Episode 432: You Are Not Flat

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we discuss how to understand and withstand difficult cultural experiences.

Peter Fenzel and Matthew Wrather overthinking difficult cultural experiences like watching the Presidential Debates or listening to “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy” at a wedding.

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4 Comments on “Episode 432: You Are Not Flat”

  1. Fred Firestine #

    Thanks for a fun discussion about getting out of our comfort zones and experiencing other social circles, if not cultures per se. Pete, I would add that both Massachusetts and New Jersey include farming areas. As a matter of fact, when I moved from the suburbs of Montreal to the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, I lived in proximity to farms. The kids at school came from families where mom and dad might be farmers, factory workers, commuters to white collar jobs, local business owners, etc. Here on Long Island, where I have lived many years now, I was pleased and surprised to meet someone who grew up on a farm about 30 miles away. I guess I’m saying you can find those experiences closer to home, if you seek them out. Your point about family reunions is a good one, because I have been away from both sides of the family for quite a while, so their lives and experiences are very different.


    • Rambler #

      Well Actually time…
      Flogging Molly. Not a Boston band, they’re from the other edge of the country (not that a folk-punk Irish band from LA would blend in much better…).

      Now for a less concrete Well Actually. If Pete had prepared a small core of dancers ready to set the pace, he could have genre crossed with a well chosen Dropkick’s number like “Worker’s Song” or “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya”. Blue collar urban and blue collar rural are divided by a much smaller gap than white collar urban/rural.
      There’s also a much bigger gap between the urban disenfranchised than the rural disenfranchised… so “Skinhead on the MBTA” or “PipeBomb on Landsdowne” would have been like aliens landing.
      On that same vein, if the dancing stops, the lights come down, and a sing along starts… you should find your keys, because you’ll want to be driving your hybrid toward the big lights by the time “Country Boy Can Survive” comes around.


  2. ScholarSarah #

    I have to come down against travel, or rather, against a categorical recommendation in favor of travel. It derives from my own personal experience.

    As an introverted, neurotic, and did not yet know I was transgender youth, self knowledge was hard to come by, not for want of introspection or constancy of character, but because culture made very strong claims on my identity, and did not leave room for difference. Sometimes its the sense that I should be more outgoing than I am, or my parents always saying about foods that I would like it if I tried it.

    The biggest incident, though, was in law school. The authority figures talked in glowing terms about the prospect of studying abroad. I never liked traveling, though I went on plenty of vacations when I was a kid, but, since everyone who talked about it only had positive things to say. So I figured it would be like everyone says it would be, and the way most stories on such topics are: you do the thing you’re afraid of, and it turns out you have a good time. (Now I’m trying to think of instances in media where a character is unwilling to try a new thing, is persuaded to try it, really does not like it, and the aesop is about the value of knowing yourself in avoid negative experiences rather than the value of trying new things anyway).

    Instead, I got so homesick that I had to come back after a week.

    I understand that I’m in the minority on this, that a majority of people enjoy and can benefit from travel, but it troubles me when such recommendations are made in absolute terms.

    First, because, as I learned to my not inconsiderable cost, such recommendations do not apply to me.

    Second, because I worry that there is someone else receiving the same advice I did, who might be lead to doubt what they believe about themself and be lead into an avoidable negative experience.

    And third, which is less personal, and more academic, because it privileges personal experience as a process for coming to understand other cultures over listening to what people who live in those cultures say and believing them. While I would grant that de-centering personal experience might be a helpful precursor to being open to perspectives that you had not previously considered, I propose that it is costly if used only for that purpose, and is not the only method of achieving that goal.


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