The Power of Culture

Never before have I considered that culture has played such a grandiose role in a career like being a pilot until i read Malcolm Gladwell’s chapter, “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.” Gladwell epitomizes this brilliantly by using Korean Air as an example of how culture can override a life or death situation. Simple things in the American culture like speaking to a higher authority when one knows their actions are wrong is something that comes as second nature. To the Asian culture though, the Koreans to be specific, this is something that is not even thought upon. In the Asian culture being part of the higher authority means that their subordinates can’t speak up out of order or perform actions that might offend them. Personally for me I find this quite odd but I understand as filial piety is a huge part of the Asian culture. What I don’t understand though is how the Asians keep this tradition even in a dire situation that can result in life or death.

Every culture is different no matter how one looks at them and tries the best to compare them together. Gladwell portrays this exceptionally as he incorporates different studies into his examples like the PDI which rates the attitude of a country toward authority.  Through this ranking which rates Brazil one, and South Korea two, one can correlate that a country with a high pilot PDI has the most plane crashes. Simple things like the flight engineer or second in command not speaking up to the head pilot when they know a crucial situation is about to occur seems unheard of but since the Koreans were raised this way it makes no sense for them to start to speak up to authority at this time. The first officer giving subtle hints to the pilot to have him try to understand about how the plane is about to crash sounds unheard of but culture is too overbearing to change even in this circumstance. Although it might not seem evident, cultural identity defines the way one acts and performs regardless of the event that is unfolding. So when a plane is about to crash and the Asian flight engineer knows to turn around he will only respectfully hint to the pilot that he should turn around thus risking a chance of death for him and his fellow passengers.  This might sound crazy for many as us Americans will without a question yell to turn around and not think twice about it. This just shows that cultural identity and one’s culture is something that is learned and not able to be broken no matter what is occurring around oneself.

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