Cultural Ignorance: A Rant


Warning: This post contains a culturally ignorant comment. The comment has abusive language, so be forewarned.

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” ~ Mark Twain

One of my first posts on my blog was, “You Know You’re a Gringa When…” It contained a list of comical things I encountered when I was living on Ometepe Island six years ago. My blog was less than a week old. The digital ink was probably still wet and I was lucky to have two hits a day.

So, when I opened the administrator’s page and noticed a comment from a reader, I was thrilled. It was my first comment waiting patiently for me to approve.

Comment: author: Bingo
Blow me … you know your an asshole when you write a list like this … sorry gringos dont live in squalor and enjoy the finer things in life like warm water, trash removal, and proper sewage systems … FUCK YOU

I stared at the comment, unable to understand what caused Bingo to write such a hateful response to a total stranger. After my initial shock, I composed an email to Bingo questioning his anger and sincerely wanting to know what set him off about my post. But, Bingo’s email address: blowmeasshole@fuckingidiot.com was a fake.

The IP address of the computer, from which Bingo’s comment was sent, was below the fake email. Clicking on the IP address took me to Roadrunner’s Corporate Headquarters. I discovered that Bingo worked as a clerk in a Roadrunner store in W. Virginia.The IP identified the exact Roadrunner store. By this time, my compassion for culturally ignorant people had disappeared, so I sent a copy of Bingo’s comment to the Roadrunner Headquarters along with a note that said, ” You may want to have a little chat with Bingo. Maybe cultural diversity and tolerance seminars should be included in training sessions for your employees, along with the appropriate use of work computers. Thank you for your consideration.”

I encounter cultural ignorance again and again, but not from everyone. When meeting new people or replying to articles, usually from Yahoo, I now very quickly divide them into one of two groups. One is the type of person that makes these kind of wild comments: “I am an American, love it or leave it.”  (I am tempted to respond, “I live in America, too. Nicaragua is in Central America.”) or “Isn’t there a war going on there?”  (For which I reply, ” Buddy, you are about 20 years behind the times.”) or “You should be ashamed of yourself! Your pension should be denied because you are not living in the United States.” ( I wonder, “Why should I be ashamed? I paid my dues in the USA  by teaching your culturally ignorant children for 25 years. I tried my best to instill cultural compassion in your children, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”)

These are not the “mouth shut” kind of people. Their ignorance of foreign cultures and insensitive statements spreads hatred throughout the world like a Swine flu epidemic.( which, by the way, we are experiencing in Nicaragua.) I’m not saying cultural ignorance is a bad thing. Even with the internet, where we can reach out to the world and describe our daily lives in a foreign culture, there is way too much diversity for any one person to grasp even the basic knowledge of every culture in the world. That’s why I write my blog. That’s why you respond with questions about our lives in Nicaragua.

I believe that it is impossible to fully understand a foreign culture without being immersed in it for a couple of years. I’ve been in Nicaragua for eight years and I still don’t fully understand the culture. So, I guess we are all doomed to be culturally ignorant. At best, we must make an attempt to explore cultural diversity with eyes without borders. We must cultivate an attitude of tolerance and accept the fact that we don’t know everything…our knowledge is limited.That attitude comprises the people in the other group…all of my compassionate, curious, and tolerant followers of my blog. Thank you for being a part of my life.

I can accept cultural ignorance. What I can’t accept is intolerance, stereotypes, bigotry, extreme nationalism, and hatred. Back to Bingo’s comment… why the hatred? Is it deep-seated jealousy? Is it fear? Is it an attitude of extreme nationalism that has crippled the great United States of America? Quien sabe?

It depresses me to think that the people of the world will never fully understand one another. It may not matter to most people, but it matters to me. That’s why I write…that’s how I live…everyday trying to understand a bit more. My friend, Bill ( We moved to Nicaragua because he needed someone to manage his youth hostel on Ometepe Island.) used to tell me, “We’re all here because we’re not all there. You will know you have arrived when you don’t perceive litter as a bad thing.” I guess I’m getting closer to ‘being there’ because I can overlook most of the litter. When it gets intolerable, then I take my plastic bag to the beach and pick it up. I don’t know if I will ever fully ‘arrive’. That’s a universal question, one that I don’t have time to think about now. There’s still too much litter in the world.

 

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Cultural Ignorance: A Rant

  1. Hello again, loved your efforts to discuss Bingo’s concerns. My dad grew up in WV and went back to retire there, he always said that was a mistake. He’d been around the world and expected the locals to have grown with him – sadly not the case! But hey there are good people there as everywhere but it only takes one apple to ruin it for the others in the barrel. I really enjoy following your blog. I’m so wishy washy, maybe I’ll be down to visit one day. Thanks for your interesting posts!

