Open Mind

 


Open Mind


columnist:

Offie Wortham



Founder:—

Trans-Cultural Awareness Institute


http://transculturalawareness.blogspot.com


Telephone Counseling Nationwide

by appointment only

itxinc@yahoo.com


Offie C. Wortham, MA, PhD

is a certified member of the Associated Psychotherapists of Vermont

Previously faculty member at Rutgers, Antioch, Marist, Johnson State and Temple University teaching psychology, urban anthropology, career planning, and criminal justice.

Special Consultant for two years with the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Va., designing curriculum for the first FBI classes in Psychological Profiling, Serial Murders, and Crime Scene Analysis, (Now called CSI).


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Offie C. Wortham

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So Who Came To Your Funeral?


I went to a really great funeral last week. Everybody in the family seemed to be there. It was in sharp contrast to one I had attended less than a year ago. This recent funeral was for an uncle. The previous one had been for a first cousin.


At the large church funeral for my uncle, there had been a genuine sense of loss expressed by hundreds of people, relatives and old friends. At the funeral for my cousin (at the funeral parlor) fewer than 10 people came to pay their final respects.


Same family, quite different funerals. "Why ... ",I asked myself, " ... do so many people feel moved at the passing of one person, but are totally disinterested in the death of another?" How do we decide if we will attend a wake or a funeral? What kind of a life must a person have lived to actually move people away from their busy schedules for a day, or even an evening?


The uncle was a very quiet, gentle, and giving man, who had lived in the same small town in the same house, with the same wife - for almost 50 years! The cousin, who had spent many happy summers with the uncle and his family, was raised only 20 miles away in the center of Harlem, the infamous ghetto in New York City. He became a high school drop-out, an alcoholic, a drug addict, and, finally, a convicted criminal. (It was well known that he had actually spent time in prison; something unheard of in this very middle-class family.) He was one of the few "Black Sheep" in the family, and was actually quite an embarrassment to many of his relatives.


He was not "successful". He did not live in a very nice neighborhood. He had never had a steady job, and he had no education to speak of, and he was supposed to have had a number of children all over the place from various women he had lived with.


As we get older, we tend to get more realistic about the transitory nature of our own existence. We are no more equal at death, than we are at birth. "Who ... "I found myself asking" ...would come to my funeral?" As my relatives and former friends pass judgment on my life, how many will take the time or energy to even pick up the phone, or send a card, much less actually attend my wake or funeral?


One important factor which will determine who will mourn our passing is who will even know about it. If your name has been in the press over the years, and you are some kind of a celebrity, hundreds or possibly thousands will mob to your funeral just to say they were there, and to see some "famous" people. Regardless of the kind of life you really lived, or what you ever did for others, or if you were even a nice person or not.

If you have been very mobile ( or transient) you probably have "friends" scattered all over the world. The person with 100 friends in one place will have a much larger turn-out than the "world traveler" with thousands of acquaintances in ten or twenty different locations. Distance is an important factor which will make a person really think hard when he or she is trying to decide if you warrant the outlay of possibly hundreds of dollars and a day or two of precious time.


Let's be honest. When we consider the reputation, stability, life style, and the socioeconomic status of the deceased" we are not surprised at who will or will not be missed. If there is an afterlife, I just hope I'll be able to give a good report when my spirit is asked, "So who came to your funeral?" Maybe the final judgment I've always heard about isn't made on another plane, but on this one. Not by a God or some celestial computer, but by my relatives, my friends, and my peers. It may sound harsh, but we do seem to get out of life what we put into it. Here's hoping that when you're asked the big question you can respond with a little bit of heavenly vanity and say, "Oh lots of people, and it was a really grand affair."



2030

 

          Much has changed in the country and the world since 2017. The United States is now a nation less obsessed with global competition, and more concerned with the promotion of decent living standards for as many citizens as possible. In 2019 a group of cyber scientists, led by a team of teenagers, managed to successfully drain the personal bank accounts of the richest 100,000 people in the world and redistribute the funds into the bank accounts of everyone else.

       
Campaign financing laws were enacted world-wide, and thousands of grass-roots folks were elected to governments where they proceeded to propose and pass legislation that provided Universal Health Care and Universal Education through graduate school as they have done for years in France.

