Cultural Bias

By | Monday, January 08, 2007 Leave a Comment
I caught a History Channel documentary/docudrama yesterday about Joaquin Murrieta. (And if you're curious why I was watching a documentary about him, I highly encourage you to go back and read my blog postings here, here, here, here and here.)

But what stood out to me in the documentary is that Joaquin is a particularly significant character out of Mexican and Mexican-American mythology, but I had never heard of him until I was specifically trying to track down a character like him. Now, certainly, I don't pretend to be a purveyor of all cultural knowledge and my ignorance of his existance is not, in and of itself, surprising. But what struck me is there is very little written about him online (at least in English). That suggests to me that English-speakers are largely unaware of his existence, and those that do know of him likely have some more direct cultural ties to him. Sun-Wukong seems to be a little more well-known in the U.S., but not by much.

Now, I've acknowledged for years that Americans have a tendency to be self-absorbed egotists who devalue cultures outside their own, but I still find it surprising. Mankind, as a whole, have a collective experience that is universally translatable through good literature. Really good stories can transcend cultural barriers and speak to people regardless of their upbringing and background. Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Sun-Tzu, Dostoevsky, Verne... many of the great authors throughout history have not shared the same language and their works still mean something to us (in some cases) centuries after their deaths! But America, as a whole, continues to seem unwilling to look upon any culture due south of their southern-most border as anything worthwhile. Here in the States, we have a few bastardizations of words from Mexico but not much more, and South America is ignored entirely.

So, in one sense, it reaffirms for me that America needs more projects like my "Propoganda of the Deed" idea. (Side Note: I'm still pretty jazzed about the idea and would love to have an artist-type contact me to help see it to fruition!) On a broader note, it says to me that we need more people like Gene Yang doing comics in America. Of course we're going to continue to piss off the rest of the world if we do our best to ignore their ideas. (Image courtesy of Micah Wright.)
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