America: Home of the Arrogant and Uninformed

America: Home of the Arrogant and Uninformed

This lecture was extremely near and dear to my health because it surrounded the ideas that Riana and I committed our whole semester to researching – the ethical complications of interventions abroad. I think Carrie touched on the large overarching problem that continually comes into play in these situations: we do not take the time to understand the cultures we are trying to help. Carrie emphasized this through her story about how she intended to make the education system safer. She had great intentions, but formed a solution that could not actually be applied in reality. This complication was rooted in the fact that she formed the solution using her previous experiences and was simply not equipped with the “tools” to problem solve for this region of the world. We find time and time again that we are not familiar enough with the cultures of the countries we are trying to help and yet we still go abroad and try to use solutions that apply in the Western world. This can be seen in many areas of intervention, whether these are social, structural, or medical interventions. A prime example of American ignorance that I found in my personal research of interventions in Africa was that many health care professionals proposed that African men be circumcised in order to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs. In doing this the health care professionals compromised the African culture, as many of these cultures are against circumcision. It is a recurring problem that American health care workers attempt to assist in global health and arrogantly push solutions that simply do not fit into the cultures they are invading.

What examples arrogance or cultural ignorance have you seen in global health efforts?

10 thoughts on “America: Home of the Arrogant and Uninformed

  1. I agree with what you mentioned from the lecture and your own findings through research. American intervention in certain areas of the world, although with good intention, has destroyed certain parts of culture that Americans were ignorant to. A recurring example that happens after most natural disasters, but was and is very prevalent in Haiti after the earthquake, is the overcapacity of NPOs and other organizations to try and help the locals. We ship in corn and other foods that are cheap and will help feed the disadvantaged people quickly and easily, but we never pulled our corn out of Haiti, and it has completely destroyed their traditional eating and farming habits. Their health has not averaged back out to where it should have been because corn is not nutritious, and they are now dependent on foreign imports of food like corn to sustain their lives. If we had analyzed the best way to help them out, it would not have looked like this.

  2. I agree with your statement that sometimes we as Americans go into these new environments with the wrong mindset. We go into certain situations believing that their way of life is wrong and in need of improving. When in actuality our mindset needs improving. Not only can we stop intervening on situations especially when we have those same issues happening here in the USA. I am not saying to not help I’m just saying not to be a hypocrite.

  3. I think that “arrogance” is the perfect word to describe the many walks of American life who travel to communities foreign to them with intentions of improvement with Western research or culture. In my global health experiences, I’ve been a part of and witnessed many organizations funneling money or resources into a poor community that often cannot sustain what is given to them. I find this interesting because despite the high amounts of money spent on health care in the United States, we are still plagued by poor health and survival outcomes. These reflections and Carrie’s lecture made me question this unwarranted arrogance and how I could approach any future global health experiences with humility and cultural sensitivity. I think it’s important to partner with someone on the ground and learn about the complex communities that we might be stepping into before claiming our own ideas or innovations as “best”.

  4. I don’t think we should really feed the stereotype that Americans specifically are uninformed and ignorant. Although I do know many people in the U.S. who are ignorant to basic culture differences in other places around the world, I also know many who aren’t. Furthermore, I distinctly remember my friends in Lebanon (when I lived there) swearing by the fact that all Americans are overweight. I also remember Carrie explaining that other countries’ children are ignorant and fall for the stereotype that all Americans own guns. My point is people in general, not just Americans, are ignorant and largely uneducated about other cultures, and we all need to do a better job of being informed and respecting other cultures.

  5. I agree with you that we should be aware of other people’s cultures. Learning a people’s traditions, etiquette, language, among other things is important if someone wants to create a closer to another culture. It’s also important to keep in mind that culture should not be should used as a shield from solutions. For example, female genital mutilation is a horrible procedure with no positive benefits that is common in Africa and the Arab world. It’s part of their culture, but that shouldn’t make it okay for us. We should still advocate for the cessation of the practice, even we are met with resistance. Some cultures are better than others in this way.

  6. Being open and mindful to other people’s views is the most important thing in the world. Everyone should learn to be open to others. There should not be stigmas just because two individuals disagree. Instead, we should respect the other person’s views. Americans should not been seen as uninformed. WE as a generation can slowly make a difference towards these stereotypes.

  7. As an immigrant, I had a lot of experience of the gaps and misunderstandings among different cultures and how those could cause problems. I always remembered back in high school, I was asked multiple times that if I ate dogs. Because people had seen all kinds of news about Chinese eating dogs. They did not know that this actually only happened in a few areas in China and many Chinese were against eating dogs. They also did not have the interests to explore the truth and correct the stereotypes, which I totally understand. It is very easy for people to establish a certain stereotype towards a certain group only based on a little piece of information that is probably not even reliable. I also have this problem. I believe everyone more or less has the same issue. The important thing is to realize it, figure it out, and correct it by overcoming the cultural gaps. That is why studying or working abroad is crucial for someone who wants to contribute to the global health issue. You can only help someone effectively when you thoroughly understand their situation and problems.

  8. I don’t agree with your generalization of America as being the “home of the arrogant and uninformed.” You mentioned male circumcision as a to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. There is compelling evidence that male circumcision does indeed reduce the risk of contracting HIV. This is, inarguably, a positive health outcome. It is up to an individual to decide whether that positive health outcome is worth compromising that individual’s tradition and culture, but to me it seems unfair for you to generalize Americans as “arrogant” and “uninformed” because American health care professionals had proposed circumcision as a way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. If the health care professionals had forced males to be circumcised without considering their traditions and culture, I think that would be assuming and arrogant of the professionals. However, they simply proposed a solution that is proven to be effective. I don’t see how informing a group of people about a solution to a problem is “arrogant.”

  9. I agree with you completely. One of the biggest and most prevalent complications of volunteering abroad is not understanding the communities that we are entering. I don’t think people volunteer for the right reasons anymore. Everyone just wants to make themselves look great, they constantly want to boost their self image by going out and volunteering in places that are less fortunate. Carrie showed this when she talked about the picture of a white girl holding an African baby. Pictures like this honestly anger me. People take these pictures just to look good. Volunteering is about something different. It’s about helping people because you genuinely want to. I volunteer in the hospital right now, and I don’t do anything spectacular. I usually wash things or stock supplies. What makes it worth it for me is when the nurses come in and talk to me and thank me because I’m making their jobs easier and making it easier for them to treat their patients. I think a huge example of arrogance are these pictures that are taken. To me, these pictures are saying “look at me, I’m such a great person.”

  10. I agree with your statement that Americans don’t always understand the cultures that we are trying to help. A lot of American’s don’t know about culture differences and believe that all cultures operate similarly to Western cultures. I think a lot of the time they are blinded by the idea of trying to help that they don’t pay attention to who they are actually helping. I personally haven’t witnessed any of American’s arrogance in terms of global health because I don’t know a lot about the subject. I think a lot of American’s don’t try to be arrogant while traveling to other countries just a lot of individuals are uneducated about the cultural differences.

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