Laws were passed to put high tariffs on goods from Asia that could have been manufactured in this country. Tax incentives were given to companies to not move their business out of the country, but to provide more jobs in the United States. The national, state, and local governments have become the largest employers as private industry has increasingly automated. Schools now have smaller classes and employ many more teachers and fewer administrators.

The United Nations was strengthened and so were the military forces of the organization. This enabled the United States and many other nations to reduce their military budgets by over 90%. With the elimination of all lobbyists from the halls of Congress and state legislatures, the newly elected officials proceeded to vote on issues based upon their merits and not the contributions from individuals and corporations. The Supreme Court the Citizens United decision.

I have set up an organization called The Transcultural Awareness Institute for identifying and solving serious social problems. It has a full-time staff of five people who are all highly educated professionals that I have stolen away from high-profile positions at top universities and think tanks. We have attracted backers who have deposited over $100,000,000 into our five bank accounts. When we decide to tackle a problem that has been insolvable for scientists and academics, we can call together (with all expenses paid plus a $5,000 a day consulting fee) the best minds in the world for a 3-5 day workshop that will produce an answer to the problem.

We have a track record of having done this over 30 times already. The first successful effort was a planning session held at the United Nations headquarters in New York in 2018. We decided to find a way to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s disease. My team identified the individuals who were the top ten experts in the world, and we invited them to meet together at our expense. Plus of course the $5,000 per day consulting fee.


The workshop was held at a retreat in Switzerland for one week. Thirty top graduate students were also invited from all over the world. In addition, the directors of research of the five largest drug companies were invited. At the end of three days word leaked out to the world press that a gene had positively been identified that was the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. We had to deny this rumor and told the press that yes progress had been made, but they would have to wait until the final press conference at the end of the workshop.


We really had found the gene by the third day. But we had to have definitive discussions and tests before we would make any announcement. By the beginning of the fifth day there was unanimous agreement among all the scientists and scholars present that the cause and cure for the disease had been found. Agreements were made with the five drug companies on how to quickly manufacture and distribute the newly discovered drug. The drug would be free world-wide because all the countries in the United Nations were assessed an amount of money determined by the number of people in their country that that had the disease. This money was collected by UNESCO and paid to the drug companies.


We worked with the Gates Foundation on our next workshop. This one was on Aids. Again we assembled the world’s experts for a retreat in South Africa. This effort took two weeks to find the cause and cure for Aids. But here again, we were successful.


Tooth decay was one of the most challenging problems. We knew from meeting with many scientists what the cause of tooth decay was: sugars and other things we put into our mouths. The problem was how to stop the decay if people continued to eat and drink certain items. We came up with a solution practiced by a tribe of herders in Outer Mongolia. They had no tooth decay in any of their people. The solution we found was a small plant that only grew in the mountains near their villages. They had been using it as a sweetener for hundreds of years.


Once we travelled to these villages and acquired samples of these plants we tested them for six months in a candy we gave to 5,000 children in ten different countries. All parents and children were told of the experiment and the parents were given $500.  There were only 20 cases of tooth decay discovered after the six months. We had little control over what else a child may have drank or eaten. The only group of professionals that were not happy with the drastic reduction in cavities of course were the dentists.


Important Developments since 2017


Much had changed since 2017 in the United States and the world. Let me site 50 of the most dramatic changes that have occurred in the world in the last 13 years:


1.Because of the newly enacted “campaign financing laws”, less affluent people have been able to get on the ballot, and this has changed the composition of our lawmaking bodies in the United States and around the world, and there has been a sharp decrease in the number of politicians who are lawyers and business executives.

2.For politicians in the Congress and state legislators the term limit has now been set to be 10 years.

3.There are no longer commercials and ads on TV and the Internet. There was a shift in the world back towards the values of community, spirituality, and integrity, and away from competition, materialism and disconnection. The not so wealthy consumers and others were shown that merely purchasing something new was only artificially created instant gratification to make them purchase an expensive item to make them think they had improved their social status. Instead of improving their social status, people were getting into suicidal debt and severe financial problems which became the primary reason for divorce and many family problems. With the revolution in grass-roots politics and campaign financing, citizens passed laws at the federal level outlawing all commercials and ads on TV, radio, and the Internet. Companies now sponsor programs in the same way programs are sponsored on National Public Radio (NPR), or the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

4.Children are now being taught from pre-school how to defend themselves against any commercials that still may exist. They are taught commercials are designed to brainwash a person to be a mindless consumer by the extensive advertising industry which only serves to reinforce increasing consumption so that other people can get rich while they are programmed to think they really need many things. As soon as they start to use a remote they are taught to recognize commercials and “mute” them.

