CULTURAL STEREOTYPE

8.28.2009

 

 

A very popular theme when we are in a different cultural context is the theme of  stereotypes. As Brazilians, it is a fact that we hear repeatedly about our  behavior, of our  culture  and of our  parents  pretty much the same speech.

Stereotyping means according to the definition of the verb 'to make something fixed, unalterable', that is, in theory, if something is 'stereotyped' it automatically excludes possibilities of change or of being simply something beyond what has already been defined. Cultural stereotypes, as many don't know,  they also work as a simple identification tool, which guide us when we are in contact with something/someone from a different culture, for example, it is a fact that we will be more careful when having contact with oriental peoples because we know even without having gone, for example, to Japan that these are known for their reserve and greater body distance than the Latins.

The danger of stereotypes is the  crystallization of prejudices  it's the  conditioning of the gaze, which places judgment and exclusion before a deeper knowledge of the element in question.  

According to journalist and political analyst Walter Lippmann, one of the forerunners of the study of social stereotype, for the most part,  we don't see first and then we define, but rather we define first and then we see. That is, the representations that act as a guide in our heads do not represent reality, as they are never neutral,  depending more on the observer than the observed object. 

Pure neutrality is unimaginable, it is utopian, but this does not mean that it is impossible to gradually revert - with intelligence and even humor - certain foreign thought patterns that are often accompanied by the evil lack of knowledge of the cause.

The distrust that sometimes we Brazilians are treated abroad seems like an addiction, an unhealthy behavior pattern, why then do we simply accept it? Who here has not noticed a look or a sharp comment in a tone of voice full of suspicion when it comes to, for example, our education, our real talents, our culture or our values?

Someone once told me that on one occasion professors from a Brazilian university were outraged by a lecture by an American guest who, at the start of his speech, exclaimed proudly: - I came here to present something that will  revolutionize  your life  in Brazil! The curious audience was enthusiastic and then he added: -  The Internet!

The latter, seeing the rage of the spectators, apologized and - I believe - must have finally understood that the Brazilian population is one of the most connected in the world network, having even been successful in the field of distance education.

I have come to believe more and more that our mission as representatives of a great country is ours.  unravel  those  old clichés  that impregnate and harm ourselves and we try to cure the blindness that does not allow us to see what we really feel proud of our culture that offers us with countless qualities that are often not seen and recognized by ourselves, I say, for example , in  our incredible dynamism, flexibility, our ease of adaptation and interest in integration and speed in learning something  new, not to mention our unequaled sensitivity to dealing with other people's feelings. 

In life, we sometimes repeat the same mistake for the simple fact that we are conditioned to see only one side of the coin, and trying to see the other side is to start thinking in a more inquiring way.

This means that we must learn to put the facts on the scale of justice calling attention to Brazilians to be more critical and not simply accept with apathy everything that is placed on us about ourselves, our roots and where we belong, the only way to achieve this respect that we deserve is through, above all, our critical awareness, transmission of knowledge and willingness to break old patterns of thought that still many have and insist on imposing on us.

We have to recycle our own knowledge about our culture,  we have to read more, we have to ask and contest more, so that we don't allow any kind of subjugation. If we have access to  information, which by the way comes at supersonic speed, why not use it in a way  intelligent? 

Stereotypes do exist, but one thing is the attitude towards them and how we allow ourselves to be embedded in a place we often don't belong. Imposing yourself wisely is necessary! 

"Education, this is the ultimate remedy" (Walter Lippmann).

​ Author: Andreia Barreto de Miranda