Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1
writings survive. Just as every American knows about the values conveyed by the
story of the Revolutionary War, every Mexican is aware of the consequences of the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; likewise, in China, students are being taught about
the“one hundred years of humiliation”suffered under Western and Japanese imperi-
alists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Deep Structure Institutions and Their Messages Are Deeply Felt

The content generated by these institutions (and the institutions themselves) arouses
profound and emotional feelings about loyalty and nationalism. Think for a moment
about the fierce reactions that can be produced in the United States when someone
takes God’s name in vain, burns the American flag, or calls someone’s mother an
obscene word. Countries and religious causes have sent young men and women to
war. And, frequently, politicians have attempted to win elections by urging voters to
recognize the importance of God, country, and family. Regardless of the culture, in
any hierarchy of cultural values, love of God, country, and family top the list.

Deep Structure Institutions Supply Much of a Person’s Identity

One of the most important responsibilities of any culture is to assist its members in
forming their identities. Put in slightly different terms, you are not born with an iden-
tity, but through countless interactions, you discover who you are, how you fit in, and
where you find security. As mentioned elsewhere, the family is most instrumental in
the early stages of the socialization process that establishes a child’s personal identity.
However, once you encounter other people, you begin to develop a variety of identi-
ties.“Everyone has multiple identities which may compete with or reinforce each
other: kinship, occupational, cultural, institutional, territorial, educational, partisan,
ideological, and others.”^5 At some point in your life, you move from identities based
only on the“I”(“How attractive am I?”or“Am I a good student?”) to identities
linked to the“we.”That is, you begin to realize that although you still have a per-
sonal identity, you also have shared identities. You belong to a“community”and
relate to its norms, values, communication behaviors, and the like. We are stressing
that you begin to see yourself as part of a larger unit and thus have loyalties to it.
Kakar explains this transition in the following:“At some point of time in early life,
the child’s‘I am!’announces the birth of a sense of community.‘Iam’differentiates
me from other individuals.‘We are’makes me aware of the other dominant group (or
groups) sharing the physical and cognitive space of my community.”^6 This“we”iden-
tity connects the individual to cultural groups and the main institutions of the cul-
ture. This means that when you think about yourself, you most likely conclude that
you are a member of a family (“I am Jane Smith”), that you have a religious orienta-
tion (“I am a Christian”), and that you live in the United States (“I am from Idaho”).
String these three institutions together, and you can observe how people throughout
the world employ these cultural organizations for their identity.

72 CHAPTER 3•The Deep Structure of Culture: Lessons from the Family

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