5.World-wide, individuals over the age of 18 have been issued a secret 5-digit password which must be entered via the remote before they can view any pornographic, adult, or extremely violent programs on TV or the Internet. This password must be reactivated every two hours. There is a severe fine for any person who gives their password to a child under 18. The password can be changed at any time by the owner of the password.

6.A pill had been developed that cuts down or eliminates a desire for alcohol. Within a few years, alcoholism was reduced tremendously nationwide.

7.Very good tasting and nutritious soft drinks were introduced that eliminated the craving induced by nicotine, and smoking was reduced dramatically. People were also educated through advertising by the federal government about the dangers of smoking, especially cancer. The intelligent and the less educated soon came to understand that smoking excessively was a self-destructive suicidal behavior.

8.A team of scientists from the Congo won the Nobel Prize for curing the ringing in the ears called tinnitus.

9.People who were frozen earlier can now be thawed out, because most of the diseases that almost killed them in the past have now been cured.

10.Cataracts can now be prevented and cured, and many eye diseases have been corrected and many people who were blind are having their sight restored. (Even I have been told that I might regain my sight within a few years.)

11.The life expectancy is now over 110 in the United States, China, Japan, and most of Europe. People in general are living longer and healthier lives.

12.Many more adults are living in retirement communities not only in the United States but abroad. There are many very nice retirement communities not only in Mexico but throughout Latin America, the West Indies, Africa, Asia and Europe. These are also many desirable international retirement communities where people meet from all over the world. In these retirement communities one or two can make it on their Social Security and have their own small house or spacious apartment. They can even have gardens and a garage for their car.

13.Near many of the retirement communities are Boys or Girls towns for children who do not live with any parents or relatives. By being close to the homes of the children these older adults can get paid to work with them and share their skills, experiences and wisdom. All of these planned communities have excellent schools, beautiful libraries and higher educational institutions where people can keep learning and teaching others.

14.Ocean going ships are very large and they are extremely safe. More people are going on cruises and trips all over the world, and this has become one of the major forms of recreation. Many adults have a permanent small apartment on these ships, which is less expensive than a nursing home or retirement community.

15.Antarctica and the North Pole have become major tourist and retirement attractions, and there are all sorts of activities at these sites all year long. There are large enclosed recreational parks and facilities almost a mile across where people can go swimming or skiing, and meanwhile beyond the enclosure it might be 100° below zero.

16.There are fewer and fewer limb and bone replacements as scientists have discovered the conditions that caused the need for a limb replacement.

17.A meritocracy system similar to civil service is now administered for all medium and high level government positions. To be elected to the City Council you have to pass an exam. To be elected to the office of Mayor you have to pass an exam. This exam system is utilized for every elected official up to the President of the United States. 

18.Salaries of athletes, movie stars, and entertainers were reduced dramatically, and the highest paid people in society have become teachers, scientists, engineers, people in the medical profession, and the people who are helping people. These are the people who now receive the greatest financial rewards.

19.As the salaries of the athletes are reduced the cost of admission also came down dramatically.

20.People in private business are still allowed to earn as much money as they can, but they are not able to exploit and cheat people the way they did before because citizens now have the right to see all tax returns on-line annually.

21.Less educated people are paid good wages and are able to have a very nice standard of living. This has not only happened in the United States, but it is happening world-wide, so people do not have to be migrating from one country to another. The living standards have started to become similar in all the countries worldwide.

22.Millions of people worldwide are now educated up to the same high standards as those in the West, and they are being encouraged to stay within their own countries. Aid is being given by the United Nations to those countries if necessary, in attempts to build up their own economies to keep the people within their own borders.

23.The funding of the schools in different school districts in the United States is no longer dependent upon local taxes but upon state and federal taxes. This has lead to an equal amount of money being spent on each student nationwide and more money available for needed resources and teachers.

