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Intra-Cultural vs Inter-Cultural

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine. “Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.” -From an article by Reid Wilson, GovBeat, Washington Post, Nov. 8, 2013

When I was growing up there we only three TV Networks and most of America got their nightly news and entertainment, sitting in front of "the boob tube," as a family unit. In my household we had a big TV, 27 inches and a portable 12 inches, which sat on top. Because we couldn't agree on which program to watch collectively, the portable TV was an option, allowing two programs to be viewed at the same time, still as a group endeavor around, the cool hearth fire of the  CRT (Cathode Ray Tube).

Even though TV is still very much a part of the average America household, being viewed on average 7 hours a day, the audience experience is no longer a group activity, but very much an individual experience. Even though folks are now "multi-tasking," tweeting or communicating on Facebook while at the same time watching ScandalSleepy Hollow, Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN, the experience is very much individual as opposed to communal.

What is this fragmentation doing to our sense of "one national, indivisible?"

Ever since our days as Hunter Gatherers, human beings have "entertained" themselves in group settings, first around campfires, tent shows, revivals, leading to Minstrel shows, vaudeville, "Legitimate Theater," The Movie Multi-Plex or Rock Concerts. The digital era which has brought about the revolution in personal communications (PC) is a doubled-edged sword.

Via the World Wide Wed we have to capability to truly be part of a "global village." But are we also loosing rather than gaining a greater sense of "community?" Does Woodard's Eleven America's represent an opportunity for a greater sense of our common humanity? Yes!

But only if we come to realize that what is required isn't just a reliance upon an "intra-cultural" communications model where we only talk to those with whom we agree, but rely more on an "inter-cultural" model where we use our digital wherewithal to communicate with and try to understand "the other," without "demonizing." 

The more we are able to communicate "person to person" in someways the more we shy away from ideas and attitudes which are different from our own as the map and article tend to illustrate. Humans are social and tribal. So we become part of "the White Tribe," the Black Tribe," "The Hispanic Tribe," the Tea Party, The GOP, D's vs R's. But politically there are more "independents" that either who consider themselves Democrats or Republicans. Some are certainly, liberal, progressive, conservative, hard to quantify or qualify. That's a good thing.

Perhaps the American myth of E Pluibus Unum is really just that a myth. And like the Fractured Fairy Tales of my youth has always been a "crazy quilt." The divisions are just more pronounced these days. So it remains to be seen whether the future will be like Roddenberry's USS Enterprise or the Old Testament's Tower of Babel.

The key going forward and what will determine that outcome is whether we embrace Intra-cultural and Inter-cultural communication, not either or but both.

Walter Harris Gavin is an Interculturalist writer, producer and author of the novel, The Autobiography of Obsidian Dumar