Tuesday, 1 January 2013

"Marching to a different beat(s)"

In his book, Beyond Culture, Edward T Hall talks about a concept that greatly interests me as an observer of Inuit-governments relations and as someone interested in Inuit (ie, aboriginal) education. The concept has to do with group synchrony. We can see this most clearly when confronted by a new culture or have to deal with a different culture day in and day out. Most of us do not, and cannot, articulate it when we experience it because it is something almost completely submerged from our explicit awareness and yet exerts such great influence over our responses, reactions, and the quality of our intercultural-linguistic relations.

Though - as far as I can tell - this wonderful insight of Hall has never really taken hold, and may even have been 'debunked' by some smart-ass criticism that I don't know about, we can see it in such things as Nash's game theory and its attendant notions of the 'Nash equilibrium' and the 'governing dynamics' made famous in the movie, A Beautiful Mind.

When Inuit (ie, aboriginals) reflect upon it seriously, we've all come to the conclusion that white people are autistic and seem utterly incapable of understanding anything other than their own worldview. This is not a moralistic judgement on my part; just that I'm trying to reflect upon the fact that none of us (on either side of the dialogue) have made a convincing argument why things tend to fall apart in aboriginal-government relations. The temporal imperatives are different: one governed by (seemingly artificial) schedules and budgets (decided before-hand), the other by the need to adapt and evolve a program or new way of doing things as one does by socialization. Guess who loses? Both sides, actually.

When I "lost" my mind I was sent to jail a couple of times. The temporal and spatial imperatives there are as dysfunctional and chaotic as one can ever have the misfortune of confronting because the two competing rhythms are amplified by unmitigated feedback loops that are the result of coercive force (on both sides) that resonate throughout the whole system. But even there one finds friends and quiet moments - reason why programs are so, so important because even if they seem utterly ineffective to the evaluators they provide space and time of humanity by the simple virtue they provide space for some semblance of equality and discourse so rare otherwise. I met good and decent people on both sides.

Some relations and projects cannot take hold in an artificially constructed environment anymore than a plant or human being cannot be grown or developed by coercion and will. The factory model, though a juggernaut of power and efficiency, is most inappropriate in many if not all human relations, especially inter-cultural relations. Methinks there are schools out there that succeed in developing human beings like me precisely because some classrooms are structured like greenhouses (ie, those which respect the natural rhythms of its charges rather than imposing the system's will upon them).

There used to be reader sets of all different levels that we were allowed to work on on our own pace; from there I graduated to reading the encyclopedia set we had in the small library. This type of set-up allows the teacher to focus their attention on those struggling while freeing up those who advance at a faster rate. Some programs just work. And they work not because they're designed deliberately but more importantly because of the way they're set up to accomodate the different beats of the drum orchestra.

Jay

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