Jun 1, 2011

I am Pragmatic and Empirical

So, the first reason to start such a blog is to realize that the extent of bias, ideology, and neuroticism in international perception and relations is mind-blowing.   I recently read the articles on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn incident in four French and two American newspapers, and my hair stood up.  The explicit message in the French papers was to turn all the anger on the US justice system.  A clear lack of understanding + hatred of that system was expressed by all but a certain group of Parisien women.  Not only people's own psychology (their biases in finding and assessing information) but also the media (and their problem of using concepts that do not even translate between American and European countries and languages), actually undermine international relations.

Another thing that undermines international relations is the existence of all those books about one country written by someone from another.  Books like "Almost French" and "French by Heart" and "Under the Tuscan Sun" and recently "Eat, Pray, Love" are written by people who do not yet speak the language at all or fluently, who do not have to actually work and live within the system, and who have actually no insight into the culture whatsoever.  If their stories were really about their own experience, that would be one thing (I find David Sedaris outside of my criticism; his are real stories without pretence of understanding the French).  But no.  Those books are uniformly caricatures of these countries that cement misunderstandings, either positive ones or negative ones.  And positive ones are just as problematic as negative ones.

And I should not only emphasize the novels.  From what I have seen, diversity courses and training in businesses and industry, and sometimes even the academic literature on culture, simplify and caricature groups, peoples, and cultures as well.

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