Many a perfectly good candidate of the male variety has been rejected for the position of my husband. More often than not, because he belongs to a different cultural group than mine. And no, this isn’t trite trashing of the caste system in India. The point I am thinking of today, according to what I recently learned, is called ethnocentrism.
“Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own.” – from the ever so wise Wikipedia.
In effect it is the predisposition to see the world with the eyes of one’s own culture. Anything that fits in our culture is right. Anything which doesn’t is wrong. Black and white.
Kissing in public is completely normal in American culture. But you get sent to jail for doing the same in India.
Americans think that the British drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
So ethnocentrism exists everywhere, because we(humans) are conditioned that way since birth. We always make assumptions about someone else without being aware that we are making an assumption.
Looking at it from a liberated mind’s view, ethnocentrism has a negative connotation. Living in today’s world it can bring to mind big bad things like hatred, violence, terrorism and racism. And sure, taking the extremist view, it is highly possible that ethnocentrism is the cause. And looking at it in milder day to day terms, it causes issues like Shiv Sainiks blaming women who go to pubs as morally bankrupt.
But I also see positives. The idea of having a group and believing it to be superior acts to provide a sense of belonging to people which is important for emotional well being. Americans are highly ethnocentric but they are also highly patriotic and believe that they have a better lifestyle than most of the world. This keeps them happy.
I read about this ritual of forced female genital mutilation that exists in some African cultures. Think about this:
A brutal ritual in which the clitoris of a girl or a woman is cut to deny her the opportunity to ever experience sexual gratification.
Are you back? The shock is apparently an ethnocentric response. And I think I wouldn’t mind being called ethnocentric if the opposite was to accept that its okay to treat anyone like this in the name of ritual.
So the first question that popped to mind was, why? Why does this phenomenon exist? Being a Darwin fan, I had to take the evolution route.
My humble conclusion: Because it allows to have large diversity of customs, traditions and ways of life. The more the differences, the more chances of developing better and stronger gene variety.
What do you think?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.