24.Jobs are now guaranteed by the city, county and state governments for all the graduates of high school, colleges, training programs and technical schools.

25.The size of schools has dramatically been reduced, and the large schools with over 1,000 students have been broken up into smaller schools with no more than 500 in a high school, middle school, or elementary school. The large public universities were broken up into smaller colleges and classrooms were reduced to no more than 20 to 30 students in a class. This created hundreds of thousands of jobs for full-time teachers and professors.

26.Student loans were eliminated for college because money for a college education is now guaranteed all the way through graduate school, the same way it is in France. A student has to maintain at least a C average to get their way paid all the way through graduate and professional school. In other words, there is now universal free education in the United States.

27.All existing student loans were forgiven.

28.Reading has been brought back as a major form of recreation through carefully designed educational programs from the elementary to college level. Most people are now watching relatively little television and playing fewer video games and spending less time with their electronic devices or on the Internet.

29.Very large and thin lightweight iPods type devices have almost replaced books as the primary way to read a book, newspaper, or anything else. These electronic devices also hook up to the Internet and are used as video-telephones. They are in 3-D, and for privacy a person can plug in a headset with glasses and earphones that will shut off the large device and allow the person to see the picture on the glasses in 3-D and hear the sound stereophonically. There is also a built-in microphone in the stylish headset. If a person is driving a car or vehicle the headset would not work while they are in the drivers’ seat.

30.Children are strongly encouraged not to watch more than a certain number of hours of television each day. This can be controlled by a timer set by the parent or guardian. To get the children away from TV and the electronic devices, parents and guardians are being paid to go to classes to learn how to become more involved with their children in a wide variety of recreational and educational activities, especially outdoors.

31.People can no longer get married in a few minutes by just showing a drivers license. They now have to go through a week long counseling process.

32.In an effort to stabilize marriages, both parties now have to re-sign the marriage contract every year within two weeks of the anniversary date. If both parties do not sign within two weeks of the marriage anniversary, the marriage is automatically dissolved. This has put great pressure on both parties to remain a desirable partner.

33.Abstinence is encouraged and taught in all the schools in the country. But birth control is also given out to children over 16.

34.Abortions are still legal, but highly frowned upon. The number has decreased to less than 50% the number in 2012 since all women must now see a video of their fetus and listen to the heartbeat before they can get a legal abortion.

35.There are Muslim enclaves within many countries in Europe where Shria law is   practiced. If a person desires to leave these enclaves, they can call a 911 number for help if they are being physically or mentally abused. The person will be escorted out at once and put in a witness protection program or a secret group home.

36.In the United States there are communities within each state similar to the Hasidic Jews in Kiryas Joel, in Orange County New York. Here different religions and sects such as the Amish can be left alone. If anyone is being physically and mentally abused they can call 911 for help at any time. All of these separate towns or cities are under County and state laws and are patrolled by county and state police. When these people are arrested they are tried in the County and the state and federal courts. There are branches of local banks within these communities, and insurance companies and whatever companies they want operate within these communities. There are large and small manufacturing plants and there are large and small farms. Communities are structured by religion, nationality, or ethnicity. Children who want to leave these communities are raised by the each state in group or foster homes, or planned youth communities.

37. The schools in these communities are part of the regional school system and there is competition between schools in terms of academics and athletics.

38.Mexico and Israel signed an agreement for Israel and their Mossad to send 5,000 secret police to eliminate the drug cartel. The operation took only two weeks for this to be accomplished. In return Mexico has leased the state of Tabasco on the Gulf of Mexico to Israel for the next 500 years for $100, and the entire Jewish state of Israel has moved to Mexico. It is 7,000 Km larger than the former state of Israel. The people who were in Tabasco have chosen to stay in the country and they have dual citizenship in Israel and Mexico.

39.Marijuana has been decriminalized and so have some other drugs. People can now get their drugs cheaply, as they have been doing in several European countries, and the prison population in the United States has been reduced by 75%. Former prison guards have been reeducated to be counselors and teachers in technical schools and programs such as Upward Bound and the Job Corps. The walls have been torn down along the Mexican border as millions of Mexicans have returned to Mexico as their economy has improved and there are now plenty of well-paying jobs.

