Culture, Ethnocentrism and
November 20, 2011
Culture is what we believe and how we behave. Ethnocentrism, a feature of culture, tells us that our culture is better than any others and that other cultures are inferior or have disturbing practices that differ from our own. In extreme ethnocentrism, a culture can dominate and destroy another culture just because it considers it unworthy and inferior, as seen in the movie Schindler’s List.
Culture, Ethnocentrism and Schindler’s List
Culture is made up of values, behaviors, objects, and other characteristics customary to the individuals who are a part of a certain group or society. It is how we define and mold ourselves to our society’s shared principles, enabling us to contribute to our society. But until we experience another culture different from our own, we are not even aware of what characteristics make up ours. In most cases, we do not acknowledge our culture until another individual breaches one or our traditions, or we disregard someone else’s. If a person takes into consideration another culture’s standards and behaviors and understands that there is no right or wrong between the two cultures, then that person has reached cultural relativism. However, this is difficult to do as it is common for all people everywhere to place their own culture patterns at the center of things, no matter which culture he or she is a part of. When people do this, cultural conflicts are initiated, as seen in the movie Schindler’s List, which portrays a nearly textbook example of extreme ethnocentrism.
One of the features of any culture, ethnocentrism is the practice of judging another culture based on the standards of one’s own culture (Macionis & Plummer, 2010). When a person evaluates another culture, that culture’s traditions, customs, language, and other racial practices are compared to his or her own, and finds those people to be inferior or lower to themselves. This can lead to vanity, false pride, and a superiority complex, in regard to one’s own ethnicity, resulting in condescending and sometimes violent behavior towards the other culture. If the people of one culture refuse or cannot understand or adjust to the other people’s culture, disastrous consequences arise, that include war and genocide. This is the basis of the Nazi and Jewish cultures seen in Schindler’s List.
A movie by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List is the true story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, a womanizer, a war profiteer, and the savior of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust of WWII (Spielberg, 1993). The movie opens in Krakow, Germany during WWII, with the initial persecution of the Jewish people living there. Any businesses and jobs the Jewish people had were taken away by the German military, and they now are being forced into the Ghetto to be crammed together without their possessions and very little clothing and food. As the movie progresses, the Jewish people face ever-increasing cruelty at the hands of German soldiers. In the middle of all of this is Oskar Schindler who is looking for a way to make a tremendous profit from the war. He starts a factory making pots and pans, using the Jewish people living in the Ghetto as laborers. The story is about Schindler’s cultural attitude (very German Nazi) that changes as he sees the horrible and unwarranted torture and murder of the Jews that work for him. After questioning his Nazi values, he realizes how very wrong the Nazi opinions are of the Jewish culture, and ends up using his own money buying 1,100 Jews from a Nazi commander, in order to save them from the Auschwitz death camp. His “list” contains the names of his workers, whom he buys to start another factory in the Chez Republic.
After watching the movie, there was very little that this writer did not find culturally shocking. The attitudes of the Germans towards the Jewish...
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