The Great Divide
Before political correctness, dodge-ball was a great American sport. Choosing teams was always an exciting part of the game, especially if you were a team captain. But when the last picks were made, maybe you felt just a bit sorry for those two or three chosen last. Maybe you were one of them. There was always something about those last few that made them different from the others. They were “the ones chosen last.” But by their differences, they were their own group.
Our American culture continuously evolves as we advance as a nation and society. When we want to reach someone we can pick up a phone and call. Since most of us have a cell phone, we can call from just about anywhere. We can be reached just about anywhere. We use computers every day for communication, banking, shopping, and most anything you can imagine. These things have become routine for Americans. Part of life. Part of our advanced technological culture. We take them for granted. Our freedom allows us to advance as a whole. We’ve grown used to doing what we like, when we like, and if it doesn’t hurt us, how we like.
We form opinions of other cultures by comparing it with our own. Some even think other cultures and parts of the world should strive to be like us. And if you don’t want to be like us, well that just doesn’t make sense. You’re different. There must be something wrong with you. Maybe you need to be changed.
But are we so arrogant – or free – that we have the right to impose our culture, our ideals, or our way of life on others? There are cultures in this world that seem odd to us because they are different. Some of these cultures might seem disturbing or unsettling to us because we tend to fear what we don’t know or understand about them. Wonder how they feel about ours.
Religious groups often refer to these cultures as “unreached people.” Many religious and humanitarian organizations have committed to a small group of unreached people called the Shan in Asia. The Shan population is estimated at 450,000, and most of it is established in China. The remaining population exists throughout Burma, Laos, and Thailand. They are one of the great peoples of Southeast Asia and are very proud of their ethnical and cultural identity. Primarily they are fervent practitioners of Theravada Buddhism, with a rich cultural heritage. They are a gentle and peaceful people.
Within the culture of the Shan, tattooing is common among men. The tattoos are usually Buddhist symbols or signs inked onto a person to keep them free of evil spirits and protect them from harm. The Shan have been a people since 63 BC when a western group of the Chinese empire migrated south down the Salween River into what is now Shan State and established a number of principalities. They are a simple people who accept life as it happens.
As humans we have a natural compassion, or sympathy, for those we feel are in need. As Americans, this can be said of those who we feel have less than us, or are not as culturally advanced as we see ourselves. We have a strong desire to help, and if you give Americans a tool such as “National Interest,” it can easily become a political issue as well. Many religious groups have taken it a step further and obligated themselves to persuade a person, or culture, to believe the same as they do, in order to live as they do, and receive the rewards of their beliefs. This obligation incites those believers to impose, such as those who are committed to “reaching” the Shan.
When Europeans settled America, many thought that the natives appeared savage with their way of life and culture. They were “unchurched.” In today’s world, these natives would fit into the category of an “unreached people.” They had, and still have, their own religion and methods of worship and prayer. Their beliefs were a vital part of their culture. Many religious leaders of that time felt obligated to reform the natives because they weren’t like the settlers. They had to be changed or stopped. To that end, it eventually became an interest of government, and disputes were settled with force. Since then, several amends have been offered and made for this consequential error of judgement. In today’s society, we poke fun at this error sarcastically by displaying bumper stickers, T-shirts, and other trinkets with a saying which reads, “Sure you can trust our government. Just ask an Indian.” Still, we continue to impose our cultures and beliefs on others.
If a culture or a way of life is not understood, or readily accepted, does it make that culture wrong? Does it really need to be stopped or changed? As a human race, we can be firm and strong in our beliefs. Our faith. There’s no need to impose our own culture on others just to make them more acceptable or understandable. Learn to accept differences. As an individual, allow others to accept you for who you are, and understand if they do not. Take care of others unconditionally. Be grateful if the kindness is returned. Don’t expect it, or tally your own deeds for reward. Offer others kindness, charity, and help when needed. Enjoy the company of others including those unfamiliar to you. Be responsible for your actions. Teach right from wrong. Expect the same from your children.
These are basic building blocks for mankind to agree and co-exist. Faith or a shared belief, makes us one. Religions and cultures separate us. If we learn to accept heritage and cultures other than our own and remove the division of religion, the category of “unreached people” would develop a brand new meaning
Posted by: Cary Bott
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