A Relationship with Culture

Coming home is different from just visiting. There was energy in every action this time, every decision. I had an awesome lunch with the Dancer, time to buy what I needed, take a trip to Chinatown and the Ferret’s birthday party, a healing seminar, and a long wait back across the border with Sijo and the Healer. Then again out with Herald and the next night dinner with Hotsauce. There was little space in between, but every wait felt like Christmas Eve.

I haven’t really felt anticipation in decades, not like this. Looking forward at what’s to come, savoring every minute here, and holding on to my year in Mexico were all fighting for space in my psyche. For a short time, nothing could get me down. I know that will change soon enough, but on my train ride north I am still relishing the cascade of emotions.

The time I spent in San Diego this time was limited, and not having a car was more of a hassle than I anticipated. It was expensive to rent a car, but the ability to go where I needed saved me hours of time. Mass transit in the States is nowhere near as prolific as in Mexico, and while it is cleaner and nicer, it takes far too long to get anywhere.

The feeling of San Diego is different this time, and I know it’s mostly me. Knowing that I had to go back home to Mexico kept me in check. Any time here was vacation or obligation. Once I would have been afraid of the next step, worried about what was to come. I would have fretted over problems, mistakes, and stressed over the smallest error. This time, nothing really held my anxiety for more than a moment. Being so far from home for so long changed my perspective, and fear is no longer the enemy it once was.

From the beginning, that was part of my goal. I wanted to become someone else, to understand more, and to see further than when I left home. This trip home let me know that I had begun. It also let me know that I compare things to Mexico way too much. In some ways, it’s like dating someone while constantly comparing them to your ex. Even though you think the new girl is better, no one likes to be compared to a relationship that’s gone.

That’s part of what traveling is, not just the relationships with the people you meet, but the relationship you have with the culture and the country you are living in. Everything has an energy, a life, and if you try to live apart from that life you can never really understand where you are. Most of us learn to understand the culture we are born into, naturally and without question. It limits us when we believe that ours is the best culture, or we simply view other cultures as something separate and strange. Traveling gives us the opportunity to understand something new, to become part of something we never knew existed, but it does not require it. Anyone who watches “An Idiot Abroad” can see the mind of a man unable to be anything other than what he is.

That is the importance of the relationships we have with cultures. People who do not see race, as I once didn’t, cannot understand the pain or the joy of being part of a new world. The worst part is, we see that as a good thing. The failure to understand places us above and beyond the problems of the people we don’t connect with. You cannot really understand the problems of black culture in the US if you have no relationship with the culture. You can date all the people of color you want, have any relationship with them you want, but until you reach out and try to be one of them for a moment, you cannot understand.

It was the same in Mexico. If you compare the problems of the Mexicans to the US, you get a mix of similarities. The problems with the Narcos are the same as Prohibition in the US. Women’s rights are often in the 70’s, repressed under the weight of testosterone and the belief that sexist comments are something women should appreciate. The technology is at least a decade behind the States, endlessly frustrating and unreliable.

None of this is useful information. It oversimplifies the problems of the country, makes the US into the older brother who has already done what Mexico is doing, and erases all the cultural differences between the two countries. The truth is that these problems exist because of the US, not simply as part of every culture. We legalized alcohol because making it illegal gave rise to the Mafia and people found ways to consume it. We don’t apply the same rules to all drugs because the problems of the Narcos are in Mexico. If everyone knew someone who was murdered, tortured, or disappeared here because of the war on drugs, public perception would change. Since it’s far away, it doesn’t matter.

The problem with women’s rights are similar in the US, but we believe we are so much more advanced because the women have begun to fight back. When they fight the system in Mexico, they usually die in the most horrible way imaginable. The technology ties back to the Narcos and their money corrupting the government. If people are not able to communicate, they cannot organize or understand the problems they face. The indigenous people only survive against the government’s current colonization efforts because they can make themselves heard throughout the world.

It’s simple to say the problems are the same as we faced when our actions cause them. It also allows us to ignore any problems that don’t fit into our understanding of their culture and allows us to be superior and separate. Without the relationship to their culture, we can never understand the role that family really plays in it, that if you have and your brother needs, you take care of him, even if it’s illegal. Nepotism is far more dangerous when it’s second nature. Everyone knows the problems there, better than we ever will, but they cannot abandon their family because their culture will never be as individualistic as it is in the US.

Much of the politics now involve the lines on the map and how to make them thicker, but that path is nothing but pain and lies. The line separates money, power, and law, manmade ideas that separate people and create distance. I don’t know that erasing the lines would change much more than the focus, some people will always see life as competition, that power must be fought with power, and that there is something more than ignorance and pride that keep cultures apart. Even the idea of appropriation, taking part of another culture and making it your own is pride and ignorance, just like trying to stop appropriation. Culture is just a viewpoint, and mistakes will always be made in the attempt to understand someone else’s sky.

The Diplomat, whom the council decided to reinstate despite the mustard incident, asked me what the most important thing I learned in Mexico was. I think this is it, not something easy, or something that can be put into words, but the reality of becoming awake. The beginning of changing all my questions into answers, a process that I expect to spend a lifetime on. That is the greatest problem with forming a relationship with a new culture, that it’s not something that can be passed on or really shared. It’s becomes a part of you, stripping away your assumptions and making you less of what you were, but leaving you free to become something new.


This entry was posted in 2015-11, San Diego, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Relationship with Culture

  1. Moritz says:

    Very interesting insights and thanks for the beautiful pictures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Council says:

    I look forward to the next chapter in your life, and the one after.

    Liked by 1 person

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