What is the difference between a proper view of another culture and a distorted view of another culture?
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A so-called "proper view" would involve one that is as devoid of filters and prejudices as possible. This is an ideal, and largely impossible because every human applies a personal filter to the issues and cultures they experience. One could also say a proper view is most likely to take place from within another culture, as opposed to outside of it.
A distorted view is one taken as valid by an individual or group that is interpreted through the biases inherent in societies. Distorted views are not only common, they are typical of how one culture views another.
There is no such thing as a proper or a distorted view of any culture, including one's own.
We all see our own cultures and other cultures in a distorted way. We see them through the lenses of our own prejudices about how things should be. This can make us demonize other cultures or it can make us idealize them because we think something is wrong with our own that the other culture does better. Either way, it is all in our perceptions -- there is no such thing as a true and proper way to view a culture.
This depends on how you define “proper” and “distorted.” If proper means the objective perception of a culture, then I would have to be constantly aware of biases and ideologies that are common in my own culture as well as biases and ideologies common to the culture I’m viewing. This is the same if I am viewing my own culture. I must constantly be aware of those ideologies and biases. And I certainly must be aware of how patriotism or nationalism might cause me to view my own culture more favorably than I should.
If you define “proper” as “seeing the culture from the perspective of someone from that culture,” that is entirely different. Then you are just putting yourself in their shoes and are subject to the same distortion that they may have: due to cultural tradition, zealous patriotism or any ideological fundamentalism. I suppose to have a proper view, you have to leave all your cultural preconceptions at the door.
Generally speaking, to avoid a “distorted” view, and attempt a “proper” view, you must constantly be aware of your own cultural beliefs and possible distortions as well as the beliefs and distortions of the culture you’re viewing. For example, if I am from a patriotic, right-wing, Catholic, Capitalist culture, I may perceive an atheistic, Communist, left-wing culture as inferior, evil, etc. without having done an objective analysis. I would need to put my beliefs and any preconceptions of the other culture aside if I want any chance at a proper (objective) view of this other culture.
This is the basic premise of New Historicism.
Almost any view of a culture other than ones own will be somewhat distorted. It is impossible to have an accurate portrayal of that culture unless one is completely immersed in it. Each person has his own biases; prejudices; point of view, etc. That which one considers proper is alien to another. I often have my students read "The Blind Men and the Elephant" to illustrate the point. Even the sun can illuminate only one portion of the earth at one time. So rather than distinguish between a "proper" and "distorted" view of another culture, it is probably best that one view that other culture while being painfully cognizant of ones own point of view; which will of necessity be somewhat distorted.
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