Answer me this #15

April 16, 2010

in Answer me this, Travel

How do you tell the difference between acculturated and brainwashed?

Consider your answer before you read my reason for the question.

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I usually don’t editorialize on AnswerMeThis posts, but I’ll explain where I’m coming from on this one.

While on a college campus the other day, I noticed a woman covered in full hijab — hair and face, with only a slit for her eyes.

My first thought was, “How sad for her, that her culture requires her to hide herself. I’m glad I’M not indoctrinated like that.”

My next thought was a conversation I had with an Muslim friend during the time I lived in Syria, where covering is not mandatory.

“Why did I choose to cover?” Mouna replied as I broached the subject. “First, you must know that it was my choice to cover my hair. Not my father’s and not my husband’s. I cover because I realize my value. My body is a treasure, given by Allah, so special that I prefer to share my full self with only women and with the men in my family.”

“YOUR ways seem strange to US. You western women have lost sight of your own value,” Mouna continued. “You devalue yourselves by overexposure. You have been brainwashed into sharing yourselves for the gratification of others — even strangers. Of course, I’m not just talking about covering one’s head, but about exposing so much of your body that nothing is special anymore. Look at what goes on in movies, on TV, on magazine covers. You think you’re more free, but you’re not.”

So I ask: how do you tell the difference between acculturated and brainwashed? Not necessarily with the hijab, but with whatever the question brings to mind for you.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin April 16, 2010 at 9:03 am

What a great question Lori.  I guess the only real way to tell the difference between acculturated and brainwashed is to talk to the individual you have the question about.

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Leigh April 16, 2010 at 9:38 am

Once again you strike on something I’ve thought of before…I didn’t especially compare brainwashed to acculturated, but I DID wonder if I was too easily influenced when I started seeing things from another POV. When am I being “swayed”/influenced (brainwashed) and when am I just learning to look at something in a new way?

I like to look at things from both sides – does that mean I don’t have a backbone? Maybe, if after fully understanding both sides, I STILL choose to favor one POV over the other, I would consider that acculturated. Brainwashed implies, to me, a sort of ignorance or refusal to see all options.

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Leigh April 16, 2010 at 9:39 am

Oh and I love the new layout!!

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The Casual Perfectionist April 16, 2010 at 10:34 am

This is a tricky one, dealing with semantics.  My opinion?  There really isn’t a difference. 

Let me explain.  “Brainwashed” implies a coercion of sorts and is seen as “negative,” whereas “acculturated” implies that the person is just following the culture of his or her environment.

In both cases, the end result is the same.  A group of people who follow a singular path ARE brainwashed.  The key is realizing that brainwashing isn’t necessarily negative.  (There are some cases, where people really are threatened and tortured, and those are extreme examples, but not necessarily the norm.)

I’ll go even further to say that WE’ve been brainwashed to believe that some end results are the cause of negative influences and therefore “brainwashing” and the end results we see to be “positive” are “acculturated.”

So, I guess the answer for many is simple:  If they agree with us, they’re acculturated.  If they don’t, they’re brainwashed.  ;)   For me, it’s six of one and half-dozen of another.

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Quiet Dreams April 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Many people who have traveled to other parts of the world start noticing that people other places don’t do things the way “we” do.  If they stay away long enough, they have a kind of “culture shock” when they return.  Most of us are familiar with this phenomenon.

My point is that there are many, many things that all of us do that we never question (and how exhausting it would be to question EVERYTHING!).

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Hannah April 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

I’m having conversation de ja vu.
I would agree with CasualPerfectionist’s definitions but point out that the key difference is choice. That’s a really big difference that would make it more like 3 of one, half dozen of the other. :)
EX: My personal opinion of all oganized religion is that it is brainwashing – a group of people who are coerced into a certain set of behaviors and professed beliefs established originally by men who sought to use faith and superstition to control others. But where my opinion fails is the very few religious people I have met who have truly considered their religion and many others, including the POV of non-believers and have truly made an informed decision to live by the tenets of their chosen religion.
I can respect a person whose, where I feel sorry for those who profess beliefs (religious, political, or otherwise) that are merely the regurgitations of those who hold power over them.

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Lavender Luz April 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Excellent point, Leigh, about being open-minded but not wishy-washy. Another difficult line to draw!

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Lavender Luz April 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Kind of like the difference between patriot and rebel? Same guy viewed from different sides.

So what it’s called says as much about the observer as it does about the observee, right?

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Lavender Luz April 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Yes. We are oblivious to the countless ways we are acculturated/brainwashed. And it has to be that way.

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Lavender Luz April 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I imagine you are (having deja vu). :)

I like that you bring examination and choice into the picture.

