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11 June 2011 @ 07:45 pm
The problem with default  
Well, I'm sick again.
Full blown, sick.
There had been a dry-patch in my throat for a couple of weeks now- ever since I was getting over the old Flu. Turns out, it was a breeding ground for a NEW Flu to come on in!
Lucky me.

However, this isn't the point of my post. Today I want to re-hash a topic that comes up constantly in my on-going life studies: When people think they know something by the matter of "default".
Let me explain:
All too often, when I was venturing to learn specific First Nations cultures in the last ten years, you come across someone who claims to know a cultural topic based on the fact that their grandmother/parent/distant relative was Native. They themselves are not within the community, they themselves do not speak the language or ever have been in contact with the culture- but they know simply as a matter of the fact that they are of [a very minor] ethnic origin.
Then, I came across version two of the above; those who ARE of a specific origin, and living within their ethnicity, and yet without the proper schooling claim to know and perpetuate really false concepts for the sole purpose of personal validation and popularity.
This post is about the latter.

In the last 6 months, I have had the pleasure of being tutored in a "new" culture that I had little understanding before. This came as a direct result from me working in First Nations community; when hosting workshops and presentations, you often come into contact of other non-community members seeking cultural knowledge. These "Culture goers" are very important to me because, like myself, they don't believe that their ethnic origin is the "one and only". Their religions their cultures, their way of life is only a fraction of the grand scheme of things. THESE are the people we LOVE to teach. The people that have the capacity to step outside themselves.

It just so happened that at the end of last year, a fellow of high education and cultural discipline wanted to become more knowledgeable in the ways of the local First Nations. He's a foreigner who has lived in Canada many years- rearing his children here and all. So even though I had told him he would be better seeking out an Elder that was an authority on many things of their culture, a surprising turn of events; two Elders wanted me to teach him instead. Flattered? I dunno. At first I didn't want MORE responsibility... as is, part time job, personal project, commissions, and more outside obligations didn't allow for a lot of free time to spare. However I admit that I was taken with the prospect of learning something of his Ethnic Origin as well. I also admit that he did a good job of wrangling me in- all this happened over the course of at least 2 weeks, where he was casually drawing parallels from little concepts I was talking about, to some from his ethnic origin.
I agreed, but on my own terms- it had to be when I could arrange time during the week, and it wouldn't be on a steady basis.

Fast forward a few months and everything is delightful. He's a great old dude that teaches me with the same gusto as I teach him. Slowly- as with the First Nation culture- I have been pursuing a lot of the cultural studies on my own time, taking the time to come into contact with other educated people from the same origin, and even planning an excursion that would lead me a year or two overseas to live within the local of said ethnicity.

So what's the problem?
Lately I have begun to notice the same phenomena that had [and has] plagued me with the First Nations culture. Too many wikipedia scholars and "I read a book" folks are spouting self concocted concepts, and rallying others to believe in the same. I realize on the grand scheme of things, this means VERY little... and something I'm probably blowing more steam over than necessary. Thing is, it bothers me to no end.
One girl- of relatively the same ethnic origin and my Teacher- is quite popular in different fandoms online, has taken to "educate" people with her art... drawing her own fantasies and concoctions and then "teaching" about their origins; that are largely false, or misconstrued. She does not have any academic education in the matter, and whatever she does know comes from the day-to-day life of contact with some people who might have heard a story, or related a concept to her. She is of said ethnicity, and there for has some knowledge that is ingrained in the day-to-day life and stories one learns as a child growing up.
Sadly, because this culture is also highly capitalized in the media, and seems to be a favorite venue of many a person who also is fury, things are quickly spiraling out of control; VERY few actually KNOW what they are talking about.

I've taken it up with my Teacher... always running tings by him that I've seen. The answer is always an explanation of how or why things got to be understood that way, however they are far from the truth. People are talking artistic liberties with facts, and leaving the gaping spaces for artistic liberty barren.

