Friday, June 29, 2007

Stop the Clash of Civilizations

I've been reading quite a bit about this supposed "clash of civilizations" lately, ostensibly between Western and Islamic civilizations. What I hate about this discussion, especially when framed this way, is its complete refusal to see how much perception (as opposed to reality) plays a part. Yes, it would seem that both civilizations want nothing to do with each other, but, and call me crazy here, isn't that sort of to be expected when one country is getting the crap bombed out of it, and the other side is terrorized by all kinds of fears, real and imagined?

So people that promulgate the myth that the end is nigh because these two civilzations have nothing in common... to these people I say: really? Have you actually thought about what you're saying? Do you think the other side are martians, or people just like you, and that perhaps they might respond to a measure of respect?

This video does a good job of responding to those people.


Marilyn Brant said...

Hey, Nadine--
You and the video make a good point--people on either "side" of a conflict like this are rarely that different. I'm not sure what's most successful in changing intolerance or distorted perceptions, but I've always thought travel helps. To get to know people from other cultures and religions and to see firsthand how many similarities we all share. I was an AFS exchange student in high school, and I remember one of the slogans: "Turn places into faces." It proved true and always stuck with me...

Nadine Dajani said...

Travel absolutely helps! It's also very hard for some people to accept that others percieve them differently than they percieve themselves, and it's not as obvious a comment as you'd think...

As odd as it might seem, given I've published a book in the States - HA! - I'd never actually been there as a kid or a teenager. My perception of Americans was based solely on TV. And I'm not stupid - I never thought that Paris Hilton (or whatever bimbo it was at the time) spoke for an entire nation, but when you step back and look at your media and realize that for people who've never been to the States, this is ALL THEY HAVE TO GO BY! Americans may come off as Foreign-anything-hating rednecks at worst if all you watch is Fox, maybe as just arrogant and uneducated if you hear a song or character say they can't tell the difference btw Iraq and Iran (which may or not be a joke - what do you know?), or neurotic and self-absorbed New Yorkers or shallow Angelanos at best. No matter how many Rosanne Barr/Everyone loves Raymond shows I've seen that portray the working class, the warmth and generous spirit of the American people just doesn't come across the tube.

It took living and working in Hartford, CT, for a few months for my perceptiosn to begin to change (and I'm Canadian!!!), and then joining RWA and meeting so many wonderful Americans reinforced that.

So what about people who don't get a chance to mingle in American society as I did? What are they thinking?

So yeah, travel helps, but so does having an accepting, all-inclusive outlook too, one that's curious about the the whole world. I'm so tired of this "anti-intellectualism, if-it-ain't-blue-collar-'merican-I-don't-give-a-damn attitude I could scream! Identification with others across the globe is NOT for snobs, it's actually a very Christian, compassionate and ultimately positive way of finding your place in the world.