40.Unitarians separated from the Universalists in 2017 and decided to actively recruit members to their congregations. They were following up on some of the writings of Thomas Jefferson who wrote in a letter on June 26, 1822, “I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.” Through ads and personal contacts the Unitarian Church now has the largest membership of any organized religion in the United States. Its appeal is its secular nature, social activism, and the complete freedom it gives every individual to believe whatever they want to believe about a God or Gods.

41.The “One-Drop Rule” has been officially outlawed by the Supreme Court, and people are no longer considered African American or black just because any of their ancestors were from Africa. Lifestyle has become a much more important factor in forming relationships than race, ethnicity, or nationality.

42.Forms asking for racial or ethnic identity are no longer used in the United States.

43.Casinos are allowed in every state and run not just by Indians but the state itself, with very strict education in the communities and in the high schools about the negative aspects of gambling.

44.New cities and satellite cities have been built outside of the major cities around the world. This has been a successful program to reduce the congestion and poverty in some major cities. All of these new cities are connected with the center city by high-speed rail transportation.

45.More highways were designed where large trucks and cars are now divided by separate roads.

46.Food prices have come down dramatically as price supports were eliminated and competition was increased. Farmers now grow more food on more small farms as many of the big farms were voluntarily broken up.

47.There is now plenty of food being produced around the world, and poverty and starvation have been drastically reduced.

48.There is no longer mandatory prison sentencing. Prisons focus on rehabilitation, not punishment. But we still do have probation and parole. A parole officer's caseload can now be no more than 30 people. Clients do not have to report in person, but they can report electronically, via Skype, from anywhere in the country. When they check in, the GPS implanted in their arms will specify exactly where the person is. As long as the person is on probation or parole they will have the device implanted. As soon as the probation or parole is over, the electronic device will be removed.

49.India and China are the most powerful and influential countries in the world.

50.Most of the electricity in the world is now generated by geothermal, followed by solar, wind and hydro.






A Transcultural Awareness Experience

 

          Why, some may ask, is there a need for another discussion or workshop on ethnicity or race? What ever happened to Integration? Wasn’t that what we were fighting for during the Civil Rights Movement? Why can’t we just accept and celebrate the new world of Ethnocentrism and Multiculturalism, and the ethnically separate graduations, dorms, dining halls, and even classrooms?


The Transcultural Awareness Institute is part of a process created by Offie Wortham and Pete Seeger for a series of dialogues at the Howland Center for Cultural Exchange in Beacon, NY in 2001. The purpose was to promote dialogue and the exchange of information and understanding between individuals from different socio-economic classes, ethnic/racial groups, and various ethical or religious groups.


What is Transcultural Awareness? How is it different from Multiculturalism?


We propose transcultural dialogue in distinction to mere intercultural dialogue. This points to the capability of transcending (and, thereby, transforming) one’s own horizon of understanding towards other forms of cultural self-realization, rather than just relating and comparing abstract contents of one’s own cultural environment to another. In the process our own cultural awareness is shaped by the interaction with other cultures, and it reaches a level beyond its original setup.


This approach, versus one with a Euro centric orientation, is one of dialogue on the cultural, level. Based on a concept of culture as "a system of interconnected values, perceptions, and modes of interaction" this approach requires a new doctrine of public education which should make understandable the values and world views of other civilizations, doing away with any form of cultural exclusivism, tribalism, or ethnocentrism.

Multicultural training focuses on cultural differences which limits a persons’ ability to apply acquired cultural knowledge in providing culturally appropriate interventions to culturally diverse individuals. Culture-specific knowledge about racial-ethnic groups may be unintentionally misused and become stereotyped generalizations. Similarly, the use of culture-general knowledge may also overlook important nuances necessary in making culturally appropriate judgments. The ability to develop appropriate intervention strategies and techniques are dependent on the ability to acquire and utilize cultural awareness, and cultural knowledge.

 

Cultural Knowledge is at the core of Transcultural Awareness.

 

Limited cultural knowledge results in a reliance on stereotyped generalizations about racial-cultural groups that increases the likelihood of inappropriate decision-making. Research has proven direct ongoing cross-cultural interactions facilitated cultural knowledge and cultural empathy, enabling helping individuals to connect with cultural diverse others to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of their daily lives, and to recognize universal commonalities that exists between them. Inherent in this level of knowledge is a better understanding of the social and political context in which other individuals live their lives.


