This work discusses the ethnographic errors committed by some scholars who alleged that violence results from “less evolved” cultures. It goes further to discuss the metaphorical significance of images, the cause of anti-Americanism in the Arab world and the impact of ethnographic differences on doctor-patient talks.
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Culture is the way people live. This definition implies that everybody belongs to a culture as long as he or she lives in a certain manner. One may ask whether some cultures are superior to others. Moran responds to this dilemma by criticizing some Americans for thinking that they have “outgrown culture” (256). She warns them against believing that the violence and terror that occur in many parts of Africa and Asia cannot befall them. Many Americans never imagined they could ever experience violence and terrorism in their country before the 9/11 attack. What could have made them feel this way? They must have taken their security for granted because they had never been targets of similar attacks. Terrorist attacks in this century are sporadic and not related to the superiority or inferiority of cultures. Moran warns against this hegemony (255).
The second issue in this paper is the metaphorical significance of words and objects in speech. Do words and objects have other meanings besides their denotative meanings? Metaphors of Terror answers this question by asserting that “what we know is instantiated in the neural systems of the brain” (60). People make meanings out of the words and objects around them depending on the experiences they have had with them and their cultural orientations. These mental images change as they interact with new events.
Cultural differences can cause drastic results between people with different cultural orientations. It is common for people with different cultural orientations to engage in struggles for superiority. One group considers the other culturally inferior or still undergoing “cultural evolution”. Such an attitudes is likely to cause endless tussles, which eventually lead to the “demonization” of other people (“Discourse and Demonization” 5). Such differences are responsible for the endless rift between the US and the Arab world.
The effects of ethnographies exist in all aspects of life. The cultural antagonisms and attitudes are evident in almost every activity, profession and relationship. Many people in different professions try very hard to conceal their biases through silence, discourses of color-blindness and structural inarticulateness but they still come out (McElhiny 65). It is also hard to believe that such attitudes can exist between doctors and their patients, but they do. Fisher’s experiment demonstrates that these negative attitudes have a great impact on doctor-patient talks meant to enhance medication (103).
Why do people with cultures that were previously tolerant of each other engage in conflicts? Makdisi blames this predicament to ethnographic superiority and inferiority complexes (539). It is impossible for individuals or groups of people to maintain good relationships when they believe their friends are inferior (Fisher 103). These attitudes may be cultural, religious or ideological. Regarding other people with low esteem leads to an intrinsic lack of respect for them and may eventually explode into serious conflicts that may eventually cause catastrophic actions toward each other.
In summary, cultural differences can cause trouble to the relationship between individuals, groups of people and nations. Therefore, people should tolerate each other’s cultures and stop patronizing them for the sake of peace and good relations.
Discourse and Demonization. Westport, CT.: Praeger Publishers, 2005.1-11. Print.
Fisher, Sue. “Doctor Talk/Patient Talk: How Treatment Decisions are Negotiated in Doctor-Patient Communication.” Linguistics, Medicine and Therapy. n.p. n.d. 99-110. Print.
Makdisi, Ussama. “Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: An Interpretation of a Brief History.” The Journal of American History 89.2 (2002): 538: 557. Print.
McElhiny, Bonnie. “See No Evil, Speak No Evil: White Police Officers Talk About Race and Affirmative Action.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 11.1(2001): 65-78.
Metaphors of Terror. White River Junction, VT.: Chelsea Green Pub. Co., 2004. Print.
Moran, Mary. “Barbarism, Old and New: Denaturizing of Warfare.” Complexities Beyond Nature and Nurture. Ed. Susan Mckinnon and Sydel Silverman. London: Oxford University Press, n.d. 251-265. Print.