Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Changing the Culture

"What do you think is the main difference between our culture and American culture?"

Mr. Awesome unknowingly asked the question at almost the exact hour that the bombings occurred in Boston yesterday. We were out running errands and discussing a familiar topic; kids. We are working on a community project that will affect all the kids in our community in a positive way ... hopefully. After a lag in the conversation Mr. Awesome posed that question and my answer was immediate.


We have often discussed the different vibe each culture puts off, the reputations each country has internationally and the top priorities of each citizenship as topics play out in the media.  When you turn on Canadian news the lead stories are often about policy, political agendas and environmental concerns. In The States lead stories are almost always crime reports, violent crime reports with high death tolls and gruesome details. And the slant on the reporting, in my opinion, fuel fear. And out of fear comes isolation, people pull away from each other and begin to fear the unknown, fear what is different. They begin to fear each other.

Violent crimes happen in Canada. Natural disasters, horrible highway collisions and freak accidents all happen in Canada and they are often reported in the news but somehow the same measure of fear is not infused into the reporting and therefore is not part of our cultural tone. Or because fear isn't part of our cultural tone, its not accepted in our reporting? Either way, Canadians, by and large, do not operate from a basis of fear. Its just not how we roll.

For instance, take a look at this picture

Both images are from The Huffington Post. Both are from today. Can you guess which one is from the Canadian coverage and which is from the American? The Canadian coverage, on the top, makes a declaration of the future. The American coverage, below, seems stuck in the moment of devastation. The Canadian cover quotes the Mayor of Boston's declaration of community. The American cover doesn't. Which would you choose to focus on?

I have many American friends, some of whom are authors. I know them to be kind hearted, hopeful and loving people and most of them have used their fame and success to advocate kindness and humanity. Most of them are involved in their communities and they spend their time and influence on social media to spread messages of hope, peace and acceptance. One author friend is very involved with animal rescue, another is planning an anti-bullying conference (Less Than Three) and still another has taken her voice into prisons to help women rehabilitate and reconnect with their children. They could have chosen to let fear keep them in the prison of their own experiences but they chose to be beacons of hope where they are with what they have. They have stepped beyond their fear and into community.

Bad things are going to happen. Fear is going to creep around the edges of our mind, looking for a weakness but we have a choice. We can indulge our fears and build barriers that will keep us prisoners to our fear or we can declare that in the face of fear there is hope. We can isolate ourselves or we can embrace our neighbour and face our fears together, as a community. We can hide alone or we can borrow strength from each other.

Here's another picture to ponder ...

No matter where you live, what culture you are from or what your natural tendencies are, you can always choose hope. You can always choose light over darkness. You can always choose to be a Helper instead of a victim. You can always choose community over lonliness. You can always choose.

No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.
~Dalai Lama XIV

No comments: