Culture of Interaction

I have not talked about culture in quite some time. It used to be one of the most interesting subjects to me, in some ways it still is, but being trapped in the corporate machine for what it seems like an eternity really put culture in the back seat. Recently the whole topic has been at the very front and center of my life. A lot has changed in my life in the past couple of years and even though it has nothing to do with identity, I have become very aware of how important culture is to me. Not just my culture, but just culture in general. I read this article () about business today but it resonated with me far beyond that, in particular this part.

Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. People can be independent and autonomous. They can be entrepreneurial. And if we have a company that is entrepreneurial in spirit, we will be able to take our next “(wo)man on the moon” leap. Ever notice how families or tribes don’t require much process? That is because there is such a strong trust and culture that it supersedes any process. In organizations (or even in a society) where culture is weak, you need an abundance of heavy, precise rules and processes.

The topic of culture, not framed in this context or even by this word has been discussed by my group of friends a lot recently. I am very close to my family, in particular to my Mom and sister, we talk often, they are aware of what steps I am taking in life. I often bounce ideas off them just to get their reaction. That is part of my culture. They don’t make decisions for me, in fact I have often gone the complete opposite way of what they think I should do, however it is a great part of how I live my life. We did not need any process created, it just grew from mutual trust and family. When I visit them or they visit me, there is not a ton of preparation or discussion about it; we all trust each other to take care of the details. Not all families are like this, not all cultures are like this either.

America struggles to find an identity at times and with it its culture. I have talked about this before, but the part that I feel is lacking is trust. When you don’t even trust your own family and friends it is pretty hard to have interactions with them. Tons of protocol and process has to be build around something that should be natural and organic in the interactions you have with them. The more I become familiar with people here in the US I am amazed by the structures that have to be built in relationships and the lack of fluidity in interactions. Nobody shows up at your house unannounced just to “visit” probably being the best example.

I like being spontaneous, picking up the phone and saying hey you want to catch a movie or dinner tonight? That can send some people into almost an anxiety attack because they are used to planning things not just days but weeks in advance. So what do you think, does your family or group of friends have a culture that makes interactions easier? or are there tons of protocols and rules that you follow on your interactions with them?

I talk to the cleaning lady

Obama
I am Colombian, I am also Latino. I don’t get offended if I am called Latin or Spanish and most of the time don’t feel a need to correct people. I do get a little offended when someone tries to call me Juan or if someone insist that I speak Mexican. That is not because I mind being identified as a Mexican, its more my anger towards the stupid perception that if you are any shade of brown you must have been born a Jose or Juan. As Latinos we do face a lot of ignorance, but a little known fact is that even inside our “ethnic” group there is still a lot of division.

The first Latino social group that I was introduced to in high school was predominantly Mexican, and I was not readily accepted. Coming from a middle class background from “tropical” country put me in an interesting position. I could not relate to an immigrant that came from a very small farming village. I also could not relate to the kids of Mexican descent that grew up here.

I was lucky, I made friends with a Puerto Rican kid that kinda looked like me but was double my size. That provided both protection from the gangs and also entry to his social group. Smaller than most, but still a safe heaven for me. I fit in, but my Latino identity really did not have a shape. In some ways it still does not. I am a Colombian by birth and Latino by label of this country.

I love talking to people, and if their only means of communication is Spanish (or they like to default to it) I use it. I know some people are threatened by the use of another language around them, but I can assure you that most of the time the conversation is not about you. I am sure it is an American thing since for example in Europe there are often times different languages spoken inside a single country.

Spanish is a lot more accepted now and a lot of people now even try to speak it even if its not in their background. Even though I think most people should be learning Portuguese, Spanish is not as scary as it might have been before. I know the people from my family from the previous generation put a high emphasis on the importance of speaking English with no, or as little accent as possible. I know professionally it has been the same thing, if someone detects an accent they seem to associate it with intelligence.

Its bizarre to me how someone that is speaking two languages can be looked down upon by someone that knows only one… but it happens over and over.

There was a feeling inside of me that I could not explain and then I read this article.

Most everyone that I spoke with had had the experience of having complete strangers casually ask them, “What are you?” Another question I have never been asked. Although I had lived most of my life acutely aware of what I felt were disadvantages assigned to my dark skin–especially growing up in New Orleans–it wasn’t until I began having these conversations that I came to realize some of the privileges my dark skin carries; the most profound of which is its ability to clearly communicate my racial identity, not only to other people, but to other black people.

I am light skinned. Yes I am a Latino and other Latinos can recognize me easily and maybe even pick out my country of origin, but overall I am considered very light for a “brown” person. In fact, many Latinos have in the past completely ignored my ethnicity and went onto believing that I was white. My wife experiences similar things since she is even more fair skinned than I can.

Unless you are very close with a group of black people you don’t get to learn about “light skin.” I have had conversations with my black friends about it, and learned quite a bit from one of Malcom Gladwell books and his mixed background. I am personally a collection of races, from very Caucasian blue eyed blondes to up in the mountain native Americans. No like seriously, one of my ancestors was from a small village in the mountains.

It is really a challenge to establish a racial identity in this country when you never really had to belong to a race growing up. I still to some extent consider myself Colombian first, American second and Latino third. Sometimes though it feels like I should put Latino first. I just don’t know how to do that.

I have experienced reverse racism quite a bit. From someone looking at me like I was on the wrong side of the counter at an expensive restaurant, to someone telling me that I was too “white” because of the way I spoke English. Its hard to identify yourself with something that wants to already reject you for who you are. I don’t pretend to be anything, I am who I am.

Still I identify myself with my ethnicity and get annoyed when someone asks for chips and salsa in a Cuban restaurant… If you did not know, Chips and Salsa is a Tex-Mex thing, its not even Mexican… neither are burritos.

I am an American Latino though, I can dance Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, Bachata and Quebradita. I eat Mofongo, Pupusas, Mole and Ropa Vieja. I can tell you the difference between tamales, empanadas, and arepas and how you probably only had one kind. I do want to learn more about being Latino in the US and get a different perspective on that… I still think mine is too narrow at times.

I make every attempt at connecting with other Latinos at work in all levels of the company. I make it a point to talk to the cleaning lady, in Spanish. I don’t mind if someone is listening to me ask for my salad “sin cebolla.” It might not be much of an identity but I want other Latinos to know that I do speak the language fluently and don’t care what floor I work on, I am still one of them.

Lying

I am the default person in the house to deal with telemarketers or customer service representatives. Working in conjunction with a third party collection agency gave me a glimpse at how some of those places work. People will say whatever they think it will get them a result, and in the end they end up lying.

We might not realize it, but every time we see someone else lie our trust for that person starts to diminish. What I never realized before reading this short essay by Sam Harris is that it goes well beyond that. It seems that from a psychological stand point, the person lying starts to get hostile towards the person that they lie to.

There is a saying we use back in Colombia “El ladron juzga por su condicion.” This can be losely translated without losing all its meaning to “A thief believes everyone else steals.”

People that routinely lie to themselves or others also think others are also liars. Furthermore, people that routinely lie start to dislike the people that they lie to,

In fact, suspicion often grown on both sides of a lie: Research indicates that liars trust those they deceive less than they otherwise might-and the more damaging their lies, the less they trus, or even like, their victims. It seems that in protecting their egos, and interpreting their own behavior as justified, liars ten to deprecate the people they lie to.

Sam Harris then cites the research “Deceiver’s Distrust: Denigration as a Consequence of Undiscovered Deception.”

I grew up with the notion that you should always tell the truth, but it was accentuated by the saying. “Traigame un herido, no un muerto.” That was a saying from my Grandfather, passed down to my Dad and then to me. Be honest about anything you face, if you “Bring me an injured person, don’t bring me a dead one.” That has always stayed in my head, not only to make sure that I ask for help before a problem escalates, but also to always tell the truth.

I trust people easily. I know this can be a bad thing. However, I always feel that the more you give to people the more you will get in return. People know I am blunt, trying to make that more about honesty than lack of tact. I have in recent years just told people I am not interested rather than just hanging up on them. I don’t like to lie or hypocrisy, but I think it shows more trough action than through words.

