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20 January, 2009

I would like to talk about thinking in 3 dimensions…


I will post an essay I wrote for my Intercultural Communications class, however.  Featured are some familiar themes from… wait for it…  ….

Brian Eno.

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Is the structure of social class as two dimensional as it’s portrayed to be?  They say a book cannot be judged by it’s cover.  Certainly this is thought of as the case with human beings on an individual level according to factors such as wealth, fashion, and culture.  An extension of this reaches to entire groups, nationalities, and cultures of people.  Is it really so easy to have knowledge of any one individual based on a standard alone?  I would like to highlight a few ideas that may say no… and yes.  In this I will cover my position on communicating with people among varying social classes, I will briefly discuss axis logic (or three dimensional stereotyping), and naturally conclude with the evolution of  culture and how to better survive the social structures of today.

Two dimensions of three dimensional people viewing three dimensional two dimensions with glasses that are, needless to say, a fashion statement.

Two dimensions of three dimensional people viewing three dimensional two dimensions with glasses that are, needless to say, a fashion statement.

Good communication has long been accepted as the key to a good relationship.  Most of us view ourselves as decent or even good communicators.  Well, besides the fact that this is clearly a biased opinion, let’s look at this fact.  The average adult, to their measurement, would say they have “some” good friends and “some” not-so-good friends.  I’m sure if we were to get an accurate measure that, roughly, this would be true.  The average amount of friends a person has is balanced with the average amount of friends you don’t invite to dinner.  For good measure we’ll throw enemies into the latter category.

I would, reluctantly, say this is true of myself.  Me, raised in a rollercoaster of social classes and sub-classes ranging from “drinking out of jelly jars” poor to living in a house on prime real estate on the lake.

So why is this true, that we aren’t loved by all and may even have enemies if we are, by fair calculations, fairly decent communicators?

I believe that we are all capable of successfully communicating with everyone.  True, some may not be as equally successful in reciprocating that exchange, but no one is a brick wall (without ignorance).  I’m saying first that it takes work.  For them?  For you.  It’s true that at some point you will, by choice, only go to some extent to achieve your ideal communication with some people.  It’s fair to say this is where the majority of our diversity in friendships come from.  But communication is more than just words.  It’s an understanding between people.  It’s a contrast in colors of emotions, knowledge, and wisdom.  It is here where we can find common ground and universally communicate with all.

This is where my own personal trouble lies.  In fact, this is where forever we’re going to have troubles communicating.  We all will have differences in communicational color.  This is a point where our exchanging of ideas and thoughts and emotions and whatever have reached beyond a social class.  …  So what I’m trying to say on a personal level is that I don’t feel any problems communicating between social classes necessarily.  My particular difficulties lie in the “colors” that are confined by any one class.  See, for every existing social class there is a particular stereotyped reality.  “Poor people aren’t clean.  They have bad eating habits, they’re over weight or underfed, they don’t see a dentist, they live in a fifth-wheel, they work in fast food, they’re likely drug addicts and/or criminals.”  “Middle class watch football, are teachers or work for the state, retire in their 50’s, have two boys and one girl, are two-story home owners and their daughter marries a successful businessman and has two perfect children.”  “Upper class do not involve themselves with the preceding unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.”  These are the boundaries that possess the ideals and understanding of others which allow those few of us that speak universally to all classes to be unavoidably upended.

This is where axis logic comes into play.

Axis logic is best thought of as a tool for three dimensionally viewing a person… in that non-obvious sense.  An axis is a name for a continuum of possibilities between two extreme positions: so the axis between bland and white is a scale of grays.

I can illustrate this idea by applying it to the description of haircuts.

Rather than only being able to say of someone’s haircut that it is, for example, masculine or feminine, we’re as likely to want to say that it’s quite masculine, or quite feminine, or unisexual – somewhere in the middle.  When we do this, we acknowledge that the sexual possibilities of haircuts don’t just fall squarely at one or the another of the polar positions – masculine or feminine – but somewhere on the wide range of hybrids between them.  In fact, we would fee somewhat constrained if we couldn’t make descriptions in these fuzzy, hybrid terms.

Now expound this for whatever different substance exists.  Hair color, texture, length, style, trend…  then take each of those and expand them beyond that.  Color is red.  … So red can be auburn, apple, blood orange, … and so on.  Also, on this graph, which is a simple cross in 2D space, any point represents a particular position in relation to four polar possibilities (or any two substances of hair).

Now look at stereotypes.  According to each existing social class and sub-class and sub-sub-class and nano-class, conclusions have been reached as to what certain traits these classes have.  Though some-what archaic by now, largely I’d say these conclusions stand true as a generality per class.  However, these are merely starting points at best on the individuals level.

What you’ve now done by taking axis logic and applied it to stereotypes is created a three dimensional model of the likely hood of a human being.  In your mind you take little things you see and pick up about a person, about every word they say,  every movement of their lips or gesture of their body, and you collect it and apply it to that axis in your mind.  Each axis, thus, is Then you add your own ‘handicap’, if you will.  Your own angle on axis logic, and… you’ve got two individuals that have successfully blended personal uniqueness into one.

Though vast in potential, Earl was still a block head.

Though vast in potential, Earl was still a block head.

This is, in theory, what happens in the brain of those who can universally communicate between social classes.  That is to say, once you’ve accomplished this, you can speak universally to anyone.  This is, I think, a key to minimizing difficulties in communications between peoples of all backgrounds.
You could say that the evolution of culture is the gradual rethinking of the whole matrix of axes: the discovery of new ones, of course, but also the careful tailoring – trimming and extending – of existing ones.  For instance, the axis of ‘possible human relationships’ used to extend from ‘total slave’ to ‘absolute ruler’.  Fortunately, fewer cultures now accept either of those extremes as possibilities (polarities).  Effectively, thus, this particular axis has been shortened to a narrower range.

What characterizes, say, Fundamentalism is a set of extremely strict axes that allow little or no movement what so ever.  In contrast, Liberalism has no end to the polarities of it’s axes.  Worldwide, the axes of people from varying cultures will greatly vary according to the conditions they live in.  The same is true, for now, of the United States.   Though we all need symbolic substances like art, literature, music, and sexuality to expand and flex our axes, we still are confined somewhat to certain stereotypes.

I urge that we continue to grow in our cultural and intercultural diversity, and understanding of all human life.

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