Thoughts on cultural differences, racial differences, religious differences; prejudices & bigotry. We all have prejudices – the prejudging of someone based on very little knowledge or stereotype of a people/culture/race. A prejudice is not always a bad thing; a prejudice is where there is no frame of reference. Prejudice can be rectified through knowledge, bigotry cannot. Bigotry is created through a choice to remain ignorant. Prejudice can be removed, bigotry is far more difficult.
A light side of prejudice, all Indian people put curry in their meals. Not true. That’s like saying all Irish people eat potatoes with every meal or drink to excess.
This form of prejudice happens when there is little exposure to other cultures. Happily, this is changing as we become more and more globally mobile. There will be clashes, absolutely, there will be clashes. Cultures are created by people, through their history, their challenges, their fight for freedoms and will be held tightly as a part of identity.
Let’s be straight up and honest here though, simply because something, some action or some form of behaviour/belief is cultural, doesn’t make it acceptable. Talmudic law, Christian beliefs, Sharia – some of the practices found within all three are not acceptable in most areas of North American and the societies found in the western part of this earth. It is the responsibility of all cultures to be able to grow with this new world in which we all live.
Knowledge and cultural growth must be a two way street.
A couple/few years back, there was a kafuffle in Montreal regarding a local YMCA and their windows. Yup. Windows. You see women were excising inside the YMCA and as they rode the exercise bikes and worked out on the treadmill, their efforts could be seen from the street. Across the street was a synagogue; apparently the women were a distraction to the young men attending the synagogue. A cultural clash ensued and while I don’t see the reasoning for the YMCA’s members’ objection to opaque windows or blinds, it was their decision to leave the windows as they were. I see their point. It is an infringement on their freedoms. I have a little bit of trouble with the synagogue. If the young men are hanging about the exterior of the synagogue, they are doing that by choice. Exercise clothing covers far more of the female form than many of the current fashions on the streets of Montreal. Montreal is not a city under Talmudic law and therefore, the synagogue and its members should understand that their culture, their beliefs are not the beliefs of the majority. In Canada, we live (in theory) by the majority rule, otherwise known as democracy. That the young men are exhibiting the natural behaviour of the male tendencies of the species is not the problem of the women in the YMCA, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, therefore, any change to behaviour should be on the part of the young men. Personally? I wouldn’t want someone watching me exercise and I would choose a spot away from the window but still allowing me to see outside, but that’s me. I would not even entertain a thought that a change to windows be done, simply because I am, personally, not comfortable with an audience.
France is undergoing quite the cultural battle. It has manifested in a law, outlawing the veil. I am a staunch supporter for freedom of religion however, when that religion infringes or is perceived to infringe on the rights of the majority, if it is contrary to the culture of the country, then adaptations must be made by the minority. The wearing of the veil belongs to a very small minority of Islamic women. People from Islamic countries are also responsible for their own education. When immigrating to a nation, without an Islamic background, it is up to the immigrating individuals to decide if it is possible to maintain their beliefs among a majority that does not follow the Q’ran.
Living in a predominately Christian province, within Canada, I do see prejudice constantly, worse, I see bigotry. Living in a French province in Canada, I am also witness to much xenophobia, bigotry on a nauseating scale. Sadly, in some areas, it is rampant and rabid. These individuals do not want a culturally diverse province. You cannot educate these people. Their hatred and ignorance consumes them. In Montreal, the opportunities for personal growth can be found with every step but the individual must have the intellectual capacity to learn. Xenophobes do not have that capacity. Their I.Q’s are simply too low to understand the personal growth that can be found through education.
We can’t bring about legislation forcing cultural acceptance. I see France’s point, it is sad that the country feels the only way to protect itself is by invoking laws that are seen to prohibit religious freedom but by the same token, the Islamic culture that encourages the veil and the subjugation of women, in France, has only themselves to blame. France was chosen as the country where these people chose to settle. France is not an Islamic country, nor – quite obviously, does it want to be an Islamic nation. If a female citizen of France was to choose to live in Saudi Arabia, then she would be obliged to abide by that culture. It is enforced by law. Well, now France has felt the need to enforce, protect herself through laws; all of this because people are not willing to educate themselves, on both sides of the cultural fence.
Another piece of prejudice that has crossed my path and often my eyes…literally…is that all Haitian males are members of a gang; they are criminals and should be avoided. Okey dokey then, through that reasoning, all Italians are members of the “MOB”, all Russians belong to the Vory v Zakone. All Irish Catholics belong to the I.R.A. These are absurd assumptions that are easily rectified through exposure to the different cultures. Through an open mind and an open heart but again, this must be a two way street. Prejudice exists on all sides, in all communities, in all cultures.