So now, the final point;
Many times I am conflicted in how to handle these folks. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one to come in guns a-blazing and shooting people down; more often than not I just let people believe what they want to. However, when they come on MY turf [webpages, leave comments] or begin to criticize my understanding, I am left in a bind. Site whatever fact and artifact, professional paper or citation and you get the same; "I'm [insert ethnicity], it's my culture, I know this better."
These people think that because they are default said ethnicity, it just graces them with this knowledge- unschooled or unfounded- as correct and accurate. Even thought I have had teachers, I need to have credentials to be "right". Even if I do have credentials it doesn't matter; at the end of the day I am not said ethnicity so what I have to say remains false no matter what.
I counter this with a simple thought; For the fact that I was born Jewish, doesn't mean I am born a Rabbi.
Culture and traditions are equally things of scholarly knowledge and application. Just like any knowledge and application, the amount of time you spend doing it, studying it, and applying it, will be the certification to which degree you can consider your opinion "Accurate" or "Inaccurate".

So ultimately, there isn't thing I can do. Simply, go about my own way and hope that these folks don't start a banter with myself. It's hard because my up-coming project is riddled in cultural concepts... and I'll have to fend off all those who consider themselves "authorities" on the subject.
Current Mood: sicksick
Mbala: mbalaturongmbala on June 12th, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
I'm amazed!
I think the main "problem" is that communication has become so extremely cheap and accessible that people can afford to spout absolute nonsense at high velocity.

I used to think that things written in books were true, or at least rigorously edited, because having your book publish means you are someone. Nowadays it means you have a few $$ to spend through one of many self-publishing companies.

It is similar to endangered species. In an environment where you have a huge pressure from one species, the others will eventually disappear. The society nowadays suffers from an enormous amount of ideas that amount to nothing more than noise, taking up the cognitive capacity people could use for actually learning cool, real stuff.

Fortunately, people are beginning to see the trend. Ultimately it is your responsibility who you want to listen to, people who spout nonsense just make it a bit more difficult for you to find the true stuff.

Also, I have this big motto recently, which is "anyone is wrong 4 out of 5 times". I came to the conclusion that people live somewhere between wrong, and totally wrong most of the time. We simply don't have brains good enough to be right most of the time. This gives me understanding for the people you describe and reduces the amount of anger I would feel otherwise.

Of course, I might be wrong. :)
gishkishenh: affectiongishkishenh on June 12th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm amazed!
I love LOVE your input on everything Mbala! You have a crazy analytical mind that lends a new perspective on every situation... most of the time, perspectives I have no even thought of. I never considered the "Information as commodity" concept.

I like that concept.. 4 out of 5, eh? Well, I'll be sure to claim the 5th "right" more often then not. ;)

But then again, maybe I am wrong! ;)
Dar Longdarlong on June 12th, 2011 11:15 am (UTC)
Why are you sick again? That's not right! I'll be in TO doing a media/press junket Wed-Fri, let me know if you need soup! Or, you know, the services of a nurse practitioner.

I have (some) Scottish ancestors but guess what, I do not know the history of the Clans, how to play the bagpipes or what the tartan colours represent.

The difference between assumptions, anecdotal knowledge, gossip, myth, and history, archeology, anthropology is a matter of education.

The "I AM" response bothers me in many ways. By accident of birth you are born one thing or another. The wisdom of the elders is not bestowed upon you. To claim birth rite is to also accept the responsibility of learning the history and culture and to pass it on as accurately as possible. To do otherwise makes you just another wanna be trying to co-opt the culture and tradition of a people for your own benefit or amusement. We used to call them "posers" - is the term still used? (I am old, yo.)

gishkishenh: affectiongishkishenh on June 12th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
Dar, you are the SWEETEST THING!
I'm well taken care of, thank you. Mom and the Aunties made more then enough soup- 3 huge pots.
Actually, you wouldn't happen to have a home-made remedy for curing a small dry and phlegmy cough would you? This flu-thing is running it's course fast as I have been drowning it with liquids and vitamins... so I am going through 2-3 days of symptoms in 1 day. The last stop is the cough.. and I want to nail that before it gets to my bronchies.

