The us-them dynamic is an all encompassing ideology that can be interpreted and implemented by individuals in differing ways. Van Asperen examines the us-them dynamic in two different intercultural ideologies: monism and relativism, where each attitude shows a different understanding and appreciation of globalization and diversity.
The us-them dynamic is important in today’s society as its the root of many social and political issues. In a monistic mentality, individuals wish to differentiate themselves from other cultures since they believe their views are superior compared to others. Monistic dynamics are rooted in the separation of different cultures are are based on a us vs them mindset. Relativism is the mindset that while cultures maybe equal in their beliefs and views, they still remain separate in comparison. While not as harsh as monism, relativism is still based on a us vs them mentality, however the comparison is not in a competitive nature. Rather relativism compares diversity in cultures on an “exotic” basis as outsiders cannot truly understand different cultures and people.
The us-them mentality is a concrete aspect of both global and local interactions and shapes how different people interact with each other. The idea of relativism, separate but equal can be seen in many different communities from small scaled education systems to governments. People are brought up on the belief that opposite opinions should be separated in order for the freedom of individuals and speech to be effective. As a society, people believe that it is us vs them and global interactions are not possible unless it benefits their own views. This mentality is detrimental to society because it does not allow for different communities or cultures to evolve. People are complacent with the guidelines of their beliefs and do not want to incorporate ideas they do not understand.
In our group’s research on globalization in local communities, we observed differing aspects of both monism and relativism. Arlington has a diverse demographic and its infrastructure and business community is formulated to accommodate different people and cultures. However despite the diversity in individuals, relativism is an instrumental barrier in keeping individuals separated. Modern society is very critical of individuals who they deem as ignorant to specific topics and cultures. Currently people are less inclined to broaden their culture scopes for fear of offending others and being seen as culturally insensitive. I observed this mentality in myself as my group went around to different shops and businesses in the Arlington area. When we went into the shops to talk to the employees and learn more about background of the area, I felt uncomfortable at times since I felt like I was intruding in a area I was not allowed. This mindset is a prime example of relativism and how it can deter people from reaching out to others despite the differences they may have. From our photo gallery project, one of the key values I learned was the importance of reaching out to others despite the social stigma which may surround the interactions.
However, another aspect I observed in our local community is the progress individuals have made from the monism mindset to the inclusive attitude of relativism. In our community one example of this was the Hall Hill’s Wall, which used to be a wall that separated African Americans and Whites in the community of Arlington. The memorial dedicated to the wall recognizes the forced separation of individuals because of different physical traits and cultures. The destruction of the wall allowed for the two communities of Arlington to join and participate in globalization on a local scale. The small section of Hall Hill’s Wall still standing today is a remainder for the citizens of Arlington the negative aspects of separation and the importance of both inclusion and equality.
In response to her analysis of the detriments of both monism and relativism dynamics, van Asperen proposes an alternative attitude known as communicative moral universalism. Moral universalism is the belief that there is a universal system of values that transcends race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, etc. Its the “continuous balance between autonomy and dependence” and its basic goal is to bring communities together under the same guidelines. Van Asperen strives to create a higher understanding of different cultures by wanting society to be both tolerant and respectable to different cultures. However, the author does not want people to differentiate themselves because of their views and beliefs but rather collaborate as a cohesive group. Van Asperen emphasizes the importance of diverse opinions and viewpoints on numerous different topics and encourages discussion between vast amounts of people in order to truly change the world. Van Asperen recognizes the importance of culture to the autonomy of a person but also believes that those factors should not be used to dictate the types of interactions with have and how we communicate with the whole world.
I believe that our group has been working in a communicative moral universalist attitude without consciously acknowledging it. The goal of this class was to effectively work with students from other countries in order to address social problems relevant to both communities. When our group first began collaborating we struggled to meet consistently and share a similar consensus on work productivity and assignments. However, working as a group is important in the class and in order to truly understand the material and succeed our groups needed to communicate. From our first projects and the difficulties we faced, I learned the importance of globalization and the interdependence that our two classes shared. I no longer thought of the classroom as two separate groups, but a cohesive unit that needs each other in order to study globalization. Our group began to disregard the cultural differences between group members and appreciated the skills that everyone brought to the group. From this class I have not only learned more about myself, but have begun to expand my global perspective to encompass people and problems outside of my comfort zone. In order for globalization to truly be effective, people have to approach it with the communicative moral universalism attitude in order to solve problems that expand past one community.