Friday, May 13, 2005

thanks for visiting my blog, jerkface

It’s been harder to make friends in Australia than I thought it would be. I know the cultural differences between here and back home must seem insignificant to people like the Japanese guy I met this week. But they’re still noticeable enough that my fellow North Americans have noticed them too. For example, we North Americans are more likely to self-disclose personal information to a stranger than Australians, which can make people here seem a bit distant from my perspective.

I think I might have been clued into another difference this week. I was reading an article in the latest Adbusters about an Australian’s perspective on the torture of Iraqi prisoners. The author’s take was that the torture might seem kind of normal to Americans because humiliation was a part of North American culture – things like hazings, and just general joking put downs (of course, the author was clearly ignoring Australia’s parliament – that place is cut-throat). Indeed, some American commentators tried to brush off the torture as being no worse than a hazing. This is a weak defence in the first place, but even if taken at face value is an even weaker defence. This relates to my post a while ago about cultural differences, and how even seemingly universal motives like happiness are culture specific. Even if in America it would be okay to torture people because it’s just good college fun, that certainly doesn’t make it right to do so outside America where those values are unlikely to be shared, especially when inflicted by Crusaders.

Aside from the torture angle, this article made me realize how much of my interactions back home, especially with males, involve a lot of teasing and put downs. In that context, it’s understood (I think.....I hope) as good-natured and as a bonding gesture – you don’t tease people who you don’t like. I kind of understand now that I need to watch that here, that people may be confused if I try to tease them.

The Adbusters article, in fact the whole issue, was a good one on justifications for violence and non-violence in the push for social change. This was my last issue in the subscription, and I’m unsure whether to renew it. Adbusters really helped me open my eyes to a lot of things, but I’m getting tired of it in a very specific way. After you’ve read it for a number of years, you kind of get tired of the constant cry that change is just around the corner. I feel a lot of this is fuelled by young people who have recently come “on board” and really believe that if they can just get their message in mainstream media that people will be swayed by the beauty and justice of the arguments. This explanation doesn’t hold for Kalle Lasn – I really don’t know how he maintains his “victory is at hand” attitude after so many years of, well, not winning. Anyway, I support many of the ideals that Adbusters advocates, not because I think they will be implemented, but because they’re just morally right. In fact, those who know me well could make a strong case that I’d be more likely to support these ideals if they stay unpopular than if they become popular, what with my anticonformist streak. So, I dunno. Right now, I’m leaning toward renewing my subscription, if for no other reason than I like that my money would go toward some good shit-disturbing.

15 Comments:

Anonymous tim said...

I've tired of Adbusters for pretty much exactly the same reason. And that I've been hearing these arguments for a fair few more years than you have on top of it.... but still, the money's going to a good cause...

10:48 PM  
Anonymous wife o'dna said...

Re. moving to a different country. One of my students gave me a cartoon in which an American man is on a date with a woman, and says "You seem familiar yet strange. Are you Canadian?" SS, it may not surprise you to know that it is posted on my office door - I consider it sort of a warning sign, really.

Re. Cultural diffs. I have this vague recollection of reading that the study of Positive Psychology is a uniquely North American phenomenon. Is this true? And, if so, seems like a fascinating manifestation of cultural differences with respect to happiness (i.e., one culture sees it as something to study and another culture doesn't).

2:54 AM  
Anonymous tim said...

"You seem familiar yet strange. Are you Canadian?"

That is very, very funny!

8:09 AM  
Blogger DNA The Splice of Life said...

Macro-culture differences are fascinating (says a Canadian transplanted to the US south). Both Wife O' and I have been astonished at how even seemingly trivial things can create moments of awkwardness where we don't quite know how to respond (i.e., Canadians tend to take off their shoes when you enter someone's home, not so among the few US friends we've cultivated).

Micro-cultural differences are even more weird. I teach at a "previously historically black college". So, the students are majority african-american. They tend to come from the local community but the stories, music, and accepted cultural norms might as well been from another country. It's been very eye-opening and great fun being the target of their jokes and jabs as their tight-ass whiteboy professor.

P.S. I'm now back on the blogging band wagon, having finished my spring courses. Boy was I ever "Red Queening" for a while.

3:00 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

I have a different reason for being sick of Adbusters. I think it comes down to the same cause, though, which is that it is written largely by a lot of articulate but young people who have just got on the boat about commercialism and the corporatization of modern life. What bothers me is that it veers back and forth between harsh judgment of people for participating in consumer culture (blame the victim) and pointing out the huge power of social influence that wealthy corporations can wield (getting at the cause of the problem). I just don't think that attacking some poor woman who shops at Wal-Mart is the way to go. But in general Adbusters is a bit thin on solutions.
Signed, the most recent jerkface to visit your blog

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Anonymous tim said...

the blog has died!!

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