The more you build trust with people, the more powerful your words become. The consequences of what you say have a profound effect. The more you lose trust on someone, the less their words weight. I chose to see the positive in situations and people, and I have been accused by those that don’t know me of flattery. It could not be further from the truth, I honestly believe in the potential of those around me to succeed and be awesome. All my friends keep proving me right by just being amazing people, so it is not flattery if they really are that freaking cool.

The essay was an easy read, and it made me think a lot. It is good to make a commitment to yourself to always tell the truth… and also learn a little tact. There will always be someone asking you if their puppy is the cutest of them all.

I’m Bored!

Actually I am not at all, lol. I have lots of work ahead of me with the projects I am working on ranging from the very tedious to the very engaging and headache driving type of stuff. This has nothing to do with that or with the AWESOME (but too short) weekend Bea and I just spent in KC.

Deguia and I were just having a conversation this morning as he deals with some parenting stuff. One if his kids is bored! only a book and iPod to keep them entertained. After laughing at how old we are already I started to remember what entertained me in those preteen years.

I knew better than to tell my Mom I was bored because she was quick to find a shore around the house that would occupy my time. I did spend a lot of time outside playing soccer with balls for grass on pavement. I was also part of the first generations that grew up with video games, and while I thought the first one I owned was the Atari 2600 that I eventually (Mission Impossibled) broke. The first was actually a form of entertainment called “Game and Watch.”

Egg

I did not even know until today that it was actually just called Egg. It basically required that you catch eggs before the crack. This simple device kept me entertained for not just hours, but I think months! I think I even had to replace batteries on it more than once. If I remember correctly, I think it was gifted to someone eventually still in working condition.

Most kids today even real young ones are great at handling gadgets like the iPhone and iPads. It is almost second nature to them to handle those user interfaces. They also seem to be falling pray of the short attention spans and burst of entertainment. It seems like the kids of today are getting bored quite easily. To the point that I don’t think any of them would have the patience to watch Dragon Ball Z with fights between bad guys that used to last several episodes.

I wish I still had my Egg game to see if it would keep a kid entertained at all. I could talk about imagination and how entertainment now could be hurting it… but I do have a niece that is an avid reader and think she has an awesome imagination. This does make me thing about what kept me entertained.

So without having to date your childhood too much, what things used to keep you entertained? Do you remember any single toy that kept you entertained for a long time?

Do we need faith?

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.
-Khalil Gibran

Notice that I did not say “do we need religion?” before you get your panties all wadded up; but I might touch on that too. So before you go any further let me explain something about faith.

Many words have tons of meanings that can be defined and interpreted differently. Take for example a color, while it is something that can be defined and classified it is a lot more than that. Blue can be your favorite t-shirt, team, car. Words carry a lot of meaning and faith, like the word love is one of the heavy ones.

How necessary is faith though? Do we need it in our lives? Is it an innate thing or something we learn?

I respect and often times admire people of faith. Some of the happiest people are those with strong faith. Then there are those that make me want to give up on faith as an idea, see “Tim Tebow” sport antics and wanting to push his agenda for Christianity and God helping him score 316 touchdowns!

Our society is losing the sense of honor and heroes. We call lots of people’s heroes, but who do we really follow or put our faith into?

Celebrity culture is yet another form of worship that some even find a mental disease associated with compulsive behavior. Yet you look at the definition for it and in some ways believing in a Kardashian (no I am not looking up if that is the correct spelling) seems no different than believing in Jesus. Same infatuation with a fabricated thing.

Yet I love Christianity in so many ways, I still feel comforted by praying “our father.”

Faith helps people get through life. It gives them energy to keep going, it gives them that sense of companionship when we feel all alone. Some would not be able to get up every day without it. So is there something wrong with those that don’t have it all?

Do we always need someone or something to worship? is it just part of the human makeup?

This topic does have more questions than answer I am afraid. One of the most important lessons I have come across in life is that to really learn you have to question. If you have faith in something, it is ok to question it… if you don’t it might not be that strong after all.

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