combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2003

Cross-Cultural Anomie

The ugly truth about social organization is that everyone is an outsider at some level and in some circumstances; and the proof of this is the fact that we all die utterly alone. The contrasts are most evident in cross-cultural and international relations, but the distinctions exist down to the family level. We not only have unique behavior for social rituals but also have discrete conduct for particular milieus, which tend to change according to their composition or occasion. What is unsuitable at a funeral is entirely appropriate at a wedding; and salon deportment will conflict with saloon comportment.

While standing vigil outside a hamlet, I observed a young Montagnard woman thread her way along a path. She wore a wrap-around skirt in her tribal colors and some bracelets. Her bare feet were almost as wide as long, and had the appearance of socks from the dust she scuffed-up in walking. Her small breasts were bisected by the blanket-cradle she wore over one shoulder to carry her child while working. Her hair was neatly drawn-back from her squarish face, and her dark eyes scanned her approach. She carried a large and heavy load on top of her head, and balanced it with one upraised hand. When close enough, her smile was polite, being one of recognition without invitation, and it revealed her status by her filed teeth. I thought of the different scene such a scenario would elicit back home, but all the essential social signals were present. The cultural norms cosmetizing a woman in my own country would've conveyed the same information ... busy, aloof, and married.

From another neighborhood to another country, most foreigners arrogantly carry their attitudes and customs into their new environments, and then wonder why their reception is so unwelcoming. A mark of civilization was once the extension of tolerance from a host to any guest, and the sophisticate aspired to linguistic and cultural skill acquisitions which would grant interactive parity. It was important not to offend one's host any more than ignorance made absolutely necessary ... and a little experience went a long way toward accomplishing common objectives. At some point during the war's escalation, the world underwent ethos homogenization in an effort to modernize ... and the result was that everyone kept their own provincial standards, and universal diversity condoned the disassociated mixture. When no one needs to accommodate anyone or anything else, because value judgements are discriminatory, then competition and conflict become constants.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.