Cross-cultural exchanges help overcome bias

Greg Cusack
It's much more difficult to do so against human beings whose names and faces we know,whose literature and music we admire,and whose hopes,dreams and fears are so similar to our own
Greg Cusack

Greg Cusack

DEAR editor,

When reading Wang Yong’s “‘Battlefield’ lays bare the truth: Victory can also feel like defeat,” (Shanghai Daily, November 17), I was reminded of Tacitus’ famous statement: “They made a desert and called it peace.”

One of the reasons the current wave of nationalist populism makes me nervous (perhaps “wary” would be a better term) is because it does the same thing that “war fever” does — it transforms complex, equal human beings into one-dimensional others upon whom one can assign responsibility, guilt, and evil.

At one point in Wang’s quoted remarks in Kyle Munson’s column about his Shanghai visit (“China and US media are so much alike,” Des Moines Register, November 15), Wang observed that stories featuring China appearing in American media often fixed “Communist” to China, as in “Communist China,” rather than simply China. While in most cases I suspect this is more an unconscious culturally-influenced habit — a legacy of the Cold War and its obsession with that “us vs. them” dichotomy that so framed everything in those days — it can also be an intentional way of tripping that one-dimensional mind-set that serves to obscure rather than reveal.

There are some segments of this nation (the US) that equate “communism” with everything evil and from which nothing good could possibly come; the last thing they want is for people to take an objective look at the reality of China. Artistic performances are one of the primary ways that we can break through such stereotyping in order to truly see beyond our particular culture’s blind spots, and it is one of the reasons that I think it so vital that we encourage cross-cultural exchanges in all ways, especially in the arts.

We can go to war against the other, but it is much more difficult to do so against human beings whose names and faces we know, whose literature and music we admire, and whose hopes, dreams and fears are so similar to our own.  

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