Cultural Identity in Post-Modern Society: Reflections on What Is a Hmong?
CONCLUSION | Members.Ozemail.Com.Au
“I have taken a post-modern approach to my discussion of Hmong cultural identity. This, I believe, is the most appropriate now of world history and the development of the Hmong. Human societies have now reached the stage where they now actively engage each other. This engagement has resulted in a world which consists increasingly of blended rather than discrete cultures, a cultural mesh or “pastiche” which mixes all styles and materials, borrows from all sources, and rejects traditionally accepted standards. Post modernism sees the world as passing through the modernist stage when the so-called “less developed” countries were treated as separate from the more modern societies, to one where they blend with, or borrow from, each other economically and socially on the modern stage. Using this approach, I have tried to explore in this paper the common patterns as well as the paradoxes in Hmong culture.
I have used the knowledge gained through this rediscovery process to see how cultural features are given to the Hmong and how the latter reject or incorporate these features into their group ethos. Like other human groups, the Hmong have benefited as well as suffered from their group image or identity: it has been used to their own advantages and the advantages of other people as during the Vietnam war where the Hmong’s reputation as hardy soldiers was exploited by both sides of the conflict with devastating effects. One of these effects is that many Hmong people are now refugees in America where their cultural identity is fast changing. If it was not for the concern for this identity, we would not have organised this conference today to discuss its survival. So many of our Hmong women have transformed their beautiful embroideries into large commercial banners, bed spreads and quilts depicting Hmong history. Their handcrafts now adorn houses, bedrooms, and museums around the world.
The biggest challenge for all Hmong is how to apply their joint skills, like our women’s handicraft skills, to turn our diverse language and customs into one unified and one Hmong/Miao identity, guided by a new set of multicultural social values selected from the many Hmong groups and other people they live with. We cannot achieve this until we look at our shortcomings, broaden our minds by listening more to other people, by becoming tolerant, assertive, knowing how to speak and act without hurting people. When this is done we will be able to join hands and achieve the freedom we yearn for: freedom from poverty and ignorance, freedom to learn and progress, freedom to get together and to share, freedom from exploitation and from contempt, freedom from our own greed, freedom from idleness and neglect of our families, freedom from too much freedom in the West and its effect on our children. We must do more than talk; we must act today and every day.
We must change, to overcome our narrow mindedness, our arrogance, our clan politics, and divisiveness. The Hmong will be able to maintain and develop their post-modern identity with pride and freedom from fear only if they all join hands to look after each other’s interests, when they stop turning against each other because of their clan feelings or parochial differences.”