“Culture hides much more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants. Years of study have convinced me that the real job is not to understand foreign culture but to understand our own. I am also convinced that all that one ever gets from studying foreign culture is a token understanding. [To study another culture] is to learn more about how one’s own system works.” (Edward Hall from The Silent Language)
This quote has given me pause since I read if for the first time some 15 years ago and now that I am working on training materials for our CIT staff this summer in Haiti I am once again brought face to face with my trying to understand Haitian culture. What Edward Hall is saying is that in order to try and understand another culture, one needs to fully dig deep into their own culture to find its biases and bents. How much time do we take in examining our “North American Culture”? When was the last time I thought about my biases and the paradigm by which I make judgments about what is “right and wrong”?
CPR-3 is committed to sustainable initiatives that are driven by Haitians. Wow, this is a tough challenge, but one that we are committed to work through. What if, what if in order to seek to learn Haitian culture, I must first learn my own?