Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1
recommend only one or two hours a day
of nonviolent, educational programs, with
adult supervision, for children.^71
We conclude our discussion of the char-
acteristic that culture is learned by review-
ing a few key points. First, children are
born without cultural knowledge. However, because they have the biological“tools”
necessary to learn, they quickly discover that the sounds and actions around them have
meaning. The same learning process applies to the cultural attributes and character-
istics that confront them. In short, the location of your birth sets the tone for what you
learn and what you will not learn. Second, most of the behaviors we label as“cultural”
are automatic, invisible, and usually performed without our being aware of them. For
example, whether you greet people with a handshake or a hug was“learned”without
formal instruction. You simply internalized one greeting or another by watching those
around you when you were very young. We suggest that this simple behavior—and
thousands of others—are learned unconsciously and are performed almost habitually.
Third, it is important to repeat that the methods of learning culture we have men-
tioned are only a few of the many ways culture“is taught.”Space constraints have
forced us to leave out many subtle yet powerful“teachers.”For example, sports are
much more than simple games. Football in the United States is popular because it
illustrates important themes of the culture. Notice the inconspicuous messages con-
tained in some of the language surrounding the broadcasting of a professional football
game. You will hear statements such as“he has the killer instinct,”“they are all
warriors,”“he is a real head hunter,”“they are out for blood,”and“they all play
smashmouth football.”You can observe in every culture a variety of activities that
have significant meanings that go beyond the actual endeavor. There are“lessons being
taught”by Spanish bullfighting, Japanese
gardens, French wine, German sympho-
nies, and Italian operas.^72 These cultural
metaphors represent and teach, according
to Gannon,“the underlying values expres-
sive of the culture itself.”^73

Culture Is Dynamic

Cultures do not exist in a vacuum; because of multiple influences, they are subject
to change. Many of the changes are profound, as in those hundreds of cases involv-
ing colonization and/or invasions. In those circumstances, outside forces, be they
armies or missionaries, “determine the cultural priorities of those whom they
conquered.”^74 However, not all change is as intense and devastating as colonization
and invasion. Simply reflect for a moment on the cultural changes you have
observed in your lifetime. We are speaking not only of surface changes in fashion
and music but also of those alterations in culture brought about by new technology
and globalization. You have lived through the ongoing impact of these two forces in
the world and have also witnessed cultural changes that have altered perceptions of
gays, immigrants, and various religions.Although some cultures change more than
others (due to isolation or by design), allcultures have been subject to change since
the earliest hunter-gatherers moved from place to place. These alterations to a cul-
ture, as Nanda and Warms note,

Most of the behaviors we label“cultural”are automatic, invisi-
ble, and usually performed without our being aware of them.

Cultures are always changing, but the deep structure of a cul-
ture is resistant to change.

54 CHAPTER 2•Communication and Culture: The Voice and the Echo

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