Awareness/Miscommunication

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I am procrastinating in certain aspects of my life. I really need to get back on and finish my third novel but I’m stuck and so instead, to satisfy my writing fix, I turn to this blog.

A thought occurred to me a few moments ago that I wanted to write down least I forget it. That thought was just how culturally unaware we are of each other. I’ve been in Mexico these past five years and yet the more I learn about the people and the culture the more aware I am of just how freaking different we as North Americans are.

We might inhabit the same continent. Share some religious values. And Spanish is a second language to many of us here even spanning some ten thousand miles, but believe me, Mexicans do not think like people like me.

I mean that literally. Mexicans have an entirely different world view – hence thought patterns – then us in the north (or for that matter even further south).

Irrespective of culture, do you realize during any given conversation we are having what amounts to one massive parallel conversation?

My mother constantly reminds me of this. I say one thing and judging by her response I can tell she heard something entirely different.

I first became aware of this notion of parallel conversations back in the ’90s when I was helping Intel construct a $1B factory in the Philippines. I was talking to a systems engineer about the nature of the data his system produced and me being an electrical engineer specializing at the time in communication system design realized that we were both speaking in two entirely different directions although ostensibly about the same thing.

He could only communicate to me the system data processes while I was desperately trying to understand the transport piece of those processes. He could tell me what happened within his system but we were at loggerheads when it came to trying to mutually communicate what the data format looked like and what that data format would look like once transported upstream to another system.

He didn’t understand the transport layer and I didn’t understand the system layer. And it was during that one particular conversation that I had an ‘aha’ moment when I realized we were having a classic parallel conversation.

I don’t know if the term parallel conversation is in popular parlance, but the parallelism of that conversation anyway made that term in my mind self-evident. And I have ever since been cognizant of this gaping gap that more times than not exists between us humans.

I told my friend, Max a couple of weeks ago that I had applied for my social security benefits. You can do that beginning as early as 3 months before your 62nd birthday.

We discussed social security and what it means in the US and how it is nonexistent in Mexico. He made the pronouncement that social security would shake Mexican society to its very roots and upend hundreds of years of tradition.

I found that positively fascinating. What we take for granted in the US would remake Mexican culture. It would destroy the hierarchical bonds of family. Which in turn would undermine the power of the church.

Imagine if a son or daughter could look forward to a future that was independent and financially secure from their parents? Where parents could no longer hold their children’s inheritance over their heads as a means for preserving their own care and security in old age?

It would be devastating. It would turn Mexico upside down. A child would be financially free anywhere in their adulthood to tell their parental masters to shove it. The guilt card would cease to hold any power over the next generation.

And the guilt card is played often down here. Society plays it. The church plays it. And so does dear old mamma and papa. In fact guilt is woven into the very fabric of society.

We might all share the same species. And in many cases we speak the same language(s). But we are all divided by culture, sex, education, and experience.

PS – My first novel’s substructure is this topic of parallelism. I did this because I often marvel at how truths, half-truths and even downright lies are often distorted by the transmit/receive part of the information itself.

Unlike modern day electronic communication systems which contain data self-check mechanisms for accuracy (aka what’s sent equals what’s received), human speech neither does not nor cannot.

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