  2. I’m really taken back at what “Bingo” posted. I take it that person has absolutly no clue what happiness is all about…JERK..
    You keep up the good work and inspiring daily words of your world and we will share the same with you..
    Thank you for what you give to us and allowing us in your world.

  3. Hello,
    I think people like bingo are depressed. You taught for 25 years. That is a long time and you deserve to enjoy life wherever you want. It sucked to hear that your first post was a negative post but what matters is you kept going. Thank you. i was wondering if there is a large expat community and is there violence like in el salvador and mexico? I like your posts.

    • Hi Rod,
      Thanks for leaving a comment. Yep…that’s me…I keep on doing what I love. On Ometepe Island, we have a growing expat community. Six years ago we were the only foreigners on the large side of the island. The other side of the island had a few expats, but not many. Now, we have our own OmetepeExpat google group. I really don’t know how many foreigners are living on Ometepe Island. I’d like to find out. My guess is about 100 people. Our island has a population of 35,000 people. Granada and San Juan del Sur have large numbers of expats. I prefer to live on the island where life is very tranquil. We have no violence on Ometepe Island. There are petty crimes, mainly crimes of opportunity. If you leave something outside, chances are that it won’t be there in the morning. But, we have a neighborhood watch with the locals…we live in a small, all Spanish speaking community and we all look out for one another. I have a post about the reasons why Nicaragua has the lowest violent crime rate in Central America. The post is called “Crimes of Opportunity.” Glad you enjoy my posts.

  4. Nice post. If you take comments on blogs, message boards, or new articles too seriously it can quickly destroy all faith in human beings. Luckily, attitudes like mister roadrunner there are mostly held by harmless losers that spout there bile to make up for the utter uselessness of the rest of their lives.

    Enjoy reading your blog – I went to high school in Mangua back in early seventies and have a deep love for the country. After all these years, it still feels like home in my heart – though I’m far far away.

    • Bill, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Isn’t it strange how Nicaragua grabs you and holds you tight like a lover that’s afraid of getting jilted? At least, that’s how I feel. I knew the minute we arrived that we were supposed to be here.
      Sometimes, when I’m bored ( which doesn’t happen often around here), I read through comments on Yahoo, and other news articles. Instead of being shocked and appalled, I mostly feel sorry for them. What a horrible way to live, victims of their own anger and hatred. Pitiful really.

  5. I love your blog! I also don’t understand why people are sometimes so intensely hateful. I think maybe they are just so consumed with self loathing and anger that they use any outlet they can. I also think that sometimes people feel less inhibited by this kind of contact while using the internet….. something about the faceless anonymity of cyberspace.

    :)

    Tamara

    • I think you’re right, Tamara. It’s a crazy world in cyberspace….anything goes. But, I believe there are consequences for every action….good and bad. Those consequences for inappropriate actions may not come back to haunt one immediately, but sooner or later, they’ll bite, like a snake in the grass.

  6. While none of us can ever really understand our OWN culture, I consider it a blessing to meet and learn from people of many nations scattered around the world. They enrich my world in ways just reading never can, and I never fear, but indeed embrace their rich and diverse cultures, It’s a shame that some people live such narrow, small lives in fear of anything that differs from their narrow experiences. They are missing out on learning about our whole wide wonderful world – - – what a shame! I’m glad you reported this person – perhaps now he can learn that ignorance and bad behavior inevitably has consequences. My family has been blessed with friends from many different countries – and it IS a blessing, to be sure! I’ll make it down there one day, Deb!!!

    • You know, I never looked at it from the perspective of an insider trying to understand my OWN culture. For some crazy reason, I have always looked at other cultures from a bystander’s point of view. Now, you really have me thinking! Maybe I’m culturally challenged in all countries, including my own. I’m like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Well, if that’s the case…it makes life interesting. Get a ticket…come see us…the hammock’s waiting. :-)

  7. I think this has been the best post you’ve ever done. It sums up what I have believed for quite some time. I always try to understand a person’s motivation, but sometimes it’s hard to fathom. Keep the faith.

    Docsurf

    PS…bravo to you for following up with the employer…did you ever get a response?

    • Doc, you inspire me. Thank you. Yes, I did get a response. The corporate headquarters said they received my email and were initiating an investigation. However, I guess I’ll never know what happened to Bingo. I hope he didn’t get fired. Poor ignorant guy. But, I wish they would take my advice and start cultural sensitivity training in ALL workplaces.

  8. I LOVE that you sent that email off to Roadrunner Headquarters!

    Unfortunately, we cannot change the world. Maybe, as we change ourselves we inspire other people? Well, that’s what I hope for :)

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