During our training with multicultural project teams we aim to encourage cultural synergy or an understanding and recognition of the existence of many perspectives. We use a story adapted from the book “Flatland a Romance of Many Dimensions” to enable the groups to explore how different and minority cultures can feel devalued.
Let me tell you a story
The story is about Arthur a humble Square, who is a mathematician he lives in two-dimensional Flatland with his ever-curious granddaughter Hex.
In flatland all men are polygons whose social class is directly proportional to the number of sides they have; therefore, triangles, having only three sides, are at the bottom of the social ladder and are considered generally unintelligent
The female population is comprised only of lines, females are required by law to sway back and forth and sound a “peace-cry” as they walk, because when a line is coming towards an observer in a 2-D world, it appears merely as a point.
The Square talks of accounts where men have been killed both by accident and on purpose by being stabbed by women. This explains the need for separate doors for women and men in buildings. Colours are banned in Flatland after the lower classes once painted themselves to appear highly ordered.
One day, much to his surprise, Arthur the humble square is visited by a three-dimensional sphere, from Spaceland. Arthur has been a firm believer that there is no third dimension and refuses to acknowledge the sphere until he sees Spaceland for himself.
He is given further reason to consider this possibility when he is granted the rare chance to visit Lineland. He is baffled when the king and queen of that country refuse to acknowledge his existence, because they cannot, in their sphere of experience, imagine that there could be any dimension higher than the first.
The Square recognizes the connection between the ignorance of the monarchs of Lineland with his own previous ignorance of the existence of other dimensions.
Prejudice and stereotyping is usually based on lack of information.
- How does the story relate to stereotypes of others and of your own culture?
- What situations make you feel “not OK” and different from the majority culture members”?
- How can differences in customs and attitudes be an asset at work?
Metaphor is the use of one notion to describe another. Metaphors provide us with a powerful medium for teaching and learning they help us to reduce complexity and introduce sensitive topics in an emotionally detached context.
We chose this story because it is free from cultural bias.
Many metaphorical expressions are deeply embedded in our communications, thoughts and culture and therefore we use metaphor unconsciously and automatically. However many metaphors are not cross culturally transferrable and our use of them can create confusion for our learners. Choose your metaphors carefully!