Thursday, September 4, 2014

American Individuality vs Arab Collectivism

I wrote this as a assignment for my intercultural communication class. This semester we worked on how we view ourselves as cultural beings, and I am so grateful I had the chance to take this class and think more thoroughly about myself and culture. I would just like to make it clear that I am merely stating my opinions on what suits me better as a human, and I am not in anyway disregarding my own culture.

I would like to tackle the pattern of individuality as it interests me that Americans value it greatly, whilst collectivism is more dominant in Arab culture.  We will explore the beliefs and values of this pattern, and then will discuss possible reasons American culture regards it highly, whilst Arab cultures do not.
Individuality sprouts from many different beliefs such as: having the freedom to choose one’s own path in life; the freedom of expression; every individual is different; individual differences make the community a coherent whole. Individuality is constantly associated with personal freedom which people will only have if they are living in a community that values that freedom; a community that accepts personal differences and praises those differences rather than expecting everyone to be a homogeneous whole. 
Individuality values each person as they are accepting that they different from others and will never be exactly the same as anyone else. Individuality values the time and space a person needs to form their personal identity. It values uniqueness and creativity, innovation and new ideas; if people are not expected to be the same, they will be expected to have their own ideas and opinions regarding different matters. It also values differences in opinion and the notion of ‘agreeing to disagree’; there is openness in debating and speaking about controversial issues.
The products of this culture in America can be seen in different styles of dress, different schools, clubs, and groups to suit different individual needs and where different things can be done, for instance: dance, circus, culinary arts, performing arts, martial arts, fitness and swimming clubs, art schools and galleries, chess clubs, and science clubs. There are many different places for people with different interests to go to. Even if a person has their own individual interest, they are usually encouraged to take it on, for example:  a man name Adam Kontras from Columbus, Ohio shared a video on his blog in 2000 and became the first ‘vlogger’. A ‘vlog’ is basically a video sharing thoughts and ideas in the same way a blog would. Now, in 2014, that is one of the most popular types of videos that are posted to Youtube daily. This idea that was initiated by an individual brought a change to the world of videos. This is an example of recent products of individuality.
The practices are linked to some of the products that were mentioned above. There are also other practices of individuality in the American culture such as: moving out of the parents’ house when one becomes 18 years old. They are encouraged to leave the ‘nest’ and become an independent individuals both financially and mentally; their parents supported them for so long and equipped them with the tools necessary to succeed in life, and now they are required to mark their own journey and choose their own path.
In contrast, In Arab culture, the culture I come from, does not value individuality as much. There is a high value for collectivism and that one person’s actions affect the rest of the group. I think I value individuality more than collectivism and that is why I am awed by the individuality I observe in American culture. I find it liberating and wish that I could have been encouraged to make my own decisions instead of going with the decisions that the ‘collective’ thought was better for me. In Arab culture, there is always fear that an individual’s mistake will reflect on the whole group; which is how collective decisions are justified. There is no or little opportunity for individual ‘trial and error’. An individual will be guided by a more knowing other who will prevent them from falling into error.

I also value collectivism and community, and would not want to live in a culture where that is not apparent. Thus, I would value a community that has a balance between individuality and collectivism.