn’t come from God is considered bad. The bottom line is that people have a choice — for whatever reason, not everyone chooses to live a magical life.”
Our culture seems to be unaware of it’s long history of prejudice to differences in practices. People practicing “magic” for instance, even with herbs, have been burned at the stake as witches! Chiropractors were considered “quacks” not long ago. And many Eastern medicine practitioners are considered either quacks or evil still today! Understanding has led to tolerance of some differences, but we have a long way to go. . .
Take religious differences: every culture sees miracles and magic done when they “pray” for it, and every culture has their stories passed down of their first people on the earth, as well as often a family who was on a boat and started a new civilization. . .but when we understand the time they were written in, their education, travel capabilities, and the like, we can see a pattern. Everyone had to have answers, so in order to passify the masses, their leaders or respected men came up with their theories to make sense of their world. They didn’t have time machines or space ships in order to get the first people here, but they saw that there must have been less of everything at one time, because of the natural reproduction they could see around them. So feeling a need for a starting place, they had to have people come from somewhere. They had boats very early on, so it stands to reason that a story of a family arriving by boat would make a fine “creation” story for many people. Others dug in even deeper and wanted to know where those people came from, so made up their god figure. Some even speculate the gods to have been aliens! Or maybe from a time machine.
Simply because some passed the stories down from generation to generation instead of writing them down, doesn’t change the thought that they were all coming from a worldview of needing a God to explain all the weird stuff around and the awesomeness of nature. They were equally as ignorant, as none of them were there in the beginning, but some believed their teachers, and expanded upon their words until, like the game of telephone, a huge tale had been spun, and a religion formed. All were speculation, but some people, depending on their predisposition to action, made it into a big deal. While others simply used the theory of their god and creation story to inspire and change their own life. Of course it’s the ones who yell the loudest, and the winners who write the history books. . .so thus we have intolerance of differences of religious views of others, because we know based on history and our own culture’s writings, that we are right. . .
What about psychology? Are there differences in how we think about even our own culture, and the individuals in it? Well from the start of life some would say we are human, but clueless, helpless and need to be controlled lest our sinful natures take over. Some look on babies as having their one goal in life to manipulate you, and get away with their own way. . .disregarding the principle of “projection” that Sigmund Freud came up with. Others respect the sanctity of life in their every treatment of the baby, from the womb on. Someone put it this way:
“Traditional cultures have long known what Pre and Perinatal Psychology is discovering in our modern age. In Tibetan culture, for example, ‘before conception, or preconception, couples prepare themselves in many ways. It is an important time to prepare body, emotions, mind and spirit so that all is in readiness to invite a child into the womb’.”
Then there is a cultural difference between how we view our governments.
“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. “
There may be more peace breeding sheep-like people in a communist country where they have no choices, but depending on the mindset of the people, they could also be violently opposing any control. Depending on who has power, a nation might even be fooled into complacency while heading towards communism . . .but in the end we as a nation are in control, not our leaders. Some races and personalities will never harness the power they have in order to see that reality though.
We can look at Germany as absurd for letting their prejudice lead them to mass annihilation, but can we see ourselves as foolish in other areas as other countries look at us: circumcising our baby boys (similar to but not as bad as girls in some other countries) or adding toxic waste to our water because greedy big companies don’t want to have to pay to dispose of it in the dump.
That brings me to yet another different mindset; that of our thoughts on sanitizing and improving upon nature for instance. We in the western world seem to disrespect and try to constantly control or change nature. Our form of gardening is mono-cultures like a big grass lawn, or fields of grain. We call “weeds” anything not growing exactly where we put it, and if a thing grows to it’s normal height we call it “overgrown” and want to trim it. Animals are kept in mono-cultures too. Huge feedlots raise only one animal in a setting a far cry from their natural habitat, resulting in sickly animals. We want to control our environment from birth to death, and consequently with that control come risks as well. We even try to control our natural body functions that serve as a warning for our health. . .but we’d rather symptom control then get to the heart of our health issues.
In contrast, some cultures almost idolize nature or specific aspects of it. On the other hand, in some cultures, parts of the body are changed through piercings, cuttings, drawings, filing down, squeezing while it’s growing, or the like. No matter the reason a culture tells us, if anything is changed from it’s natural state, you can bet either culture or, more often, religion is the reason for the mutilation or change.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”