Monday, February 27, 2012

A little light Sociology

I follow several blogs about Sociology and Anthropology. Their authors see things differently enough from me so that I have to make an effort to understand what they are saying. I frequently disagree with them, but I also change my mind often. It is an interesting exercise.

I took this image from a post by Lisa Wade over at Sociological Images.

It is difficult for us to see ourselves as others see us, and it is difficult for others to see us as we see ourselves. Lisa writes
Many believe that the U.S. is at the pinnacle of social and political evolution. One of the consequences of this belief is the tendency to define whatever holds in the U.S. as ideal and, insofar as other countries deviate from that, define them as problematic.
I suspect she wrote this only because she assumed that she would be read mostly by Americans. The situation in the cartoon is perfectly symmetrical. All people assume their way of life is "natural". Born into our cultures like fish to water, we cannot usually see ourselves from the outside. We assume that people from other communities are all alike. Because we are not aware of how we have internalized our way of life, we believe that we act freely (and why not?).

Because we cannot imagine ourselves into the situation of others, who have internalized their cultures as completely as we have ours, we assume that they act out of fear. As this post by the Last Psychiatrist shows, the media has a lot to answer for. This should be useful when we read about Iran in the newspapers.

Note: None of this is to say that I am a thorough-going cultural relativist. Yet.

No comments: