The difficulties of cultural stereotypes

Wes gave flteach members a website to go to on Amazon.

The book is about how to advertise in various cultures based on the author’s background in anthropology and psychology – psychoanalysis, to be exact.

Most people have abandoned Freudian analysis except in peripheral fields like literature and advertising. I am not sure why so many professional people still buy into the tortured symbolism Freud used to understand people but they do. Several of the reviews on Amazon are glowing but one nails it: absurd.

Since this is my blog I’ll go ahead and offend some people. I know a lot of people, personally and through their comments, who were never fooled by Bush for a second. They recognized him for what he is right away and 9/11 in no way set them up for invading a whole country. The most obvious thing to do was to let the inspectors do their job – and even if they found weapons of mass destruction, that didn’t require invading the country. If it did, we would build a real coalition and do it with international sanction.

I count myself among those people. Many, many people in this country think I am un-American, cowardly, a pussy, and, as Anne Coulter would have it, homosexual (see, all those gay guys in the army throw their rifles down and whine when the enemy attacks, according to vicious jerks like Coulter). Me and my friends simply think we know something that others donít: that people don’t like being invaded and they’ll fight back but not in the way that will make it easy to defeat them. Just like the conservatives get people like me wrong, so they got the Iraqis wrong.

Now, how in the hell are you going to advertise to both me and Anne Coulter? We may be part of the same culture but our values are totally different. All you have to do is listen to the Republican candidates: to me they’re from another planet. What values do I share with Rudy and Mitt? None.

There is a culture war, as Pat Buchanan said, but war is too strong a word. We have vast cultural differences in our country. In the classroom, I hear values espoused by students, obviously taken from home, that make me shudder. Now Pat and I could sit together and have coffee and talk and it would be very interesting and I would never deny him his Americanness, but his Catholic view of the world? His vision of sealed borders? His willingness to go to war? His view of the family and of women? Of minorities? We are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The two very divergent views of these two Pats would quickly become apparent.

Other coutries face the same diversity. Look at France. Look at Russia. At England. At Spain. Algeria. Iraq. Iran. Any country of any size has this sort of diversity. In the past, I remember us attributing the diversity to “opinion”. But Buchanen got it right: it’s a cultural difference. Some observers of the American scene have suggested that there is a Southern and a Northern culture. Others have tried to link it to class and/or race. I am not sure, but I do know that I live and work cheek by jowl with people who seem to live in a different world. It’s not always stark but it’s there.

Just one example. I often run into people who think that if you are not a church-going person, a Christian church, and only certain Christian churches, then you must be a shallow and even immoral person. They truly believe this, they believe it deeply, and they act on their belief. That is so bizarre and weird to me that I feel I have little in common with a person like that, yet I know many and like them. But they live in a different world. I can’t talk to them the way I talk to my close friends, to some of my colleagues; they would either be offended or would not understand.

So I’m with the reveiwer who says the attempt to minutely calibrate advertising to some canvass of culture in a country is absurd. Not that it won’t work from time to time – Americans identify with their cars. Whooppee! Who didn’t know that? We are seeing this in our country with the recently profiled Grupo Gallegos marketing to Hispanics. This one subculture within the U.S breaks down immediately into a jillion subgroups based on country of origin, length of time in this culture, level of acculturation, age, section of the country, dominant language, religion, sex, income level, education…… see what I mean?

How do we teach about such cultural diversity in our classrooms? What country do we teach about that does not have this diversity? Japan? It has diversity. We all do. Stereotypes have their uses but they are very misleading.

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