Beyond Culture

I attended a fantastic cross-cultural training session last week.  I hadn’t realized how important it is for me to embrace my role as a guest here in a foreign country, and to recognize my cultural biases.  One of the most interesting questions we were asked was, “What norms go beyond culture?”  For example, most societies value honesty, fairness, and generosity (although those would be defined differently by culture).  Another question was, “What norms are universally unacceptable? ”  That is, what is “not okay” for most people, regardless of culture?  Our speaker proposed the following:

  • Complete nakedness (with the exception of some tribal groups and French beaches, most societies agree that some parts should be covered in public- although they disagree as to which parts).
  • To cause harm to another.
  • To degrade another (take away human dignity).
  • Violence.

We could, of course, discuss and debate this list for days.  What strikes me about it is that much of mainstream pornography (and certainly child pornography) contains- indeed, promotes- all four elements.  That makes porn both universally unacceptable and universally widespread.  Interesting.

In January of this year, a former British Monk was arrested on charges of creating and distributing child pornography from Northern Thailand.  Hundreds of images were found on his computer.  Last week he was given a suspended sentence (for pleading guilty) and basically will provide 48 hours of community service.

As long as there is a disconnect between what we affirm and what we allow, the innocent will continue to suffer.

There are some values that transcend culture- like justice, mercy, freedom, love.

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