You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

The Longest Now

On appearance, body language, and xenophobia

The Occupy movement has a nice set of websites up for many of the major metropoles in the US. They even have a meta-website up (how can you not love that?) covernig the links between them, Occupy Together. Right now it is focused on the US, even though there’s already an Occupy Canada movement (ok, no surprise, since Adbusters was a driving force behind the original idea).

From the meta-site, I discovered that Noam Chomsky recorded a video supporting Occupy Boston, and found a link to some charming footage of an afternoon party in the Cipriani Club on Wall Street, where partygoers in black tie on a second-floor balcony smiled and waved at the march passing underneath their balcony. They seem cheerful, interested, and friendly to the passing crowd, waving and taking photographs – just like so many of the observers down on the street. But even if their body language is essentially the same, their setting and clothes set them apart in the eyes of many. Almost every comment on the video that I’ve seen, is scornful of the partygoers — assuming they represent the Other the crowd is implicitly targeting and opposing with their chants. Only one of hundreds of people pointed out that they are probably at a wedding or other formal celebration at the club, and many likely support the ideals of the marchers.

How can we bridge the gap created by surface appearances — communities with different dress codes, social circles, and ways of expressing themselves — to get at underlying agreement? The fundamental requests and needs of these protests are no only supported by the sorts of people who celebrate at black tie events, but also at some of the wealthy “1%” – Warren Buffett most notable among them. Yet certain kneejerk reactions and stereotypes are set up as barriers to cooperation even before people have a chance to meet. We have foun many solutions over the generations to the more omnipresent problem of bridging cultural divides across national and language barriers when immigration or war brings different societies together. How can we learn from that to bridge this gap in the debates over how to allocate a nation’s resources?

I came across this recently:

which speaks to this, for a particular group.

Comment by p. 10.16.11 @ 8:55 pm

Bad Behavior has blocked 165 access attempts in the last 7 days.