A major difference between this experience and others is that it does not use the buzzwords "multiculturalism" or "diversity training." It also does not assume that the major social problem in the world is racism. Of course it acknowledges that racism does exist, but the Institute believes that the larger problem is one where conflicts and misperceptions about life-styles must be examined and discussed.


The educational system in any given cultural environment must reach beyond the exclusive interpretation of that very culture’s specific traditions that, in turn, shaped the very understanding (self-comprehension) of that culture. This has to be transcended towards the inclusion of other (genuinely different) traditions that have been shaped independently of one’s own culture into the cultural understanding of any given community (civilization). We must have an understanding of the other, of that which is different from ourselves. This implies a more profound awareness of our own culture; it allows us to define ourselves more adequately in distinction from the other(s).


The consequences in the field of education are obvious: Our educational curricula should not only include the teaching of Greco-Roman and Christian traditions but should also convey the knowledge of non-European traditions and religions such as Islam and Buddhism. Total Euro centric ignorance of other cultural environments that have been shaped outside of Europe and the United States has been the main breeding ground of cultural chauvinism and the root cause of imperialist aggression over the centuries.

Transcultural Awareness requires a reorientation of the information and media sector in regard to the stereotyping of other civilizations (the most drastic example being the present stereotyping of the Islamic civilization by the West).


On the level of international relations, this approach towards cultural self-comprehension requires a new method of cultural diplomacy, abandoning the propaganda-style presentation of one’s own civilization and promoting genuine transcultural encounters. The traditional crusader spirit has to be overcome in transcultural encounters, and the hegemony of Euro centric worldviews and life-styles in the international media and entertainment sector has to be counterbalanced by the unbiased presentation of other lifestyles.


          Each of our events is designed to bring people together to discuss a subject of common interest. By placing individuals in discussion groups with others from differing backgrounds we hope to broaden the perceptions we have of others, and to reduce the number of stereotypes we all have of people we normally never socialize with as peers. (We have put on similar events in New Jersey, New York and in Atlanta, Georgia.)     

          Transcultural Awareness is not limited to racial or ethnic awareness. This approach can be used to sensitize individuals from different nations, different classes, different age groups (the "Generation Gap"), or between male and female. It would be especially useful for individuals who must work in tense situations with others who are products of an entirely different, and often conflicting, lifestyle or subculture.


Multiculturalism, on the other hand, was conceptualized within the historical and sociopolitical context of the United States, and referred only to race, ethnicity, and culture.  


Policymakers and planners, government officials, teachers, law enforcement personnel, employers, supervisors and others in important positions of authority and power would greatly benefit from non-threatening encounters between themselves and the recipients of their decisions and actions. Transcending the horizon of one’s own tradition is the precondition for a better understanding of that particular cultural tradition.

 

This experience can open up opportunities for acquiring a set of personal attitudes, social sensitivities, and intellectual skills that are rarely, if ever, realized in regular workshops. 

This experience is designed to improve your awareness and knowledge of transcultural communication in preparation for working and socializing with individuals from a different lifestyle. We will use a participatory and active-learning approach which will emphasize an appreciation of cultural values, similarities and differences.

The attributes of cultural competence have been identified as using a tripartite model:

 

1.     awareness of one’s own personal beliefs, values, biases, and attitudes,

2.     awareness and knowledge of the worldview of culturally diverse individuals and groups, and

3.     utilization of culturally appropriate intervention skills and strategies

 

Assisting individuals to become self-aware and to examine their cultural attitudes/beliefs is an important attribute in developing cultural competence and increasing individual effectiveness with culturally diverse clients.

 

Innovative approaches to cultural competency-based training seek to move trainees to a level by which they are better able to consider differing worldviews and engage in critical reflective thinking in making judgments about situations that may differ from their own.

 

We have to learn to ‘see’ a situation from multiple perspectives and, if necessary, to reconcile them. It is about developing multiple potential interpretations and using critical reflective thinking to

choose which alternatives are most likely to provide effective strategies.

