I wasn’t thinking about this but it has just crossed my way and it has to do with cultural shock, maybe in a deeper way, since it has to do with a mix of emotions, perspectives, different realities and circumstances, failure and success and our notions about them.
Someone just posted a Lady Gaga’s phrase about perseverance and resilience, the importance of keep trying not matter what. Then followed by:
– 22.177 likes and hearts and happy faces
– 3 deeper reflections
– 1 person who noticed that Rocky IV had said exactly the same
What strikes me the most is 1 of these 3 deeper reflections. It says something like “I’m fed up with this First World piece of advice which doesn’t work at all in my underdeveloped country”. It sounds pretty resentful, and that’s not the best way to reach the “other half” (not real proportion, I know). But let’s not forget that resentment comes from somewhere, mostly from pain, and where there is pain there is something to be addressed. I have experienced myself and have seen others going through that feeling that says something like: ok, you are living such a different reality that you can not really get what our struggles are, the daily nuances and shades of feelings and small and huge frustrations they carry, the marks they keep eroding in our souls and bones. And I have also been on the other side, saying/feeling: I’m aware of my privileges, I’m trying to help, and this is not some kind of Suffering Contest, ’cause pain, loss, grief and struggling are common to any living creature, in any poor or rich country or position anyway.
Both are legit, and this is my 2 step cultural anti-shock way to bridge them:
1) So what?
2) Please, tell me more.
Step 1 means that, sure, we are all different, the world is not a smooth equity paradise, we can all have different perspectives and realities and circumstances that demand from us totally different doses of perseverance and resilience. So what? Should we just leave it that way? Do we need to fear or resent each other? What if we just listen, even when the other’s voice sounds resentful, or patronizing, or whatever. And here comes step 2: listen. Listen further. Deeper. Listen to more voices. Ask, think, re-think. And keep listening.
It has nothing to do with Lady Gaga or anybody who generously and openly share both their talents and struggles. It has nothing to do with perseverance itself, which is totally recommendable. But there are 2 tricky things about these partly true cliches:
Perseverance (read dreams, goals, motivation, mindset, will power, believing, etc) is super important. But it is not everything and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is always combined with many other factors (both individual and beyond the individual) that weigh in both for failure or success. When people keep trying and trying and trying and it’s never enough, that signals a collective failure, where change is needed. And those people don’t need to be told to keep trying, neither to be sorry for, but their voices to be included in a deeper discussion about our collective failures. That is the other tricky thing: We are always listening to the same voices, the successful ones, accordingly to whatever we consider success at a given moment and place. And while many of them can be very good role models, and they may have very interesting and enriching perspectives, tips and experiences, there are still at least 3 simple facts:
1. There are other voices
2. Successful voices are not representative of the majority or the average, they are just more marketable and entertaining than statistics
3. The perseverant-still-not-successful voices are the ones that can point out where it hurts, where things are not working, where changes need to be made, maybe not where to get but where to start from.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like binary thinking, or that kind of zero sum games, as if things were black or white, or as if we needed to drop that in order to embrace this. I’m all for wider spectrums and richer combinations. And that’s what intercultural experiences are all about.
Let’s just listen to each other without any mutual resentments or prejudices, be happy for each other’s success, attentive to each other’s individual and collective failures, and let’s learn from all of it. That’s why I keep inviting you to visit, and specially to volunteer in my country, no matter if you are Elvis still alive or the worst failure on earth (impossible to measure, don’t worry).
The thing is that since success already gives you a platform from which to be heard, here I’m offering a platform to all the other voices: you are invited to share all your failure and struggling stories firstname.lastname@example.org
We are listening. Thanks a lot.