Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On Cultural Sensitivity

There are a lot of assumptions that go into making everyday life work. When you are immersed in another culture, you try to be sensitive to that which is going on around you. So for instance when you come back from a trip to your village to find candles lit on every store counter and get home to find a dark house lit by candles, you try to be culturally sensitive. ‘O you think, this must be something to do with the religious holiday coming up.’ But when you ask you don’t understand the response. ‘Well,’ you think, ‘there must be a good reason why we are sitting around in the dark. Maybe it’s a local custom, to do with the birthday of their local saint Ben-Moullay Idris, that might make sense.’
So you spend all this time being sensitive culturally, just accepting the fact that you’ve got to sit in the dark. Even in your own room, you don’t reach for the light switch for fear of being offensive. Your sisters make sure you get a candle. You spend all this time trying to be culturally sensitive, and just going along with whatever is happening.
Of course what you are not being is conscious of the possibility that you are sitting in the dark because power went out….

The obvious can make you feel so stupid sometimes.

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