The second essay assignment topic: “Discuss the quandary confronted by young people in many of the cultures that we studied this semester whether and how to maintain their distinctive cultural identities in a rapidly changing, increasingly globalized world” I think I should start by stating why picked this topic despite the fact ther‚s has been no lecture dedicated for it unlike the first two, in fact this specific topic interests me because in a way it’s a problem that I’ve been struggling with for 5 years now since I came here to the USA from Egypt.
Originally I am part of the Coptic nation and the word “Coptic” is used to refer to the Christians of Egypt, it’s relatively a big group compared to all the groups that we studied this semester (Almost 15 million which represents 20% of the total population in Egypt).
They are very unique in many aspects and have a very rich culture that was formed over thousands of years in Egypt so I relocated from a totally different atmosphere, which can be described as “conservative” so we share some values with the southern part of the US specially on the social issues but I guess I was very lucky to live in Delaware hich is a very liberal state so had my share of the initial culture shock specially at the beginning even little things like seeing a girl smoking was highly odd for me because for 1 9 years never saw a girl smoking in public, so fell into Ethnocentrism for very long time and unfortunately I was applying my rules into a totally different environment.
I think that the Gitxsan and the O’odham are very culturally challenged more than any other group specially when it comes to the young people because they are surrounded by well-developed communities from a technological and economical stand point in both Canada and the United States of America respectively, unlike the Tongans or the Trojans or the Tiv which can all be considered small closed communities and only experience acculturation when the external world connects with them, the Gitxsan or the O’odham are very different because they live among this external world so that they have to connect with it which ultimately means that their culture is exposed to a lot of external effect.
So no doubt that the young people in those communities are struggling between maintaining their original identity and being part of the modern world and the common argument was always that they should do both, eaning that they should try to maintain who they are without having hard time getting adapted to everything outside their homes but in reality most of them find it really hard to do that and some of them consider it to be hypocrisy to be part of a traditional culture adhering to some certain rules and at the same time to be part of the modern world in which those rules are just some jokes, so instead of falling into this highly polarized argument think we should start by asking a simple question about how teenagers from traditional societies like the Gitxsan and the O’odham would benefit from taying part of their own cultures, the answer is very simple: having a different culture or background always creates some kind of fascination associated with the majority itself driven by curiosity about this different element among them, even though some minority kids at schools may be bullied or given the impression that they aren’t welcomed, affirmative action was put in place in many countries to help minorities in education and job places on the other hand whoever looses his culture looses his identity and gains no respect, reading about how the teenagers in the Gitxsan and the
O’odham areas participate in social events reminded me of some Hispanic high school student in Texas few years ago who failed themselves in the Spanish exams in order to tell the whole world that they have nothing to do with their ouwl communities which is very sad in my opinion to see a group of people really hate where they came from to that extend. So in a word its actually a good thing for those young people to maintain part Of their traditional culture and bring it with them into the surrounding modern society While we are starting the third era of globalization which is lead by a assive revolution in Information Technology which made it very easy for a Tongan child in the pacific ocean to learn about how the Gitxsan homes in Canada look from inside, it made it also easier for the Tongan and the Gitxsan children to see how modern homes look like in the United States and European countries (Like Thomas Freedman said: Its a flat world now! But the problem from the traditional families point of view is much bigger than that, it’s the fact that life is modern society which in the Gitxsan case would be the Canadian society and the American society in the case of the O’odham ives easier access to some of the highly desired things for teenagers like sex, drugs and more freedom of choice (less family control), funny fact: those things are known in the Coptic community as the forbidden fruits! And that makes teenagers think that the only was to get those things is by forgetting everything about their traditional societies and becoming part of the modern world where none can control them.
The other main challenge faced by the young people in the traditional communities living among the modern societies is that the huge need that they have towards modern societies, for an example the Gitxsan children iving in British Columbia don’t go to private Gitxsan schools but most of them go to public schools managed by their own districts, and after graduating high school they can either take a job or they can attend college and then take a job after graduation and in both ways they need to socialize with the external world which means that they need to members of it too beside being members of their own cultures which ultimately means that their cultures will have to be affected, same thing applies for the O’odham who actually have a community college in Arizona where they can express their own culture more reely but still will be faced by lots of challenges once the students graduate and start being part of the labor market. I think the way out of those dilemmas is by going back to the root of the problem itself, if we assume that the characteristics of the identity of the people living is any society (doesn’t have to be traditional) is defined by their cultures and their cultures have many aspects like religion, food (subsistence), clothes, music, art, language, values & traditions… etc.
Then in order for an individual coming from a traditional society to become a member of any odern society he or she needs to carry out with them some of those aspects and leave the others because if they carry all the aspects it means that they would never become part of the modern world and if they leave all of them it simply means that they are loosing their own personal identity and I think the question that comes to mind is which aspects should be carried over and which ones should be left and there will be absolutely no one clear cut answer for this question because those aspects vary in their importance from a culture to another and in the degree of acceptance they will find in the odern society. The first aspect that usually get kicked out in my case is food, haven’t had a traditional Egyptian meal in years now, on the other had this aspect in the Asian cultures is very important and that’s why there are so many Chinese and Thai restaurants that serve authentic Asian food so again it vanes from culture into another.
The good thing is that there’s a wide belief driven by human rights in the modern societies like the US and Europe to respect the other cultures even the unpopular ones like the Islamic culture (struggling more in Europe than he US), it’s a common scene in the streets in Europe now to see many Muslim women wearing the Niqab which is a very conservative Islamic female dress that basically cover the whole body, so the fact is if ther‚s a certain aspect of any traditional culture is very important for this culture, this aspect will be respected (or at least not opposed) in modern societies no matter how weird it might look like.