Thursday, December 15, 2005

Freedom, Assimilation and Parallel Universes

As you travel you will see that usually countries that are not free politically seem to be free on a grass-root level.
Freedoms of people to do business without special permits, to make love and show affection for each other are
often in inverse proportion to the political freedoms. Many societies where one is free to practice all kinds of
politics and say anything one wants are often regulated on the grass-root level with too many rules and ordinances
to control the daily lives of people.


Facts about assimilation into other societies: 100% assimilation into any new place is impossible. Even within the same
country moving from one place to another and being completely accepted in it as its member is impossible.
With foreign countries it is naturally harder but the elements of assimilation are as follows:
1) Race/ethnicity/tribe : is one a member of any of the majority races/ethnicities that are present in the country? Does one look like
someone who could possibly be from there? Can one's facial features pass for those of a long standing member of that
2) Language. Do you, or can you learn to speak the same language and with the same accent as the locals? Even if you learn the
language that may not be your own, you will still have to deal with the accent factor, especially when you are on the phone. Do you know
the idioms, proverbs and the slang in that language? Can you use them well and in all the appropriate situations?
3) Mannerism- can you move, walk and use the same body language as the locals? If not, can you learn it?
4) Dress and hair. Can you master the way the locals dress and cut their hair? This may give you way even if all the other
things coincide.
5) Thinking. Can you think and form ideas the way the locals do? Do you agree with the way they view the world.
6) Religion and citizenship. Do you, or are you willing to practice the same religion as the majority of the population or any other large group
inside of that country? Are you willing, and/or allowed to become a citizen, or are you a citizen already? Are people of your ancestry allowed
to become full citizens in that particular place?
7) Educational background. Can you behave like a person who had been educated in that country and taken the same subjects
as what locals normally take there?
8) Historic knowledge and national self-consciousness. Are you familiar with the history of the country, its place in the world ( the way the locals see it) and the complexes
and grievances that it has towards other countries or other "groups" of peoples. Are you familiar with how it formed and do you feel that you are ( or, you
can behave as if, you 'were' formed as part of that country).
9)Your name. Does your name sound like the majority of names in that place? Can it pass for a name of a local?

Each one of the above counts for 10% of the total. One is missing- your birth in that country and, in many cases, the birthplace of your parents and grandparents.
Since, assuming that you were not born there, you will not be 100% assimilated. If you do something bad or have to complete for jobs and other things with the real locals during hard times, you will be painfully reminded of your foreign birth. If you do something great, it will be forgotten and you will be declared a full local.

Cases in point. Joao Fernandes migrates from Portugal to Brazil. After some 10 years in the country, he loses his accent and assimilates into the Brazilian society
and is treated like any other Brazilian. Li Hwa Peng arrives in Brazil from China and studies Portuguese. He speaks it with an accent and is never really treated like a local. The people are friendly however and he has few problems except that people always ask him where he is from, which is not the case with Joao Fernandez.

Jon Smith moves to Japan. He learns the language until he is completely fluent in it and becomes a citizen of Japan. He learns the culture very well and speaks and acts like a local. However, he is not allowed to rent apartments in most parts of the country and some hotels and bath houses do not let him in. The man is not Japanese and never will be.

Hans Gruber was born in Russia and speaks, looks and thinks as a Russian. However, because of its very conservative blood laws, the Russian government considers him to be a German even though his family has been in the country 200 years. He has many obstacles getting employment because of his last name and is called a "Kraut"
by many Russians. Even though he is a citizen on paper, his birth certificate says " Nationality "German". His neighbors treat him as a German as well. However, in daily lives with students at the university and people in the neighborhood, he is not suffering that much. He has many friends and has recently gotten married after he had
finally gotten a job in spite of many struggles. He has decided to change his name to his wife's name and change Hans to Ivan to further his assimilation.

Immigrant countries in the Americas are much better places to assimilate into than the homogeneous countries if Europe and Asia. Recent events in France have proven it. However, even in such immigrant countries as Australia or the US, a group that is more recent, less numerous and more conspicuous will still experience problems from the people who had been there before them and who had been born and raised there.