                                                                           Conclusion


In meeting the needs of a diverse nation and advancing global understanding, there is a demand for finding people who are culturally aware, culturally sensitive, and have specific cultural knowledge about individuals representing cultural groups who may live in the United States and around the world.


In 1940, transculturalism was originally defined by Fernando Ortiz. He defined transculturalism as the synthesis of two phases occurring simultaneously, one being a deculturalization of the past with the present, which meant "reinventing a new common culture". Such reinvention of a new common culture is based on the meeting and intermingling of the different peoples and cultures and the formation of a new form of humanism based on the idea of relinquishing the strong traditional identities and cultures which were products of imperialistic empires interspersed with dogmatic religious values. He also stated that transculturalism is based on the breaking down of boundaries, contrary to multiculturalism which reinforces boundaries based on past cultural heritages.

Transculturalism is rooted in the pursuit to define shared interests and common values across cultural and national borders. It can be tested by means of thinking "outside the box” of one's cultural upbringing, and by seeing many sides of every question without abandoning conviction, analogous to the way a chameleon is able to scan the environment in two directions at once without losing one's cultural center.


For those who are concerned about the future of the human race, a universal dialogue of civilizations is of crucial importance for the future of mankind, because such a dialogue is a basic condition of peace and stability on both the national and the transnational level. As stated by UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in 1974: "No nation, however large or powerful, can escape from the fundamental reality of our interdependence."


A Transcultural Awareness Experience

Unitarian Church, Montpelier, VT

Fall, 2017

(We search for a Common Ground)

Led by Offie C. Wortham, Ph. D.

(Contact @ itxinc@yahoo.com if interested in attending the program in the Fall of 2017)



Does Lifestyle Matter more than Race?

 

          Is a person’s lifestyle more important than their ethnicity or race in determining how successful they will be in achieving some form of happiness and success in their life? Too many people are failing to consider this important question because they cannot see or understand society beyond racial terms.


    
There are certain standards and patterns of behavior in our society that are admired and respected. There are others that are not. These patterns cut across lines of socio-economic class and education. Even among the least educated and less affluent there is an awareness of when a person “has no class.” The lifestyle of an individual is a more accurate indicator of the values, morals, ethics of an individual than their race or ethnicity.

The past Obama phenomena can be understood better if we view his acceptance as an acceptance of a preferred lifestyle. Highly educated, financially successful, articulate, clean-cut and “nice looking,” moderate in his politics, somewhat religious, and a good family man. This is the perfect image America wants to project to the world, and to itself. Obama transcended the racial issue by having the perfect lifestyle that we all desire! This far over-shadowed his mixed ancestry.

 

Conforming to the lifestyle of the group in power usually assures individuals of more acceptance and less discrimination. People like to associate with people who are as much like them as possible. We feel more comfortable with those who share a common language, religion, culture, and worldview. On the one hand we preach diversity, but in reality, we want to be with people who are just like us. This could be intellectually, spiritually, or who dress as we do, like the same past-times or hobbies, sports, or music. 


          Adults in the past were miss-educated to believe that various ethnic groups were either inferior or superior intellectually and morally. This is what we call racism. Certain aspects of a group’s culture; their music, their diet, their religion, their speech, their dress, the way they walked, and even their art, were deemed inferior and sometimes almost sub-human. 


We reject or accept certain groups or individuals because of their speech, their mannerisms, their behavior, their interest in education, and their appearance. The amount of money they make does not move them up one notch in social acceptance, as long as they continue to act and look like immoral and ignorant clowns. We have always discriminated by lifestyle throughout history. Only recently have we become confused and introduced race or ethnicity as primary factors in determining acceptance of human behavior, and forgot that lifestyle is really much more important than race.


If we could look at race, lifestyle and class as completely separate factors, then that would make the subject of this article easier to understand. However, the reality is that there is no way to completely untangle the interrelationship between lifestyle, race and class.


