K.P. Hong began by explaining how even though human beings have a preset notion to fit observations into rational outlooks, there are still many unexplainable irrational aspects of the universe. The Pythagoreans were a group who used mathematics in order to prove the universality and order present in the universe. However, a simple right triangle defied the notions of rationality through the persistent presence of an irrational number, no matter what units were used, in the diagonal line. Since the idea of irrationality was so unacceptable, the Pythagoreans kept this a secret for hundreds of years, and when one member leaked the knowledge, he was executed. This displays the extent to which humans desire order.
In the same way, we try to fit different cultures in what we view as “rational” societies. A person’s values and beliefs are influenced by his surroundings growing up. Someone growing up in poverty, struggling to get by every day, would have very different aspirations and outlook than someone who grew up in a very rich neighborhood with all the commodities he desired given to him. In the same way, our view of other cultures is influenced by the cultural experiences of our childhoods. K.P. Hong explained how our minds were initially blank, and we really had to learn. However, after certain knowledge and memories are put in place, we stop learning and started categorizing. Our minds naturally take the easy way out instead of really discovering new outlooks and attitudes, we fit ideas into preexisting belief and knowledge structures preset in our brains. This is why when people view other cultures, they unconsciously categorize people into stereotypes. It is easier to do this than to reach past what we know, into the realm of the irrational, and start to really learn again.
This causes people to categorize between “us” and “them,” which promotes conflict, justifies segregation, and gives people a mindset of difference. Difference inevitably means a hierarchical system, influencing a sense of superiority over those seen as “them.” Social stratification and exploitation stem from these notions.
The members of project B.R.E.A.K.I.N. realize that we have biases and stereotypical notions of different societies as everyone does. However, we understand that we must make an active effort in order to try and dissolve these barriers which prevent us from being able to really see a society for what it is rather than what we want to see. When we go to Cambodia, we will seek to experience the culture in a way that helps us establish connections with the children going to Tiny Toones and promotes an active sharing of culture. In this way, we will not only be able to understand and bring back their way of life, but also leave behind a little bit of ours.