Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reverse culture shock

I've been enjoying a series from Plugged In Online (Focus on the Family's culture and media review site). It's about "reverse culture shock" - what Meredith Whitmore is experiencing upon returning to the US after spending five years in remote parts of Africa and Asia.

Here's a sample from the first article in the series, "Letting the Joneses Win."
Even during difficult financial times, we still have so much in the United States that we don't fully recognize or appreciate a lot of it. And as I watch those around me extend themselves in order to get more, I can't help but think that the intoxicating push to accept all of this as "normal" hugely affects each of us in some way.

Actually, there's a little game of sorts you can use to test this theory. Try it with a group of kids. If you don't have access to children, try it with a group of adults who act like children. It might measure, on some level, how much the pressure to amass possessions and be fulfilled through them has influenced our society:

First, find an empty glass bottle and a stick. Next, place the bottle on an empty stretch of dirt—if you can find one wedged in between all the concrete. Invite the group to roll the bottle around with the stick, pass it with their feet or run around with it for a few minutes. Then observe their responses.

Will they invent new games with their bottle and stick? Smile with delight? Giggle with glee?

I predict not.

But in parts of the Third World with few resources and even less income, I have watched boys play with Coca-Cola bottles for an entire hour. And they didn't feel at all deprived. Resourceful to the core, they could have fun and be creative with lots of things we wouldn't even consider in the West.

Why? Possibly because American advertising had never told them that a bottle is boring.
Today's topic (and ever so dear to my heart) is about communication (or lack of it) in our culture: Talkin' in the USA. Next week Ms. Whitmore will talk about our culture's celebrity obsession.

These articles (and many others from Plugged In) have made for some great conversation around the Raising Five dinner table. I'm sad to say a few of my kids would have been bored with the Coca Cola bottle (One child, who shall remain nameless, said, "A whole HOUR?? You're kidding, right?"). See why we think all kids need a third-world experience before they leave home??

On the bright side, I will say they might have tried to recycle it.

We're a work in progress here...

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Ginger said...

Amen! Less is more! I'll go check out that series. Thanks for the head's up.

se7en said...

Aaaah! It is so much easier to raise your kids in a first/third world country... we live in Cape Town. Friends of my kids live in mansions with everything that opens and closes (computers, sports, Wii, overseas holidays etc) and others live in shacks with nothing (no running water, no electricity, no stuff to mention, no after school activities)... for years my kids didn't notice the difference but the older ones are starting to figure it out... And they don't seem to think that those with more "materials" are necessarily better off... there are advantages and disadvantages to every life situation... We are called to be content!

A great book about this is The Re-entry Team by Lou Pirolo... excellent read! Thanks for pointing us to a great series!

Laurel said...

Great thoughts!

My 4 youngest (ages 7, 7, 9, 10) would definitely find a way to play with the bottle for an hour. :)

I TOTALLY agree that all teens and young adults need experiences in 3rd world countries. I have 3 young adults serving the Lord overseas right now, and 2 others that have also spent time in 3rd world countries.


mama of 13

Joyfulness said...

I'm laughing about the recycling comment. That's probably what my kids would think of too.