The rule seems to be this: if your assimilation chances are below 60%, you had better have some really good qualifications that will knock people out cold, and, if the laws of the country as well as its culture still put obstacles in your way, move some place where you can make some money and come back with money. Money usually facilitates the assimilation process as nothing else would. But even that may not offer a hundred percent protection when angry masses of teed off natives roam around, looking to beat up on the newcomers.

There are people who are really out of luck such as poor illegals who are not wanted in their country or displaced groups who have nowhere to go- Indians in Africa, children of African illegals in Saudi Arabia. If you are not one of them, be grateful. Those folks are really screwed.

We see other cultures as both inferior and superior to ours. The reason we do so is because we use our own cultural standards, i.e. things that we learned as important in the societies in which we grew up. So, when we see new societies we compare them to the values that we have learned from parents, schools and peers in the places where we grew up.

People from such a spiritual country as India may admire the United States for its wealth and technology but be appalled by the spiritual poverty. An American in India may enjoy the spirituality of the people but be appalled by the physical poverty that is there. South East Asians will also admire America for its money, but be appalled by the lack of friendliness, the way children abandon their parents and the general lack of the sense of community in the country. American travelers in S.E Asia are amazed at the friendliness of the people but find the social interdependence that people there display as a sign of weakness. They also see the countries as being dirt and disorganized. Americans see Brits as being sophisticated but cold and impersonal and Brits see Americans as being loud mouthed, pushy and disrespectful of one's privacy, albeit funny and entertaining when one socializes with them. However when one is with the culture that one grew up in, one cannot see it as an outsider and is not aware of its many things the way a person from somewhere else could be.

Oh, they are so friendly!

After my many visits to foreign lands I would come and tell my family about how friendly the people there were. My dad would listen to my stories with a smirk. He would then tell me " You will only know about the people when you start sharing daily bread with them". People who are friendly to a new face in a foreign land will turn into devils if you end up costing them money or taking away from them rather than contributing. People are selfish any way you look at it and they like you because you are a novelty and can ( at least as far as their hope for you goes) improve their condition of life, be it as a source of entertainment, friendship, love, or most importantly, new money and profit. If you do not deliver as they hoped and become a burden, few will help you. Most admiration they had for you will turn to scorn. Unless you run into some holy man, your experience is such a land will turn into hell alongside with the new devils by your side.

By the same token a person who visits a country will form a completely different impression of it from the one who has to work and live there. A guest is always treated differently from a resident. Again, being a new face who is relaxed and on a visit and does not have to work and take away jobs from the locals works in one's favor. People like guests or tourists. Once you start living and working there, your whole perception changes and you will have to go through a big culture shock from which you may or may not recover completely.

Other languages- parallel universes:

As you learn a new language to the point where you begin to think in it and read literature in it, you will feel like you will develop a whole new personality and move into a parallel universe. Concepts will be different, the flow of thought will be different and many words will have no equivalent in your native tongue. Some expressions and adjectives will have approximate counterparts but never the same. The music of the language and the colors, tastes and sounds that it contains will reflect the centuries and millennia in which it formed by the people who had had a different history and values from your won. Ones you reach the point when no translation is necessary and every time a new word or sentence is pronounced you can picture, taste or smell what it says, your move into a parallel universe will be complete. You will for all intents and purposes become a different person, while still remaining yourself in so many ways. You will also understand why so many misunderstandings occur between your culture and the culture whose language you have just learned. However, there are five to six thousand languages in the world so, to understand the way humanity really feels and sees itself and the universe around it, you will need to approach native fluency in those languages. This is a chronological impossibility as you will need at least a year of constant immersion and insanely intensive study to master at least one. No one lives 5000 years and even if reincarnation were possible, you would need to be able to recall all the other languages from past lifetimes. It has never been known to happen. Consequently, complete understanding of humanity and all the nuances in the way it perceives and expresses life is utterly impossible.

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