Thursday, January 22, 2009

another culture

The blog UU Way of Life is taking questions asked of the candidates for UUA President. One being:

"What experiences have you had that help you deeply understand the mindset and values of another culture?"

My lack of excitement concerning the two candidates led me to skip their answers, but i did wonder about both the question and the questioner. What actually were they wanting to know about this question? What exactly are they meaning by "another culture"? Does one have to have special experiences to understand another culture? Does understanding other cultures make a person special?

Does understanding other cultures' values and mindsets make one worthy enough to be UUA President? I talk and interact with folks from a large variety of cultures - I hear people's dreams and visions for their and their family's future. I don't always agree with them (particularly those who's dreams include types of criminal behavior) but I understand it.
To a certain extent it's easy to get information from other cultures - you keep quiet and you keep hanging around. Understanding is a bit harder, because that takes listening - and thinking. Why do people say that - why do people act that? Not judging, but listening is the key to understanding. It's not the American way to listen. Of course if one wanted to be President of the UUA, you could just say that you attended several Cultural Competence workshops - we UUs love workshops .*
What makes us not aware of other culture's values? Arrogance and assumptions.
It's easy to be guilty of that.... Indeed it would be easy for me to bring out my own arrogance and assumptions to mention my fellow UUs arragonce and assumptions. Let me instead ask you to ask a question that Kim Hampton asked awhile back. (Actually I'm pharapraising her greatly) What books have your read this year by someone not of your culture?
- I'll go further, what music have you listened to that you don't normaly do? What TV show or movie? If you generally dont read best selling fiction, have you? If you never listen to hiphop or MTV or gospel, then do so. Now - as you might guess, that's not enough. You have to watch MTV without gasping for air, or gospel without getting your smelling salts. You have to listen and try to see clearly why the audience responds as they do.

I admit to the experinces that shaped me: my father lived in mainland China for about 4 years, I have family members in Thailand now. I grew up in a vastly poverty stricken area and most of my friends growing up were poor. As a kid we didnt know they were poor. i've lived with folks of different races for years. And to repeat the above: I've heard the dreams of those in many different cultures. To me to hear the real dreams is to hear who they are.
It isnt difficult to hear other culture's dreams, but you do have to open the door of your comfort zone.

* I assume everyone knows the joke about how St. Peter (at the golden gates of Heaven) finds UUs - he has a sign pointing to Heaven, and a sign pointing to a workshop and lecture about Heaven - and all the UUs go to the workshop.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (William Zantzinger 1939-2009)

"William Zanzinger killed Poor Hattie Carroll"
is the first line of the 1963 Bob Dylan tune. In that year William Zantzinger a young (24) man attacked Hattie Carroll (51) with a cane while she was doing her job serving in a hotel. She died as a result - and he has finally did 45 years later.

The song itself is considered a masterpiece of writing
- while one can argue (and folks do) with the exact interpretation of what happened,
but it a perfect example of while some details may not be inerrant, it is still truth.

this is a 1964 version - rough and uncomfortable--just like the song.