Sunday, September 2, 2007

Children and Culture

Last night, well this morning at 12:00 am, I watched part of the National Geographic Taboo series with my "Shoob" (my 8 yo daughter Yael). Options were limited and after about 8 minutes of Mad TV I knew that absorbing culture (hah, Manny) was the more propitious choice. So this particular episode was about global beauty standards. Featured were both US plastic surgeons and Mesangih rites of the Balinese. Now, I preface this by saying that National Geographic specials are a momentous event for me and have been since I was a child. I never gave it any thought to introduce my children to the wonders of culture in far off lands as I thought was one of the oddball traits that only my dad I and I shared. This, since Carl Sagan astronomy books and National Geographic magazine and televised specials were routine in my parent's house growing up.

The show begins with the Balinese people. First Question...

Yael: So what are they, like homeless?

Me: No, that is where they live, they are villagers. (Village for my daughter is The Village Inn, Jordan, my son who is 15 and a tad more cultured might say Greenwich Village if he were asked)

Yael: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, drawn out like I've just revealed the answer to the existential question.

A few minutes pass and as the villagers of preparing for a tooth filing ritual (One of beautification for the tribes women) a local who has already had her teeth filed is interviewed. In a split screen the woman who has not had the tooth filing done is shown. When they mention that a shaman will perform the tooth filing. My daughter says, referring to the woman who has not had the ritual performed.

Yael: I get it, so like he is a kind of dentist where they live.

Me: No, he is a shaman...a kind of doctor, but for other cultures.

Yael: tilts head to side-Culture, you mean like how we don't celebrate Hanukkah?

Me: Uh, yes kind of like that. They like their teeth that way in that culture.

Yael: Ohhh, do you have to?

Me: No, but if you were part of their village surely you'd want to.

Now, Joe and I watch the special almost weekly and I go on every time about how the shaman the townspeople their grandparents and all would have to just kill me before I'd let them carve me up. Later followed by they'd kill me before puberty for trying to unionize the villagers or teach them to shop online. All being facetious. But, today I'm being mindful of our future and doing what I call the functional mom gig.

Now the narrator takes us through the village citing the role of the others in preparation for the event. In communal living cultures such as this, everything involves everyone. Ugh, it would be the death of me. I remember carrying Yael while living in an apartment complex where everyone of my roller clad, bench sitting neighbors would ask shit like "Is it hot enough for you"? Are you still pregnant? Uh, no now I'm acutely constipated and the excessive perspiration- that's part of my whole detoxification plan! Move on...So, the husband of the woman to be ritualized who is a newly appointed chief has to pay the shaman. Who happens to be his father. Ha! And the price is A pig, a sago palm, and a chicken. Upon the narrators explanation that pork is traditional celebratory fare, my happy little vegetarian smiles and says:

Yael: I get it! It's like Fear Factor!

Stifling my laughter and at the same time wondering how (now that we live in Acculturate AZ) I can incorporate more world fiber into my children's diet. It is an important part of who I am and who we are as a family being from such diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This is an amusing yet frightening example of how societies form their outlook and judgement of others. There is another child somewhere, not far from here who has the same questions and another parent out there who isn't as open-minded and accepting. I will not be that parent, nor will I raise those children.

How about you?

PS. The US segment featured a white American male getting ass implants, we went to bed.

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