The Intercultural Paradox

Although the world is globalizing, and in many senses changing and collaborating for the better, it is interesting to note van Asperen’s concepts of the intercultural paradox. One one hand, man kind is advancing and working toward becoming better as humanity, whether this be technological communication, good mannerisms, and open communication and collaboration. However, what marks the paradox is that even though human kind is advancing, there is still an inherent struggle for the definition of culture among different people, causing “dilemmas, circular arguments and power struggles”(Asperen, 1). There is a very dynamic and stark “us-them”; an example she gave was how people from the Caribbean are aptly viewed as criminals, regardless of if they are actual criminals or not (Asperen, 5).

This concept of “us-them” I think is a quintessential point of the studies in this class. We are learning about globalization and intercultural communication, and by doing so, we hope to break down the notion that exists of “us-them”. Unfortunately, I think inherently when looking at my intercultural teams, I had this preconceived notion of “us” being the American students in our group, and “them” being the Dutch ones. Its not even that I think lesser or more of anyone, its just that I notice in my communication and words I use, I initially had a stark distinguishment between the Dutch students and the American ones.  However, as the class goes on and the teams collaborate and get closer, that “us-them” notion has gone, meaning that maybe this class could serve as a microcosm for how the rest of humanity should collaborate and communicate with each-other. The article, and this class as a whole has taught me that globalization is not necessarily just about foreign governments working together in business and development, but regular humanity communicating and collaborating due to the break down of this “us-them” dilemma. As we continue to globalize more as a world, my optimistic hope is that one day there is no notion of “them” but a world-wide notion of “us” being humanity.

“Communicative moral Universalism” is an interesting concept that the author explains; an alternative to the western-sided Declaration of Human Rights, where in addition to  having individuals being able to live and speak as they please, she adds the “specification to the right to culture and the right to religion, as long as it does not harm anyone” (Asperen, 9). This notion is without the idea of  “us-them”, rather humanity making choices based on their preferences and thoughts. Not that religion and culture is anything close to this, but in a sense I think maybe we need to look at human choices of religion and culture the same way we look at what clothes someone buys, or where they choose to live, for example. Just like we don’t necessarily care what kind of clothing our fellow human is wearing or what color their hair is, we should do the same with religion and culture. As long as it does not affect us, humans should see these things as choices of an individual; all of these different choices make the individual, but all together these individuals make up humanity.

I think from the beginning our group had the notion that we would have a sense of “Communicative Moral Universalism”, that is, our goal was to make sure to collaborate and produce quality work, and not worry about what any of our beliefs are. For instance, many times I cannot necessarily meet on Sunday mornings because I have mass. Keep in mind that weekends are usually the best times to meet because everyone is not at busy, so it sometimes can become a bit of a struggle. Rather than my fellow team mates complain about the fact that they cant use their Sunday mornings to meet, instead we collaborate and communicate to come up with the best times to meet. Our group respects each-others choices and preferences, from how we style our hair to our customs/traditions. I think that we see these traditions and customs as unique to a person, it defines them, however it doesn’t affect us in any way, so we should be free to collaborate and communicate as citizens of humanity. Like I said, this class serves as a positive, optimistic microcosm for how the rest of the world should communicate and work together. I think having more classes like these around the world might be a solution to Asperen’s paradox; us as the next generation can make the leap to be moral, communicative and universal with each-other.

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