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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future

Chapter Six: The Future Human

Section 18: Cross-Cultural Competence

 

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Item three performed by Aztec Dancers at the San Jose America Festival on July 3, 1998.

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Communication and conflict resolution are difficult even when the parties are of the same culture. The increasing interactions among nations will require people with even broader perspectives and spheres of caring. This will mean a restructuring of what might be termed the "good ol' boy syndrome.

 

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In the context of the business world in the United States of America, the "good ol' boy" system is a subculture of people who define each other as "the people enough like me so that I can understand his motivations and the extent to which he can and cannot be trusted." The indicators for membership are necessarily subtle and. vague, least they be replicable by unworthies. Clothing, wives, cars, magazines, books sports interests, memberships, tastes may all serve as indicators.

 

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The members of the group are probably not conscious of what makes someone "in", but, intuitively, they become uncomfortable when the code is violated. Too many violations may terminate a business relationship. (note: When someone "discovers" the code, the code must change; thus, following Dress for Success too closely might create suspicion.) The importance of the good ol' boy system can be assessed by the conservative estimate that 80 percent of the wealth of the U.S. is controlled by a fairly tight-knit group of 200 men.

 

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As a specialized subculture, the good ol' boy system in the U.S.A. is highly ethnocentric. It is a self-perpetuating closed system -- generally excluding Blacks, women, and foreigners. It has thrived in the years when isolationism and then international "superpowerdom" have prevailed. Less powerful nations have accommodated considerably to curry the favor of the good ol' boys. For example, Japanese and Egyptian businessmen have forsaken traditional clothing in favor of gray suits and ties. There has been little evidence of mutual accommodation on the part of the United States business world.

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As the economic power of nations becomes more evenly distributed, there will be more international competition for resources and markets. Since people prefer to deal with those whom they believe they are respected by, the ethnocentrism of the good ole boys may become an economic liability --negative good will. Successful business people of the future will have to be adept at understanding and communicating respect for the cultures with which they wish to deal. This will include not only learning about other cultures, but also acknowledging the conventional nature of the "truisms" of one's own culture.

 

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The same principles apply beyond the economic world. Better understanding among cultures will promote communication and conflict resolution in general. Treaty making will be facilitated.

 

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Mastering one's own culture is a lifetime task. Becoming familiar with even a few other cultures would consume considerable time. However, each learning about another culture is a learning how to learn about cultures in general. Education must strive to develop "transcultural" persons who have well-developed general attitudes of respect and humility, and who are thus able to deal with unfamiliar cultures relatively effectively. Such transcultural people will reach the core of humanity, and model the world citizenship that can help fashion a future peace.

 

 

 

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