Your personal perspective reflects your racial lens and bias. Consider this: all things being equal, the less-educated of all racial groups will naturally end up at the bottom of the economic totem pole. Whites being in the majority of the population should outnumber blacks and other minorities at that level, and they do. However, past generations of under-educated whites have benefited the most from the  discrimination/exclusion of blacks and other people-of-color which resulted in most of them getting and keeping jobs and other benefits that they did not merit. This artificially suppressed the progress and advancement potential of generations of bright and talented minorities that became ensnared in poverty and despair. The greatest obstacle to a class based struggle in the United States has always been the racism of poor and working class whites. They would much rather cling to the lie and myth of white supremacy, even at the expense of their own economic advantage. This helps one to better understand the victory of Donald Trump. Lower class whites are also ill-treated in such an economy as the recent financial recession proved, but they are continually invited to vote against their own economic interest and against those 'others' who are taking their jobs, their education, their neighborhoods, and their country.

 

Some people think that it is social class alone which is the single most important factor that determines how ready a child is to learn when they start kindergarten. According to Kay S. Hymowitz at the Manhattan Institute, she writes that poor white kids score considerably lower in reading and math skills than middle-class white kids. Add race to the mix, and class still remains the Great Divide when it comes to school readiness. The educational achievement gap is now almost two times higher between lower and higher income students than it is between black and white students. “Since 1970 the class gap has grown by 30 to 40 percent, and has become the most potent predictor of school success,” says Stanford University’s Sean Reardon.

 

While single parent families are far more common among African-Americans than whites, less educated whites — who also tend to be lower income — are seeing an unprecedented dissolution of their families. Seventy percent of whites without a high school degree were part of an intact nuclear family in 1972; that number plummeted to 36 percent by 2008. (The comparable numbers for blacks were 54 percent and 21 percent.) This bodes ill for both populations, as father absence and family breakdown are strongly associated with poor outcomes for children, especially for boys.

 

The high demand for adult use of narcotics today also tells a very sad story. Polemics around poverty being tied to race are being diluted by this fact and the situation is very dire for this underclass as well as the societal impact this will have over the next 50 years. The scope of the problem is expanding to very large proportions and it cuts across racial lines. We may indeed be moving toward equality between ethnic groups in this country, but not through raising people up, but by dropping more people into the cellar, because the majority of Americans regardless of race are falling behind.

 

 It is very clear that people at a higher socio-economic level can afford more of the comforts of life and can live better and therefore have fewer worries. They also associate with people with similar positive accomplishments. (Went to a dinner party last week where the educational level of the doctors, professors, lawyers and artists around the table averaged around seven years beyond high school.)


          The research on educational gap shows that the income gap is increasingly widening in last decades and the bigger income gap is related to bigger educational achievement gap. Ask any teacher who teaches in an elementary school with significant economic diversity and they will tell you that the children of wealthier families come to school not only better prepared; but also with higher IQs. Once a family has acquired a level of higher education, (regardless of race) they make sure they pass that asset on to their offspring. Social skills or the lack thereof presently account for a good part of class disparities. However, a working class background is not always the reason for poorer reading and math scores.  




Pete Seeger Tribute


I first met Pete Seeger when I moved to Beacon, NY in 1999. On the first Friday of every month he held a meeting at his Sloop Club in Beacon. The Sloop Club was an offshoot of the Clearwater, which Pete had formed to clean up the pollution in the Hudson River. I made up my mind to meet Pete, and within a year I was the treasurer of the Sloop Club and even lived with my family in Pete’s original small house right next to his home at the top of a private mountain.

I enjoyed accompanying him on the train, or driving him to visits to his doctor in Manhattan or to visit friends. It was amazing to see the crowds of people that gravitated to him in Grand Central Station, or walking down the street wherever we went.

Pete was so humble and kind to everyone he met, inviting some of us to Thanksgiving Dinner with his family. Mickey and I spent weekends with Pete and Toshie and their daughter Tinya. The guest room was on the top floor of the barn that Pete had built himself. It was crowded with boxes of letters, instruments, awards and photographs which were eventually heading to the Smithsonian. There were instructions written on the walls of the bathroom in magic marker on how to flush the toilet and turn on the shower. Mickey was horrified when Pete showed us to the small room, and then expected us to sit down and sing with him. He introduced us to a new song, “God’s counting on You”, and the three of us sang the 8 verses together for the next hour. 

It is still difficult to comprehend that Pete and Toshie are no longer physically with us. Their partnership, their vision for a just and clean planet, and his music and her drive, affected the world for the better, and we will never forget them.


Read More Columns by Offie Wortham OPEN MIND SEASON 1 in the Archive.