Tuesday, May 5, 2009

fostering creativity

i suppose it has been a long while since i've last discussed azeri culture as seen through my eyes.

one thing i have noticed is that creativity is generally not fostered within azeri society. this is not to say that azeris do not believe in creativity's worth. instead, it just is not fostered. azerbaijan is homogeneous. i know what i'm about to write isn't particularly flattering, but i'm being honest. moving on...
from the childhood and through adulthood, azeris are in often encouraged to think creatively. when children draw, the draw what is real. i've hardly ever seen a child scribble abstractly. but of course, not many children worldwide do. however, most kids draw things having to do with azerbaijan and azerbaijani national pride, like the azeri flag. also, i have never seen any adult abstract art in country. i have visited a number of small H. Aliyev museums (there is at least one in EVERY CITY...he was the first president) with art present in it. no abstraction. i paint abstractly and when azeris see my paintings they are generally very encouraging, but also confused. they just have not seen anything like it before. many azeris know the term abstract, but it is still a new experience.

but what i've said above is hardly evidence. the most prominent evidence occurs in the classroom. i teach children to use computer software. while teaching Word i cannot just say "type something. anything". I've tried it many times. when i say "type anything" the result is that each child types nothing. they cannot comprehend the idea of typing "just anything". they need to be told what to type. so then i have to make it up for them.

CED volunteers often encounter the problem of NO WORK. as a result, the CED volunteer must make her own work. firstly, organizations in azerbaijan generally have difficulty thinking creatively about what to do with their volunteers. until the volunteer came, everyone had their pre-prescribed positions. everyone knows their job and they are not really trying to think creatively about how to do it better...which poses as a challenge when the volunteer tries to shake things up. in azerbaijan, people really tend to stick to what is known: comfortable hierarchies, comfortable presidential families (they just voted to eliminate presidential term limits here recently and thereby chipped away at it's democracy because power here stays in the family), and comfortable sex role norms.

why is this the case? i have a couple amateur theories: post-soviet culture and passivity.
i honestly don't know that much about the soviet union. however, azerbaijan is the second ex-soviet culture i've lived in (the first was prague). it appears to me that there was something so stifling about the soviet union that people take time to warm up again. something about the soviet union was cold and rigid. clearly, hieirchies and bribery were an intricate part of the soviet union. and as i've already experienced in azerbaijan, there is something incredibly defeatist about corruption and bribery. why think creatively about how best to run organizations, governments, and institutions if those on top of the hieirchy will stymie your efforts? the people at the top feel they have nothing to gain from the change. So why think creatively if it will not be properly valued?

passivity: from my experience, azerbaijani culture is rather passive. one reason for the passivity might be that azerbaijan is a geopolitical hotspot...people always seem to be invading or parceling the land off. people here don't really confront one another when there are problems. instead there is a lot of qualified speach and passive aggressive behaviour. a lot of behind the door judgments. on the one hand, azerbaijani culture is incredibly hospitable and welcoming. on the other hand, that doesn't mean the welcomed guests are not being judged thoroughly.

well, those are just my honest thoughts. sorry if they are offensive...especially to any azeris who might read this blog. just please know that of course this does not apply to everyone. not every single person in any one culture is the same. these are just my overall cultural impressions.

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