Posted by: Brianarmh | 5 October 2009

Acceptance theories

So last week in my Intro.  to Cultural Anthropology class we watched some videos about some anthropological field work with some Amazonian tribes.

Today our instructor showed us some of the comments she has received from students in the past about these videos.

There was an extreme underlying theme of surprise, intolerance, and “ethnocentrism.” [Sorry I just had to use the new word lol. It means believing that your culture is best and everyone else’s culture is wrong]

It was shocking to me just narrow of a world view there is. I didn’t think it was that extreme, but apparently it is. Some of the things previous students said about the videos blows my mind, makes you realize that this person probably has never even considered the fact that there are other cultures and that maybe they do things differently.

This is a generalization, but I’ve always kind of had the idea that a lot of people who are so intolerant are staunchly religious. But this is obviously not true.

It seems crazy to me that people can still be like this when there is such an overload of information out there to be had. There’s so many shows on television about travel and culture; Word Travels, Departures, Long Way Round, etc. Even sitcoms and cooking shows deal with different cultures on a regular basis!

Sometimes its just plain naivety about the world, and people just have never been exposed to anything like this. However when you’ve been exposed to it, and you’ve had access to the information, why would you still choose to be ethnocentric and ignorant about the rest of the world?

Canada is supposedly a “melting pot” of culture, and there is still people like this. It makes me wonder about other countries (*coughUScough*) that are not so tolerant of other cultures, and how much more common these views might be.

There were lots of comments about people just being surprised by all the nudity, or the drugs, or the emphasis on warfare. But there were also so many people outright saying it many of these things are “wrong” and that the people are “primitive” and “savage.” It’s crazy to me that people are so set in their way that they can not even accept another culture for how they live.
It makes me wonder if the same people aren’t accepting of the people they know? I know I personally have trouble accepting people just for who they are, but I try. It makes me wonder if people with these opinions don’t even try to be accepting of any others? Do they even give people a chance? How can you possibly make friends if you aren’t willing to accept someone who does something slightly different from you? Is there really enough people around that do everything the same way you do that you never have to branch out and learn about new ideas? Isn’t acceptance a huge part of learning? How can you learn without accepting and trying to understand differences regardless of your preferences?

What are your experiences with acceptance issues?

edit: heres another question, why do some people want to raise their children to be have such a narrow view of the world, wouldn’t you want your child to learn and gain knowledge? Why would you voluntarily limit their access to information which could help them be a better global citizen?


  1. It is an interesting view. I will toss a somewhat conservative view on the fire, just for fun. I do agree with your early revelation that narrow mindedness or lack of acceptance comes only from the staunchly religious. I have found some of the most “unaccepting”, closed minded opinions have come from those who in fact, claim to be “liberal”. If you want evidence of this, just about any article at the huffington post should do…

    That being said, I think that a lot of the time, lack of acceptance to others’ culture boils down to how people view poverty. This may be an oversimplification but I don’t think it is. Most people realize that the poverty level in a “first world” country (and I use the term only because it clarifies the category I am talking about) is quite low compared to some of the poor or remote parts of the world. I think people see this and assume that because “they are poor and we are not” means that whatever we are doing is better. I am not agreeing with this attitude, just trying to explain it.

    In my limited experience, I have found the one thing that seems to really impact a poverty level within societies is education, in ALL forms. This can be everything from reading and writing to being educated with things like agriculture and technology. Education doesn’t have to change the culture but I do think it will improve the quality of life.

    I think the mistake that a lot of people make here is that they assume because people may suffer from poverty or lack of education, that their methods to life are wrong or savage or primitive. I don’t think that this is the case but I do think that many cultures where things are shockingly different from ours are cultures where people have not had the same opportunities at education. This is what leads to some of the striking differences we can observe.

    Just my 2 cents anyways.

  2. I think people teach there children narrow world views because they are scared for them. In our culture we do have such an over load of info available, and mainstream media seems focused on showing us what is scary and bad about the world, to help us stay “safe”. nevermind, we truly are safer now than we have ever been, we aren’t shown that, because it is bad for our fear driven economy, and scared people are easier to me, when do you think my kids do as they are told? i can assure you it isn’t when they are confident their toys will not be taken away….
    I also think that our culture of “rights” or poli-co-ness pushes people into believeing that they are all being infringed on in some way or another. when people feel cornered, they are more likely to lash out, right. Its ignorance fear and protectionism all wrapped into one small narrow world view. IMHO.hearts!

  3. Wow – yeah, I really feel the same way about some people. This reminds me of when I was in the Middle East… I went on a Jordan dig and the group was a combination of Andrews students and another university’s students. A lot of the non-Andrews kids were super intolerant toward the Jordanians we worked with. They made all kinds of blanket, offensive statements about the local men who worked on our site (at least, I would have been offended if I was Jordanian) and just generally treated them as if they were stupid or as though they only wanted to get in the Western girls’ pants. Maybe it was just that my professor is a super tolerant guy and the rest of the Andrews kids kinda learned that by osmosis…. but it was really weird to me that these other kids had travelled all the way to Jordan just so they could look down on them. Intolerance like that makes me sick!

