Crossing Cultures: Influence

We have a natural assumption of having an effect on the people around us. We are taught not to stare, point, make fun, be too loud, or offend others. We are trained to be aware of the feelings of those around us, watch out for other drivers, keep the dog in the backyard and generally be considerate. The basis of these actions is the belief that we can influence the well-being of others. We act accordingly, either positively or negatively, but we know we affect others. 

Peruvians do not necessarily have these same assumptions. They operate instead in ways that show that they do not consider the fact that they might influence others. Unfortunately, this can often manifest itself through annoyances. The neighbors play music too loud and too late, disregarding those next door. The dogs are left to freely roam the streets and bark all night long. They have an “every man for himself” approach to driving. Children stare and point and are not corrected. I have seen children even come up to our children, reaching out to touch their faces or hair, or asking to be given a toy, with no reprimand from the parents. 

It would be easy to assume that they are merely rude, inconsiderate people who knowingly leave a wake of irritations. However, what I more often observe is a lack of belief that it can be any different. Why would someone pay attention to how others were affected by their actions if they see in themselves no ability to affect change or influence of any kind? If they feel unworthy of reaction in a positive way, why would they consider the possibility of negative reactions as well? They just don’t seem to pay attention to those around them, not always because they disregard the value of others, but because they disregard their own value. 

It’s kind of sad, really. Poverty, lack of education, abuse, corruption in government, and more all contribute to a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that shows up all over the place. Thus, we find ourselves working to bolster the spirit of the people, empowering them to make a change, helping them through information, resources, or the simple knowledge that someone is available for support, should they need it. For those of us who are used to having backup, it seems only natural. To those who have felt small in the world, it is powerful to no longer feel alone.