Today, I have a proposal. Please, bear with me because this will be long but I need to explain myself fully in hopes of gaining your participation.
I have spent quite a bit of time recently making my way through many of the TEDTalks on Youtube. As I was driving home I thought about how if you took a printout of screen caps from every video and wrote one to three overarching themes covered in that video on each of the papers and laid them out, what the overarching themes would be.
Now, I should say that I have mostly been watching the education and socio-cultural centric videos so my head-data is skewed that way but it has made me realize that a big issue facing our society as a whole is the fundamental misunderstanding of each other’s cultures. We live in a world of self-reflection which often leads to ignorance concerning the perspectives and plights of those around us.
I don’t know about you but growing up in the schools that I did, there was not much emphasis on culture or geography. The most cultural participation we got was in our high school language classes or through the African American Student Association’s cultural potluck days which honestly seemed to emphasize our lack of cultural awareness rather than to improve it. I don’t believe that any of this is a fault of our teachers who worked tirelessly trying to teach us despite being confined to the curriculums that were conformed to standardized testing (again, a discussion for another time).
I learned a lot when I moved from a more rural, affluent area where I was amongst the less wealthy to a more urban environment where we were on the higher income side. It was here that my lack of knowledge about other cultures and socio-economic differences became much more evident. Then I went onto college with students from all over the world and started working at place that catered to students from East Asia. It was through these experiences that I realized how both cultural differences and language barriers divide us. I had friends whose accents, speech patterns and language barriers would be treated as if they were slow or less intelligent. It’s hard, especially with Asian accents, not to become condescending. The differences between our languages and tones make it very hard to speak each other’s languages and it is often to our own detriment that rather than try to understand we take the easy route of brushing each other off.
I am using my own life experiences to drive this message because that is the very thought behind my idea. It’s so hard not to just disregard a culture or an idea simply because we have no faces or names to associate with it. What do we care about that faceless person halfway around the world? We need to solve our own problems first! It’s not a fault on anyone’s part so much as a reflection of our natural human blinders. We focus on ourselves because we are human.
That being said, it is time for a change.
We have more tools at our disposal now for sharing our lives than ever before. We have Google Hangouts, message boards, Youtube, blogs, cameras, camera phones and email. I think it’s time to put faces and names to those cultures we have long since disregarded. We are all so connected and yet so disparate. It’s time for a change.
I propose a crowd-sourced collection of culture. I think that it’s time that we go out with our cameras, video-recorders and drawing/writing utensils and to share our own stories. Consider it a bit of an assignment. This is a class. The class you never really got the chance to have in school. Go out and watch TEDTalks, read AMA’s on Reddit and familiarize yourself with an idea or tradition you hadn’t considered before.
To take it a step further, why not take your camera and go to interview someone with a different background or lifestyle from you. Go to the local Armenian bakery or find someone on your multi-cultural sports team and find out how they grew up and what traditions and memories they love the most. We are human and we love to talk about ourselves. The most important part of this project however is listening. Be a reporter. Listen, ask questions and you may discover that you have a lot more in common than you once thought.
Submit your videos, artwork, stories, creative writing, everything to our Blog or Youtube accounts. Submit your own ideas for sharing cultural experiences and help us to make this concept even better.
The world is a classroom and just because you may not be in school anymore doesn’t mean you ever stop learning. I hope to learn about your culture and your life. Hopefully, see you soon!