    As for the religion thing… I think it’s a means of self-preservation. Like, the less you expose yourself to new ways of living/thinking/being/believing, the less chance that you are going to stray from your OWN way of living/thinking/being/believing. That’s why, I think, a lot of “staunchly religious” parents try to shelter their kids – they don’t want their kids to be influenced by somebody else’s beliefs. They want their kids to grow up “right” – as if their was a right or wrong way of being human. I don’t think people like that care much at all about being “a better global citizen”; they don’t find anything good about outside world views because they think their world view is all they need. Which is unfortunate, because no one who is different than them will ever be able to take them seriously… but they bring it upon themselves.

  4. So I have always thought that the christian people are more accepting of different cultures because of our belief that God loves everyone “red and yellow black and white all are precious in His sight”. I think a good share of my cultural exposure has come from church. Having friends of various ethnic origins opens our eyes to the bigger picture as well and I think travel plays an important role in that too. Probably most young people are still reflecting views they have grown up with at home so until they actually get out and experience more of the world I think their views are probably reflecting those of their parents. Coming from a culturally diverse church and school and having friends from different ethnic groups has exposed you to a variety of views. I think we can learn some really important lessons about what matters in life from other cultures, especially ones that are more relationship minded and not so “things” minded.

  5. In my experience, the more a person has travelled, the more likely they are to be accepting of different cultures. This is of course not a hard and fast rule, but I think the more you are exposed to different ways of being and doing, the more you realize that thess ways are not better or worse than your own ways, but are only different. I also agree with Darcy that people’s perception of culture differences is affected by their views of poverty.

    When it comes to how someone can learn something and yet have it not affect their personal beliefs or behaviour, I would suggest that people do this all the time. It’s like the Christian academic who studies Hinduism his whole life, but still remains a Christian. Some people allow knowledge to change them and others don’t. The ones who don’t allow their knowledge to change them see those who do as weak and vice versa. So I think acceptance can be a huge part of learning, but only if you allow it to be.

  6. In 1988 Canada was reported by the UN as a violator of Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in regards to the Lubicons in northern Alberta. Not much has been done about it up to March of this year which is as far as my knowledge on the situation goes. Culture means nothing when there is money to be had. Yes, even from the tree-hugging, peace keeping, pussy footin’ Canucks. We just try to keep a little more hush-hush. Just something I recently learned and thought was interesting.

    I don’t know parents who knowingly shelter their children, though I’m sure many of us felt that way about our parents or our friends’ parents, and I’m sure our future kids will think the same of us when they are old enough to even care about it. Every parent does the best that they know how. It is unfortunate that there are people in the world who are so oblivious to what goes on around them that the things they say and do can at times tip toe around racist, they just haven’t a clue.

    As for religion, it’s a crutch for many people. For many it’s not. Sometimes religion even gets used as a cover for politics. Crusades; political. The “civilizing” of the Natives through the Jesuits and every other religious entity that showed up; political. Other times religion is used for good. Religion just gets the bad rap because it’s expected to be better. Unfortunately, it gets used just like people do. It’s nothing new, and it won’t change.

  7. I don’t know how intolerant the US is of other cultures so much as “we” don’t want “our” rules, laws and standards “corrupted” by other nationalities in a detrimental way–as we see it.

    growing up in church I was taught this is right, this is wrong, we don’t hate other people for who they are because we aren’t any better, but we believe in this version of the Bible and this and this isn’t acceptable while mainstream culture says it is. it’s a choice to live apart, separate from “wordly” ways — not that we look down on others, but others look down on us for not wanting to conform.

    but let’s not forget that ALL travel, exploration, culture, nationalities came from war, thirst for power, and domination. every country has a history of foreigners coming in, taking over, and telling the natives “your way sucked, do it our way or we’ll kill you…well, we’ll still kill you, but while we’re at it we’re going to remind you we’re stronger, bigger, and we kicked your ass so :P”

    My dad and his family are from Germany but he was raised here. He is staunchly American. We understand the illegal immigrants plight (it is not easy to become a citizen; my mom teaches English as a Second Language, many of her students are here illegally) and sympathize, but my dad’s family didn’t get special treatment, they had to learn the language and culture, why should anyone coming to the US be treated any differently? Not with ignorance or disrespect, but given a fair chance, but nor should it be easy–America *IS* special, even if it has many, many flaws. But EVERY country does.

    Anyway…it all boils down to this: Society, HUMAN BEINGS, have ALWAYS been this way. It’s not this particular decade, century, or even the last 1000 years. It’s not this particular culture in America or Canada or the Amazon rain forest. It’s just who we are. Now we’re a bit more civilized and can sit in classrooms and watch videos of other cultures instead of sailing across the ocean and having eccentric tails of cannibals and headhunting natives to scare us out of traveling abroad…we bring the fear to ourselves now.

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