We described culture as a common identity perceived internally. There is also a perception about a culture’s identity outside of it, which could be termed as an external identity.The identities is both cases aren’t the same, primarily because immersion in a culture or a complete awareness about a culture is a process and not a one time information which could be procured digitally. Though I won’t deny the importance of social media in systemic elimination of such biases. ( Only yesterday was I reading a post on quora “ what facts do foreigners not believe until they come to Japan ) .
Such posts etc might have diminished my stereotypes but that is not enough. Inter-cultural dialogues/ studies/ mapping, student exchanges, immigration or travel to other countries are other such means wish to bridge the gaps between perceived identity and an actual one.
Also, I believe for such a dialogue to exist one must understand their culture fairly deeply. Well, I am not suggesting people starting to “ live the act”. I am merely emphasizing the need to understand the “ why” behind why we choose to believe in a certain philosophy and why we choose to reject some beliefs which we reject.
For example, if one questions “why is the concept of youngsters living in India with their parents is not frowned upon; one would realize that in our culture and tradition taking care of one’s parents is considered the virtue of highest order. In fact till about 15 years ago it was rarely a matter of choice whether you stay independently or with your family. Another such interesting “why” is “why is beef not eaten by practitioners of Hindu culture” . I stumbled upon this answer while watching a movie made by one of my friend. The rationale behind this was that as cows used to be the prime source of obtaining milk in India since long and to snatch the cow’s milk which deserving belonged to the calf could be considered just only if she was hailed as the mother to all. And hence she began to worshiped as a mother and killing her obviously became out of the question.
So asking why’s and trying to find their answers might change perceptions about your own culture. Simple discarding things as dogmatic might be the correct analysis of situation in some cases but might not be in some others.
Once we begin to understand the nuances of our own culture, one must not shut their eyes to the greatness of other cultures. I say this primarily because every culture is a rich repository of knowledge and there are great things to learn from every culture. The importance of such knowledge has been accepted worldwide and various intellectual property laws seek to protect preserve, protect, and promote traditional knowledge (TK). And India’s effort to protect it’s rich TK began only when a U.S. patent on turmeric was awareded to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1995. The patent was awarded specifically for the “use of turmeric in wound healing”. This earned the wrath of millions of Indians as it was a common knowledge in India to use turmeric for wound healing purposes. To prevent such incidences India set up the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) as repository of 1200 formulations; hence protecting it’s rich traditions of Indian medicine, such as Ayurveda, Unani andSiddha and 1500 Yoga postures (asanas).
Knowing other cultures has a special importance in world with probably the largest floating population of all times. In times riven with hatred, violence and even indifference , the need for tolerance and respect for “differences” is fiercely important. When we travel around and see the breadth of diversity, it lets us ignore the small drops of differences in our own communities as we start comparing them with oceans of diversities existing the world. Also we begin to appreciate how openly is diversity treated in those communities, we begin to realize how welcome we were made to feel despite being different from those communities we travelled in. Such instances lead us to rethink,our perceptions of humanity. For e.g in India we had not just plentitude of religions but also variety of sects and castes further fragmenting the communities. When the common Indian stepped out and traveled in the countries across, the caste differences etc started looking like petty things to worry about, not to delimit the importance of other factors which helped in eradicating the sectarian mentality in our country
P.S. My examples have been biased with examples from India. But that’s not just because India happens to be a great country but also because that is one culture I could claim to understand with some confidence. Looking forward to knowing more about cultures of UK in general and of Edinburgh in particular !
P.P.S. I have printed them from my blogs which existed at http://reimagineyouth.posterous.com/ before posterous bid good night and good bye!