seeing is believing?
So many things are different when you enter another culture within a culture, like here living with Buddhists in Hindu-dominated India. You inevitably make tons of mistakes. In fact, my nickname "Bano" was acquired on my first trip to Nicaragua many years ago in which I had a hard time figuring out the difference between a bathroom and a laundry room, but that's a different story.
This week I accidently locked a house-cleaner into our guest room for a good 30 minutes and they had to somehow find me wandering the university campus to let him out (which they somehow did). A cultural misunderstanding over how locks are handled. But that also is another story.
What I want to write about this morning is Sarah Palin, one of America's former candidates for Vice President, a candidate that is easy fodder for comedy shows like Saturday Night Live. Today, a valued and smart friend of mine was appalled by a news article she had just come across, headlined, "Sarah Palin; Native Americans should go back to Nativia". and posted it on Face book.
Now this idea is crazy but given what Sarah Palin has said in the past, it IS quite believable, and, truth be told, I WANTED to believe it was true. It would reinforce my preconceived notions about her. But something told me I should withhold judgment just a tad more than I was comfortable with, and fact-check it, which I did at a more reliable source for internet rumors, Snoops. And there, sadly, I saw it was blatantly false. Never said. Viral rumor.
Yesterday I was talking with Tenzin Kunsel, head administrator in the Tibetan university’s office of the Vice Chancellor, who was telling me of the importance of educating students about 'discernment." He gave an example of how Muslims were reportedly killed recently in a riot by Buddhists in Myanmar, and a photo was attached with it of Buddhist monks in Tibet burying dozens of people killed in a natural disaster, placing them in mass graves, inferring this was proof of the Buddhist massacre of Muslims in Myanmar. A totally false claim, but the photo and article went viral and as a result, Buddhist started getting targeted around the world and beat up and killed over it.
I find this ability to withhold judgment for slightly longer than we are comfortable with, to check out alternative realities before going with our preconceived assumptions, is one of the most important skills to nourish in today's world. As we work across cultures, it is so darn hard dealing with the unknown that we want and feel an urgent need to have things "make sense" quickly to reduce our anxiety over uncertainty. But it only leads to further problems.
Sometimes it’s trapping someone in a room due to a cultural misunderstanding about locking doors. Sometimes it leads to something much worse.
9/9/2015 06:03:26 pm
I like this post dad! Although this week is all about this half-brained twit by the name Kim Davis. Not sure if she is making headlines in India yet but I sure would appreciate a mention of how foul she is for all of humanity in your next post 😁😁😁
9/9/2015 09:54:18 pm
I have heard only briefly of her here, regarding her stand on gay people and refusing to issue marriage licenses to them. I personally think its fine that she opposes gay rights personally. She can believe what she wants. But she holds a government job and the law is clear; she is to issue licenses to people, regardless of sexual orientation. So, if that conflicts with her personal beliefs, she should quit her job. Not impose her religious views on others while carrying out a government law.
9/9/2015 10:23:30 pm
Clarifying and verifying information is always crucial to understanding. In our situation in particular, living here in India, we don't function well without it. And it can take time, especially across cultures. Whether preconceived or unbiased, judging and/or making decisions without verification and discernment can lead us down the wrong road. A simple example would be the banana pancakes you requested from Lalman. Because he didn't understand the word banana, he made an assumption that naan with smashed potato was what you were wanting. Had he questioned further your 'truth', a request for 'banana' pancakes, he might have learned that his reality and your reality were not the same. Daily, there are zillions of examples where a little further understanding, an openness to listen and taking the time to re-check reality might alter some very important decisions. Or sometimes it's just a matter of potatoes and bananas.
9/30/2015 02:55:24 am
very well said!
9/10/2015 04:41:37 pm
9/10/2015 06:59:28 pm
Thanks Sarah...My daughter and I skyped yesterday and she asked me how the presidential campaigning looked from here...I said it feels very much like a circus, hard to take seriously. Things sure do look differently from these different, depending on where you sit.
Larry "Boots" Tuke
11/3/2015 11:25:05 pm
Life is routinely filled with irony...a "Rush to judgement " is often followed by comedy, or embarrassment , or tragic attempts at apology (in my experience).
11/4/2015 01:10:16 am
Yes, experience is probably better, Dear Brother, than just reading about it. Except when it comes to being in a car accident.
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Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.