Independence or Interdependence: What’s your default when calamity hits?

Disasters happen.  The people of the Philippines know this acutely, right now.   Typhoon Haiyan was a mega-storm.   It had no precedent.  How do people survive in a situation like that?  What will they rely on for survival, in the storm’s aftermath?

BBC image - typhoon haiyan

image source: BBC News service

Reliance on family

Well, it didn’t surprise me to read in this weekend’s Globe & Mail article of their reliance on family, in a calamity.    I saw their response to calamity, first-hand, while working with an NGO in the Philippines.   I can almost visualize relatives in the capital Manila packing up their vehicles with supplies and making the 24 hour journey to the hardest hit areas, by Haiyan, to help out family.

In Filipino culture, family is king and queen.  Family-oriented traditions are at the top of their collaborative deliberations.  They have a culture of collaboration.

Yet, what’s natural for Filipinos, family first, may not be so natural for us.  I constantly wrestle with being brought up in a society that tends to place a higher value on independence than interdependence.

Independence vs. Interdependence

In Clash: 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are, authors Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Conner sort our “many selves” into two basic styles: independent and interdependent.

With our independent hat on, we view ourselves as “individual, unique, influencing others and their environments, free from constraints, and equal (yet great!)”.

With our interdependent hat on, we view ourselves as “relational, similar to others, adjusting to their situations, rooted in traditions and obligations, and ranked in pecking orders.”

Most of us are both, of course; interdependent and interdependent.  It’s our human paradox.   It’s a matter of degree.  In large, we in the West have favoured independence, though there are regional variations.

The default

I ask myself.  What would my default in a calamity be?  What hat would I put on first – my independent or interdependent hat?

And, more generally, how do I respond to any challenge, for that matter?  To what extent do I take a relational, interdependent, approach as my baseline to solving the problem… or, to helping others solve their problem?

I hope that when my number is called, I do the right thing.  And, others do, too!

Thinking ahead, maybe I should spend a bit more time on nurturing networks, relationships and community?  It might come in handy.

For the moment, making a donation to the Philippines relief effort (I did) is a small token for honouring our connectedness.

A shift happening?

More independence or interdependence?   Which way do you think the wind is blowing?


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