Encounters with the “Other” A History and Possibilities – Barry Oshry

Encounters with the “Other” A History and Possibilities

Barry Oshry

Barry Oshry

Author, “Context Context Context,” “Seeing Systems”, “Leading Systems”, and In The Middle

Act I

How Our Culture and the Culture of the “Other” Came to be


Many cultures may look strange to us,

but not to the “others”.

And our culture may look strange to the “others”

but not to us.

That simple fact is the beginning of understanding.


We may feel that our culture is simply

the way things have been, are, and ought to be.

The “others” likely feel the same way

about their culture.


We and the “others” were not born

with the rules of our cultures;

we learnt them

from parents and elders,

teachers, and peers,

and media.


In both cultures

we and the “others” absorbed

the do’s and don’ts of our cultures –

appropriate and inappropriate emotionality,

ways of speaking,


interacting with elders and

people of different sexes,

and much more.

We were taught our culture’s beliefs and values,

rites and rituals,

ways of solving problems,

seeking justice,

expressing joy, or sadness, or grief,

and much more.


In both cultures, these rules were taught

as the ways to live, to survive,

the ways to be in the world.


In time, we and the “others” learn our rules so well

that we no longer experience them as rules,

they become the lenses through which we view the world.

Except we don’t see our lens

and how it shapes what we see.

Instead, we believe we see the world

as it reallyis.


Neither we nor the “others”

experience our culture as an option,

as one of many possibilities.

Each of us experiences our culture as

the way things are or ought to be.

And then we meet.

Act II

Our Culture Encounters the “Other”

Loose and Tight, Liberal and Conservative, Pure and Conflicted, Tolerance and Purity Solutions


So now our culture encounters the “other.”

The “other” may have immigrated to our culture.

Or we may have conquered them.

Or they have may have once been invisible in our culture,

and now they have become prominent.


Through our cultural lens

the cultural behavior of the “other” appears





Wrong language, dress, emotionality, skin color, rites and rituals, and so on.


Since our cultural rules are experienced

as the way to live, to survive, to be,

the cultural behavior of the “other” is experienced

as upsetting of our culture,

as weakening it,

or coarsening it,

and, potentially, as threatening its survival.

And we react.

Continues in source