Flag Wavers

    Apart from every four years when the World Cup takes place (soccer does funny things to people), the French are not typically demonstrative patriots, nor do they display their colors like Americans do in front of their houses, or like Canadians on their backpacks. Take a French person out of France, however, and you might hear “I’ve never felt more French than since I came to America,” as my mother says to me (and shakes head at the derisory selection of fromage in the grocery store).

     We’ve all heard these words , or variations thereof, and some of us have even spoken them ourselves. Gary Weaver explains that “the way to find your own culture is to leave it,” because interacting with those who are culturally different than us challenges the parts of own culture which we take for granted, and makes us conscious of them.  Ignoring the power of cultural attachment and traditions was one weakness of Modernization (aka Development) theorists, as Thussu describes. Exposure to “others” (in this case modern Western lifestyles) does not necessarily lead to homogenization, but just the opposite.

    This idea applies at the national level as well, and Weaver attributes growing nationalism worldwide, to an increase in cultural self-consciousness, fueled by cross-cultural interactions. Robertson (1992) describes it as cultures becoming “relativized” to each other, as opposed to unified or centralized (Thussu, p.61).  It takes a turn for the ugly when one culture feels threatened by its interaction with something “other.” Today we see how, when faced with Western influences through worldwide media, militant Islamists can use modern means of communication to reinforce their message of anti-Western sentiment. Irony aside, it seems clear that increased interaction among cultures via modern communication systems can have an effect of polarization- but can we go so far as to say globalization is fueling extremism or terrorism?

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2 Responses to Flag Wavers

  1. zabc21 says:

    I really want to disagree with Weaver’s theory of leaving your own culture to find it. The more and more I try to explain this theory in relation to myself, the more and more I find it to be true.

    When I studied in Korea, I learned a lot about myself. This is turn is directly related to my culture. I find that the direct experience with the Korean culture and Koreans weren’t what made me learn about myself, but it was the interactions with the other Americans, that were from other regions of America, and the Europeans that really taught me a lot.

    This past summer I went to Canada for two weeks, and this most definitely made me discover and appreciate American culture. Always before my life goal was to become an ex-pat. I did not approve of American foreign policy, American cultural imperialism, etc. Canada was so horrible I’d NEVER been so happy to call myself an American. I even woke up with “God Bless the USA” stuck in my head one morning I was so miserable. I think one reason I realized so much about American culture was the fact that Canadian and American cultures so similar yet so different. This allowed for a much more comparable comparison as opposed to an Asian society.

  2. Mariam Samsoudine says:

    It is hard to compare apples and oranges, because we immediately accept them as inherently different. When you are an American in the Middle East, or in Asia, we immediately see the superficial differences that jump out at us visually. We also have expectations and are mentally prepared for the “foreigness” (is that a word?).

    I completely agree that you discover your own culture in a profound way, when you experience cultures that are apparently similar. I too, in my experiences abroad, have been the most enlightened about my culture when confronted with the subtle differences- the ones I did not expect- especially with other western countries.

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