Ethnocentrism and values are like the spine of cultures. It separates culture from culture and how we look at each other. Ethnocentrism and values can bring good and bad, it may manifest itself in attitudes of superiority or hostility toward members of other groups and is sometimes expressed in discrimination or violence. Values are those ideas and things considered important by a given group of people, values are no written laws, it’s what we as a culture find important. For example in the U.S it’s an important value to give or help the poor. This values change from culture to culture; other American values are personal achievement and success, hard work, faith in progress, efficiency, and practically since Americans comes from so many different cultural backgrounds, many people have values that are different from those of the majority. Ethnocentrism is the attitude and/or ideology concerning the relationship between an individual’s own group and other groups. Ethnocentrism occurs when negative value judgments are made about others based on the differences between one’s own culture and a foreign culture. Ethnocentrism occurs when an individual considers his culture/nation to be absolutely superior to other nations or cultures. An AFS book that all AFS students get before they arrive to a their host country explains values and ethnocentrism with an interesting twist. They have a picture of an iceberg where 10% is over the water and 90% that you cant see is under the water. This illustrates the “hidden laws” or values of a culture. Since 90% of the “laws” are under the water it’s basically impossible to learn everything on a year, but it helps a great deal.
There are thousands and thousands of unwritten laws, and they change from culture to culture. For example in Norway there is an unwritten law that says you should come home and eat dinner with your family, or as we saw in a movie clip about Saudi Arabia where a man from America showed his soles of his shoes, this is considered very wrong in some countries, or in Japan where the American made one man stick out from a promotion, this was considered very wrong. Unwritten rules like this are hard to understand when you are not used to the culture you are visiting or moving to, it can often cause problems, something I have experienced my self after living In Two Harbors for almost a year. One of the biggest changes from Europe to the U.S is probably freedom among teenagers. When Filippo Panvoncelli came to our sociology class he told us they had more freedom in school compared to Two Harbors High School, this is a typical value for most of Europe. We have to learn to take care of our self in a much younger age you could say.
Ethnocentrism can cause a lot of trouble, when arriving to a new culture with new values you often go into a culture shock, this results from losing familiar signs and symbols of social interaction. Like when I arrived to the United States I didn’t have any friends to talk to about personal problems, or just in general, this can lead to a lot of frustration, anxiety and exhaustion. Ethnocentrism can lead to excessive nationalism. This nationalism can be used to justify persecution of minorities, prejudice, and racism. In Nazi Germany, for instance, Adolf Hitler sought to create a master race, which would be far superior to all other races. This belief in the superiority of "Aryans" helped justify the repression and murder of millions of people. As you can understand ethnocentrism isn’t just good, but bad to, you can use the ying and yang symbol from Buddhism to explain it; it has some good in the bad and some bad in the good. You have to remember that if we didn’t have any ethnocentrism we wouldn’t look at other cultures as interesting. Here is a quote by Conrad Kottak that I think explains ethnocentrism very good: The tendency to view one’s own culture as best and to judge the behavior and beliefs of people in other societies by one’s own standards." Here are some examples of ethnocentrism: The very question of if the Norwegians have a Norwegian dream, assuming that all countries have a nationwide dream similar to the "American Dream", How much text on the World Wide Web is in anything but English.
As you may understand from my essay ethnocentrism and values are around us all the time in our society, if you live in Norway, Sweden, or the United States. The good thing about ethnocentrism and values are that they change from culture to culture and help the world just look a bit more interesting to the naked eye. The sad part is that it has been/is so destructive to the world to.