Yes, "Posers" is still a common used term. Well, at least in my sphere... I dunno what the kids are using these days, I'm 30 and my lingo still swings. XD
But you put it in a tea-cup when you said "By accident of birth you are born one thing or another." My term for that is "Default"... no one chooses their race, gender, or ethnicity when they are born, so when people parade it like the "Best choice there is" I sit there dumbfounded.
feel a storm coming...an ARTSTORM!artstorm on June 13th, 2011 12:30 am (UTC)
ive always been more intellectual than emotional with my emotions under control. i never really understood why emotional people acted the way they did. recently i had a bit of a breakdown and my emotions have been on the out of control side ever since....its affected my health and various other aspects of my life but its also brought me new understanding of the way other people are affected by things. that being said i think i see a link between emotional people more readily listening to someone who is of an ethnicity than someone who is not regardless of the information presented. while a less emotional person might weigh the merits of what is said more....sadly it seems there are way more emotional people out there :\ i hope you can find a solution to dealing with "authority" types and and i hope you can kick this flu thing soon. i don't know how much of your mind is occupied with the "authority" problem but could it be that your frustration with it has added to your being unwell?
gishkishenh: enlightenmentgishkishenh on June 13th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
Hey Art,
Thanks for all your concern. The issue isn't one that attributed to my current health situation. A mix of being exposed to ill individuals on a constant, coupled with not being over my previous flu incident, and being weighed down with work is what caused for the relapse. I won't come and say that this might have not contributed- as every little thing certainly does add up- but on the general, it was a constellation of the former.

While I do hope you recover soon yourself, I would like to point out the brighter side [at least in my opinion] and congratulate you on stepping into the world of emotions as well. Fundamentally, we have them for a reason- if from the primal concept; of helping survival via avoidance while participating in the pleasant and exciting- or if form a spiritual sense; emotions is what reminds us to get up and do something about an issue dear to us, or spread good energy to the ill through acts of kindness. Like I always said, the opposite of Love isn't hate- those are actually the same identical emotions. It's indifference that is opposed to them both. And if one didn't have their emotions to guide, and control, and BE controlled by them, then what merit would any of our actions have? Can't be noble if you don't stand up to temptation, and you cannot measure happiness without sadness.

Looking at this post again, I think you and I are experiencing something of a similar; in regards to facing somehting we cannot control. In both respects, we are left to deal with out own emotions over a topic we have no control over. Let's give thanks that we CAN still get riled up, or upset, or even disheartened by these things- that means we are moved to change them in our futures. :)
feel a storm coming...an ARTSTORM!artstorm on June 13th, 2011 01:45 am (UTC)
i totally agree about the value of emotions. i have recovered a lot. right now i'm trying to find a balance between keeping my emotions under control but letting them flow freely at the same time. its pretty awesome. i can't really say i didn't have emotions in the past its just that i could shut them off at will. i could have an arguement and get upset but in the next moment turn around and concentrate on a different task. it was like always being in the middle. i didn't have any of the low lows that people have and i couldn't understand behaviour that was affected by that excess of emotion. but on the flipside i didn't have the high highs and could never have concieved of the immense fuel that state of being can provide :D
on the love/hate thing i am impressed. you are one of the few people who sees it the way i have my whole life...i never really put it into words but i always saw love and hate as an excess of emotion and i may have seen both as something that was not for me. i cutivated a life of lack of emotion while still caring in a non emotional way. choosing to be kind to others and volunteer when i was able. now i don't always choose those things i actually have a need for them. it's like i need to feed my emotional side with contact with others. its both rewarding and destructive but i am learning so much from all of it :)
i look forward to exploring this more and learning more about us both through your journal :)