Maybe you’ve been following along… if not, you should probably catch up real quick.
The U.S. Ambassador said to not bother with a survey. Dr. Humphrey simply replied that, if it was ok, he wanted to proceed with questioning the locals, anyway. And he did. Those two simple questions were:
1) What do you want from America?
2) What can Americans do to (or not do) to make things better?
The amazing thing was that he actually got the same answer back to BOTH questions!
Respect Us as Equals
The overwhelming majority (upper 90%) of answers came back in some way to say, “Respect us as equals”:
- Stop treating our women like trash.
- Stop laughing at us when we do something you don’t understand.
- Stop looking down on our customs and traditions.
- Stop thinking your culture is superior to ours.
- Remember you are a guest in our country.
- Don’t assume we’re idiots.
Those answers all boil down into one word: Respect.
Note: When most large groups of people were asked to guess the answer back then, no one hardly ever guessed correctly. Five decades ago, the idea of “respect” in this manner wasn’t even thought of. Most were shocked when they found out it was the answer because they thought the locals really did want more money or for the Americans to leave.
Dr. Humphrey couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was actually too good to be true! In fact, it simply went back nearly 200 years to our nation’s own idea of “Human equality” – after all, he thought, “we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
Humphrey went with glee to the “higher ups” and basically told them, “Guys, great news! They don’t want us to leave. They don’t even want more money. They just want us to respect them! It should be easy, right? Our own ‘Declaration of Independence’ supports human equality and that is what we need here… recognition that we are all equal.”
The reply? First, one of the gentlemen (keep in mind this is senior military and political leaders) simply looked with that adult-to-child look and basically said, “But Dr. Humphrey, we’re not all equal. Some are tall, some are short, some smarter than others, etc. Besides, even Jefferson had slaves. The Founding Fathers just said all that equality stuff to enrage the masses and get cannon fodder.”
“Besides,” it was even stated, “we’re not here for human equality… we’re here for Freedom!”
Second, there was an ideological problem with what Humphrey was saying. To say that we are all equal was to admit that Communism was right (this fallacy will be covered in the next post). They didn’t tell the good Doctor to simply take his survey and go home… they actually told him to burn the results and never mention them again.
However, Dr. Humphrey didn’t want to fail in his mission, and he knew he had “stumbled” upon the key. He just needed to figure out how to get the GI’s to respect the locals. So he did what we try to do even today:
Cross cultural Day
Let’s have a cross cultural day! “Cultural Awareness Day”, if you will. We’ll invite the locals to a big party, and we’ll each each other’s food, learn the culture and then we will appreciate each other more. Well, picture the day.
The Americans were all about, “Come try our food! Hamburgers! Hot Dogs! A real Bar-B-Que! Yummy!” But what do you think happened when it was the local’s turn. The Americans basically said, “What? Are you kidding me? I ain’t eating this stuff.” (nevermind what hot dogs are actually made of, right?). And the fact was that very few Americans even bothered to show.
Ok, strike the Cultural day. But wait! We can do something better:
Learn the Language
You know… we’ll teach the American some of the local language, etc., they’ll learn to be polite, say thank you and all that and then eventually learn to respect the people and their culture.
Hmmm… what do you think the first words most GIs ever learn in a foreign language are? So that went over about as well as a slingshot in a china shop.
Doctor Humphrey did what any self-respecting contractor would do when they find themselves in an impossible situation… he started playing golf on the weekends. Ok, so not quite like that, but he did end up doing some hunting, and it was on one of these hunting trips that he discovered the secret to recognizing human equality and activating it within others.
I’ll explain “The Hunting Story” in a little bit, but first, a short discussion on human equality.
See you in a bit!