Following my posts about blocks and threads, further writing, and having spoken about them at the IALIC conference in Beijing, here are some more observations.
We cannot be naïve about the simple value of threads – about pulling threads from our own cultural experience to meet with those of others, and thus to begin crossing cultural boundaries. Threads can indeed be a valuable means of achieving interculturality and breaking prejudice. And we must seek them out and struggle to make meaningful contact wherever we can. However, there will clearly be times when this does not work, or may seem to be work when in fact the opposite effect is taking place. It goes something like the following:
Threads that pull blocks. Sometimes what we draw from our experience might seem to us to be ways of connecting with the people we are interacting with; but we might miscalculate and they actually create blocks. This is why it can be such a struggle. We really need to think hard, to work out what really might connect. And even then our theories and hypotheses about the other person might still be all wrong. This might be something to do with imposing images of the world that might not be as shared as we imagine. This is why we really do need to look deeper to find what actually we can share.
Sometimes of course it just might not be possible. There might be incompatibilities that just cannot be overcome, and we have to walk away. And it might be insurmountable boundaries that are constructed by the other person. Of course none of this might have anything to do with cultural background. But there are things going on in the world that are setting up huge walls of cultural – perhaps claiming to be religious – division.
Blocking threads. There might also be threads that are set up primarily for the purpose of constructing division and aggression. People are reached out to by others for the purpose of being pulled into massive blocks – establishments of state, nationalism, religion, values. There are clear examples of these in our history; and there there are others upon us now. Indeed, what we know about the dangers of essentialism and Othering, about extreme Self and Other politics, provide those who have the ingenuity to dominate with the technologies to do so. The idealised society described in Plato’s Republic is an ancient manual for this.
Threading blocks. In a very depressing scenario, this is where situations of violence and the cultural and political blocks of extreme identity and values construction, such as referred to above, have sustained for so long that young people have grown up with them and know little else. And what else they have experienced is coloured by extreme education. In such situations, the only threads that especially young people might have experience of are blocks.
Excuse the detail; but this is serious stuff. These are the potentials and conflicts that are evident in my grammar.