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Sunday, October 11, 2009

On National Sterotypes - Which One is Throwing the Rocks?

It is that diaper-head over there, Dummy! Yes, We speak Latin.

National stereotypes and how we can get rid of them. We can’t. They will always be there. One thing we have to do is to cut down on the degree of mordancy they are expressed. That said, I cannot help but be amazed at the number of things we see on the Internet.

Some videos are just plain malevolent. Some are malevolently real. Some just hearsay, not based on fact. How to filter out the good from the bad?

I touched on the subject when I wrote “A Bit More Where I Come from” on this blog. Based on baseless stereotypes, Brazilian women are considered an easy lay and most of them have less than a stellar reputation in European housewives’ lore. Or that we are sex machines. I beg to differ!

In the last decade, much has been said about how much Americans ignore of the world and its inhabitants. The Bush wars (and era) made that plain when the media explored Americans' less than accurate knowledge of world affairs. Okay. The problem is, to quote a friend: “just the interviewed ones”. True. People who have had contact with the nation – and who have first hand contact with Americans - up north will say that most of what we see and hear is just that, exaggeration.

Surely, I have caught myself explaining that Buenos Aires is in Argentina and that Maradona is Argentinian not Brazilian. Pelé is Brazilian. So what? That lady living in that little shack up on the hills (Oops, or that penthouse in Ipanema) in Rio de Janeiro is just as ignorant of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, for example. Or that Bernard Madoff is a priest of evil - to go a bit over the top.

It is very true that in the United States we will find excellence in education and that the best minds in Science make their homes in that country. That the meds we take com from American labs, or the money we remit to the U.S. every time we use our VISA for instance, or the tithing we pay at that particular religious denomination we happen to belong to, or the computers we use, by the way. So, we could make the case that ignorant people do not think that far, or wide. That, alone, is enough to rest my case.

However, popular belief still affirms to the contrary when yes, people up north could make an extra effort and learn more languages. What for? Isn’t English a global language, already? Yes, it is. But then, when we learn a foreign language, we will also widen our sense of identity. True.

This is just an appetizer. We cannot, for reasons of space, ramble on about the Chinese, the Japanese, the Scots, the Irish, the Welsh, the Chilean. I am sure they all have their national peculiarities. Wonderful. To quote Vanessa Redgrave on Larry King Live years ago: “Thank God for diversity!” Praise Him/Her, indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Mauro, I would reaffirm some of your assertions, especially how many from the United States are unwilling to broaden their sense of who they are and what they know about the world. It is very difficult to get them to expand themselves. Most of that comes from unwarranted fear and blatant arrogance.

    Though most of my friends can no longer speak the second modern language they learned in high school, most can still read those languages. Unfortunately, I can't say that about most people in the states. Usually, they learn as little as they can and dump the the information as soon as they can. Learning a second language is a bother to them.

    We tend to take education for granted. I think that is because most of our population never has to see what happens in a society where formal education is very difficult to attain. US citizens could learn a lot from others in the world, but they choose not to. That is there loss by my account.