Being a liberal in a conservative environment- How I should’ve dealt with my cross-culture crisis

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This recipe is based on my realization about what I should’ve done to solve the issues I faced after my trip to the U.S (about which you can read here). I dealt with them in pretty messed up ways and was never able to find a solution as to why. After much introspection, this is what I came up with.

This recipe may apply to many who get exposure to the west for the first time or are going through a cross-cultural crisis,  (especially if you’re a woman) or just if your freedom is being restricted in some way or the other and you’re unhappy with that. These issues are usually under the umbrella of moral policing.

First of all, you’re always a liberal in a conservative land because liberals aren’t born without contrast. They’re born out of revolt and dissent, for which, you need conservatives in your environment.(You can be American and consider yourself to be a liberal in a conservative land!)

This is a brilliant opportunity to have what we in Buddhism call our “Human revolution”. These solutions may take time to be apply, so one should have patience while working things out.

The following are value creating strategies that can be used in different combinations depending upon the intensity of the situation:

  1. Express: Express your feelings/opinions to them assertively rather than just oppose their ideas in your mind. Help them see the situation/world through your eyes and who knows maybe they agree with you!
  2. Accept and cooperate: Accept them as they are for we are all souls on our own journey and hence growing at our own pace. They have so many strengths too! If you put them in a box now, you’ll always see them like that and never acknowledge their growth in the future. Also, if you want them to accept you, you’ll have to accept them as they are too- relationships work both ways, otherwise you’ll just be showcasing “liberal intolerance”.
  3. Forgive and check arrogance: You should try to cope adaptively by not keeping grudges against people because of this aspect of their thinking.  You will also always be at their mercy emotionally if you continue to keep a grudge against them. Forgiveness is extremely empowering and will free you from getting affected by their judgement.
  4. Love yourself: Don’t go into covert protests and punish yourself, keep people away from your life and feel victimized. That is a maladaptive coping mechanism which won’t work in the long run. In fact, in this case, you’ll feel confused about whether you’re guilty or not. Make up your mind.
  5. Use LOA/ Seek answers– only focus on your desire, not obstacles. Be pro-peace and not anti-war. Visualize what kind of a culture you want to live in, the kind of people you want to be around and attract that. Don’t change and continue to do your karma. Who knows, maybe in due time, you do get right the opportunity to be in the environment you desire/deserve.
  6. Change poison into medicine/ Creative solutions: Don’t remain in covert protests, but channelize your passions- talk about the issues that bother you and find creative solutions. Work directly for the causes you are passionate about. (like start a blog, petition, spreading awareness etc.). Use this time to awaken the leader in you and transform culture.
  7. Maturity: Be the rest of you and put that “unacceptable by society” part of yourself on hold. Respect the culture but don’t start hating yourself either. Just understand that you both are different/incompatible and address your own needs. i.e, live the double life- highly controversial, but you probably have to adjust. Suffer what there is to suffer, and enjoy what there is to enjoy till you get out. This is often the wise thing to do.
  8. Pick your fights: Depending on the intensity/magnitude of the conservatism expected, calculate how far it curbs your right to freedom and the penalty for it. If you’re mad about not being able to post pictures in short clothes or not being able to party hard (moral policing), then very few will support your case. But if someone is taking away your freedom to drive, education etc- people will sympathize with that. If you’re complaining like that in the middle east, obviously the more sensible thing would be to move to a more liberal land. If in your country its not that restrictive, then maybe just changing your friends group or something small might do the trick. The point being that you can’t change other people’s thinking. For a mass protest or revolution, you need a lot of empathy/sympathy and a very justifiable argument and the freedom to wear short clothes may not pass for one yet in your area. Practice wisdom and pick your battles!
  9. The power of time: Due to how things/the universe works, forces like liberalization and globalization, things (including culture) change over time. So whoever you may be judging today, may change exponentially in the years to come. Hence, believe in their potential 🙂

Also read- “The Importance of Appreciating your culture” here

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