Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Advantage of Viewpoint

Within the political paradigm, the cultural concept, the religious routine, emphasis is placed on distinction. In an effort to maintain their identities, members of certain groups keep to themselves, lest they be tempted to a new way of thought.

"Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc."- Saul McLeod

Avoiding cognitive dissonance is the basis of cultural isolation. It is more comfortable to associate with those who share your ideals. It is more comfortable to only consume media that reflects one's disposition. This comfort becomes so normal that it is easy to forget that differences exist and that persons who harbor differences are just as human, valuable and eager to find understanding as ourselves.

Aware of the danger of cognitive dissonance, I try to open myself to new ideas spirituality, educationally, culturally and sometimes politically.

I understand how my culture and experiences have shaped my perception of reality. I seek to understand the origins of others' beliefs and validate their right and will to pursue their own choice.

Political discrepancies can off-putting . I don't define myself by my affiliation, but my inclinations reflect many of my values. Values I have believe are right (left) and nearly absolute.

I have an acquaintance whose political preference and cultural identity contrast mine completely. We have a friendship, and I vowed to never discuss politics. But the topic emerged, and I walked away with a greater understanding and appreciation for my conservative friend and individuals.

As we explored our differences I found that our different perspectives stemmed from similar values.

Our intrinsic beliefs were the same we had just chosen different ways of conveying them, and different opinions on how others should be empowered.

My views were not changed, but my understanding and respect for that person did grow, as did my cultural competence.

Navigating an uncomfortable conversation, accepting differences, striving to understand and validate the experiences, demonstrate cultural competency.

Identity Diversity Development Theory by Alicia Chávez, et. al details the steps of cultural competency.

According to this framework individuals are categorized as:

  • Unaware of those who are different
  • Dualistically Aware and consider those who are different as inferior
  • Questioning/ Self- Exploratory in challenging their personal biases and prejudices
  • Risk Taking/ Other Exploration interacting with others to gain understanding
  • Integrating/ Validating Others consciously applying their understanding of others, and intentionally validating and respecting differences

Junior Year participating in the MLK Oratory Competition

Who said risk-taking was dangerous? It may be the only way to create a safer society. 

Sophomore Year with my friend 

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. -Dr. Martin Luther King
The more that I learn, the more I realize that I don't know very much. I'm still working towards cultural competency, and I will get there one conversation at a time!


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Monday, February 13, 2017

More than meets the I

The need for community it an intrinsic human desire. 

When asked of the greatest commandment, Jesus  said, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31.

Written almost 1,000 years later, The Epic of Beowulf reiterates this same sentiment, as both the poor and rich value comitatus or community more than self, money or honor.

Valuing another's life above one's own, the group more than the individual, the future of descendants more than the present demonstrate the transcendent power of love. 

Love for others is fundamental in Christianity and many world religions, but there are few historical references on self-love. Self- love is the foundation of loving others. It requires awareness, understanding and self-acceptance. It is more difficult to quantify, validate and understand- because we are not conditioned to consider it necessary. 

Our values, priorities and wants display the divinity of our creation and define who we are. 

Society dictates that outward experiences and material possessions are proof of personal success. But success comes from self-reflection. 

Social change beings on an individual level, from self-awareness and self-discipline. 

The prevalent theme in The Road to Character by David Brooks is developing character through committing to personal excellence. 

Self-awareness brings about self-motivation and prompts individuals to becomes the best versions of themselves and serve a greater purpose in society. Self-motivated individuals, display determination, discernment and self-awareness. They are cognizant of their shortcomings and strengths without being limited by either. 

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how,” Nietzsche (Brooks 23). Focusing on the how of life forces outward comparison and feelings of inadequacy. 

Montaigne concluded, that much of the world’s uncertainty and unhappiness’s stemmed from human’s inability to grasp “elusiveness within themselves…the push for worldly splendor…are futile efforts by people who are seeking external means to achieve internal tranquility” (Brooks 229). But those who focus on the why of life find fulfillment and create sustainable change that lasts long after their gone.

Change can only come from an individual's commitment to excellence and the power of transcendence- seeing the world as how it may be rather than what it currently is. So instead of looking to others, heed the advice of the musical great Michael Jackson and look in the mirror.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change  

Man in the Mirror- Michael Jackson 1987

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Free Time?

"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains," Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

We are conditioned to make friends, become successful and contribute to society. We are conditioned to these things in way that differs from the normal and natural progression of the human experience.

Millennials especially, value themselves based on their achievements, goals and acquaintances more than by who they are.

With school, work, extracurricular activities and friends I keep a pretty full schedule. I enjoy what I do with my time, but I also value who I am based on my time- which isn't good.

Time is a precious commodity which only endures throughout our lives, but how we spend our time does not determine our value. Spending time on meaningful activities may add value to our lives but but spending time on things that don't matter is self-defeating.

In reference to Mr. Rousseau, 

we are in chains because we think we are supposed to be. 

Productivity is the norm. Self-depletion, sacrifice and martyrdom are acceptable; moreover, they are expected in our social media filled world and at what cost?

Life should be lived leisurely, each moment beautiful and appreciated. Through periods of uncontrollable chaos and calmness we would be foolish to add any extra stress onto our selves.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

There is room

Image: Tumblr DJ Ash B- Sourced from ithelpstodream February 6, 2017
   “Sometimes you have two children born at the same time; one is stillborn but the other one alive and healthy because the dead one gave the other a life transfusion in the womb and in essence sacrificed itself,” Edwidge Danticat. Danticat likens discrimination, and the subsequent prejudice and oppression, caused by a perceived scarcity of resources, prompting unnecessary competition.  The limitations of the mother’s womb symbolize the perceived scarcity of resources in society which promotes intolerance and oppression.               
As an aspiring ethnographer, I proudly claim that I advocate for cultural competency, inclusion and that there is room for everyone, but I realized at 4:18 a.m. on January 4 that I still have a long way to go.
I read a Facebook post that demanding regular gym goers to stop being a**holes, complaining about the increased number of people now frequent the gym as a part of their New Year’s resolution. The author of the post encouraged regular gym goers, to welcome the new comers, learn their names, sit next to them in class, and complement them as they made progress on their new lifestyle goals.
I thought about my recent holiday weight gains and clothes that had become slightly smaller since Thanksgiving, and I was deeply warmed and felt encouraged with my own plans to visit the gym more often in the new year.
Earlier that day I had also read the post of one of my best friends, who is an avid fitness advocate. She also reflected the increase of gym goers, her reflection was not mean but it was definitely less inviting.
“Intolerance,” one of my mentors stated, “Stems from a monkey bar mentality, that perpetuates from middle to upper class whites in America, suggesting that someone else’s success will cause me to have to let go of some of my own.” There is room for everyone to succeed, and everyone, in America and in a society, deserves to better themselves in whatever area of life that they choose.
Nevertheless, I was the same person who after spending weeks in the library last semester, I became indignant and cracked jokes when library saw more traffic during finals week. “If you haven’t learned it by now you’re not going to get it,” “If this is your first time in the library this semester it’s too late,” I would confidently say to a friend.
And this morning at 4:18 a.m. I realized that I was just as guilty of shutting others as those who went to the gym religiously and complained of newcomers and political activists who limit immigration and opportunity to certain demographics.
This fictitious idea of scarcity is what allows prejudice to bloom into more serious matters than going to the gym or studying for finals. Wanting others to succeed and ensuring that they have the opportunity to do so is the foundation of an equitable society.