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Jamie April 16, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Very interesting question.  I like your editorial on this post.  It really makes me think.  It also makes me realize how uneducated I am.  I wish I had the opportunity to spend a day in someone else’s shoes.

How’s that for not really answering your question?!?!

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loribeth April 16, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Interesting question. I guess it’s a case of you say say tomato & I say tomahto… as Quiet Dreams said, “normal” depends on where you are & what you were brought up believing was normal.  Just because something is different from your own experience, or what’s considered “normal” where you live, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s abnormal or wrong.

I’m not sure I entirely buy the whole idea that covering yourself from head to toe is liberating (especially in a hot climate…!) – but at the same time, I understand what the woman meant when she said that nothing is special anymore, nothing is left to the imagination. I find it sort of bizarre that young women wearing ultra short skirts with ultra low necklines, etc. say they’re demonstrating their “girl power.”  I’m not quite sure that the likes of Britney Spears was what Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem et al had in mind when they fought for women’s liberation and equal rights. Of course, this could just be my latent envy talking (since I know better than to try wearing that stuff myself at my age…!!).

By the way — get this — the ad that appeared in your post on my reader was for Islamic clothing, including a picture of a woman in full hijab!! 

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Lavender Luz April 16, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I completely “get” the latent envy!

Funny about the ad. How many hijabs did you buy ;) ?

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Erica April 17, 2010 at 6:19 am

Just popping in to say Hi. I have been reading up as much as I can. The fundraiser is over and now I can get back to a life! I love the new blog. I have missed out on so much in everyone’s life. I have a lot of catching up to do.

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The Casual Perfectionist April 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Thanks for the mention, Hannah!

I agree that “choice” is an important thing to someone who seeks true enlightenment, but my feeling still stands that “choice” is just as innocuous in brainwashing as it is in acculturation.  Anyone can be manipulated into making what they feel is truly a choice…but is it?

Yes, it is…because whatever they choose IS their choice.  Funny how that all works out so nicely, eh?  ;)

The reasons behind their “choice” all go back to which side of the “them” and “us” line they stand…which leads me back to my opinion that brainwashing and acculturation really are the same thing.

Great discussion, Lori!

p.s.  After washing brains, is it best to line-dry or tumble dry low?  ;)

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The Casual Perfectionist April 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Exactly. :)

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mrs spock April 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Brainwashed, to me, means someone who cannot or will not entertain any other point of view than their own.

Acculturated- well, we’re all acculturated to our own local social environments. How brainwashed we are depends on how adaptable and open we are to acculturating ourselves to another social milieu.

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battynurse April 18, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Good question.  I can look at my mom’s choice of religion and how it’s affected her life and I see brain washed.  She of course doesn’t.  I like Mrs. Spock’s definition and it definitely seems true in many of the cases I would consider brain washed. 

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Sheri April 18, 2010 at 8:21 pm

To me, acculturated is one part of the brainwash spectrum. The degree of brainwashing must depend on whose perspective you are looking at and if you agree or disagree.

Aren’t we all brainwashed/acculturated to some degree in order to survive in our society (whatever society that is)?

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Lavender Luz April 18, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I like that. Brainwashed = closed and acculturated = open.

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Anonymous April 19, 2010 at 8:16 pm

“YOUR ways seem strange to US. You western women have lost sight of your own value,” Mouna continued. “You devalue yourselves by overexposure. You have been brainwashed into sharing yourselves for the gratification of others — even strangers. Of course, I’m not just talking about covering one’s head, but about exposing so much of your body that nothing is special anymore.”

I guess I take issue with this argument (and consider it both acculturated {as there are not great stories of rebellion in the Islamic world} and brainwashed {explanation follows}).  Part of women’s lib is to be seen as more than just a set of boobs.  In a way, overexposure is a method of counteracting that.  In theory, constant exposure to boobs should make them less interesting.  In practice, that doesn’t appear to be true.  In my reality, intellect is more important than appearance.  I’ve never been that invested in my looks (which is probably because I’ve always been cute, but never hot).  I guess my thought is that if you believe that your value is in your appearance, then you’ve been brainwashed by all the fashion magazines.

Also, it’s not just western women – have you seen women in Japan, Africa, India (saris expose some skin that rarely sees daylight on my body)?  Be honest and call it as it is – non-Islamic women.

But, I don’t really have an answer to your question…I think I’m fairly immune to brainwashing, due to my tendency to play devil’s advocate.  But I’m definitely acculturated – it’s why I refused to use the squatter toilets in Italy!

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Kami April 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I don’t think there is a difference.  It’s like the difference between religion and myth – it depends on your point of view.

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