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Desiderata: Towards Indigenous Models of Career Development and Vocational Psychology. Frederick T.L. Leong, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology Director, Consortium for Multicultural Psychology Research Michigan State University, USA Keynote Address IAEVG Jiva Conference Bangalore, India

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Desiderata towards indigenous models of career development and vocational psychology

Desiderata: Towards Indigenous Models of Career Development and Vocational Psychology

Frederick T.L. Leong, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology

Director, Consortium for Multicultural

Psychology Research

Michigan State University, USA

Keynote Address

IAEVG Jiva Conference

Bangalore, India

October 8-10. 2010

Desiderata things needed
Desiderata: Things needed

  • Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

  • As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.…..

  • Poem by Max Ehrmann


  • Desiderata for career development models

  • Importance of culture

  • Barriers to multiculturalism

  • Culture and career theories

  • Towards Indigenous models

Human beings as cultural beings
Human beings as cultural beings

  • ““No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking. Even in his philosophical probings, he cannot go behind these stereotypes; his very concepts of the true and the false will still have reference to his particular traditional customs….. From the moment of his birth the customs into which he is born shape his experience and behavior. By the time he can talk, he is the little creature of his culture, and by the time he is grown and able to take part in its activities, its habits are his habits, its beliefs his beliefs, its impossibilities his impossibilities. …. There is no social problem it is more incumbent upon us to understand than this, the role of custom. Until we are intelligent at to its laws and varieties, the main complicating facts of human life must remain unintelligible."

    From Ruth Benedict, 1934, in Patterns of Culture

Barriers to multiculturalism
Barriers to Multiculturalism

  • In a keynote address at the 1999 National Career Development Association convention, I had used Lewin’s concept of a force-field analysis to present a model for examining the challenges of providing career counseling in Asia in terms of prevailing and countervailing forces (Leong, 2002).

  • The model also suggested a need to avoid a simple importation of Western models of career counseling which may not be an optimal fit for the Asian cultural context.

  • Instead, the cultural accommodation approach was offered as a viable alternative.

Kurt lewin s model
Kurt Lewin’s Model

  • Borrowing from Lewin’s famous formulation that behavior is a function of the interaction between the person and his or her environment (i.e., B=f (P,E), (Lewin 1938, 1975), I proposed that some of his conceptualizations can be extended and applied to higher level phenomenon.

  • Whereas Lewin’s model was primarily interested in an individual’s personality and behavior, his concepts can be readily applied to social movements as well, such as our present topic, the movement towards multiculturalism in our society

Adapting lewin s model
Adapting Lewin’s Model

An Extension of Lewin’s Force Field Analysis to Social

Movements Such as the Multicultural Movement

Lewin’s Model of Personality Proposed Model of Social Movements

Life-Space Social-Space

B = f(P, E) SM = f(P, C)

Personal typology Social typology

Psychic energies Social energies

Locomotion Expansion or constriction

Personal equilibrium Social equilibrium

Personality dynamics Social dynamics

Forces and tensions Forces and tensions

Driving forces Prevailing forces

Restraining forces Countervailing forces

Individual needs, valences, vectors Individual needs, valences, vectors Organizational level and institutional dynamics

Prevailing and countervailing forces
Prevailing and Countervailing Forces

  • Climbing the Multiculturalism Summit:

    Lewinian Force Field Analysis

  • Prevailing and Countervailing Forces

  • Prevailing Forces: Globalization, Migration, Spread of the Internet, 9-11, etc

  • But there are Countervailing Forces which serve as the mechanisms that fuel resistance to change.

  • To successfully climb to the summit, I had proposed that we need to identify and understand these countervailing forces and how they serve as mechanisms underlying resistance to change.

Countervailing forces
Countervailing Forces

  • Ethnocentricism…it is a natural human tendency and it consist of using our own culture as a standard for evaluating others…which leads to prejudice and racism.

  • False consensus effect …it is the tendency to see one's own behavior as typical, to assume that under the same circumstances others would have reacted the same way as one self.

Countervailing forces1
Countervailing Forces

  • Psychological Reactance…. is a motivational force to regain or restore lost freedoms or to counter threats or attempts at reducing our freedoms.

  • To the extent that a change in how we think about our work requires giving up the established and familiar ways (i.e., monocultural versus multicultural), multiculturalism serves as a threat to this freedom of “business as usual”.

  • Thus, the multiculturalism movement is likely to arouse this motivational force of psychological reactance.

Countervailing forces2
Countervailing Forces

  • Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA) cycle. According to Schneider (1987) organizations develop a particular culture or climate because they undergo a process he labelled as the ASA cycle.

  • Through the processes of Attraction (who chooses to join the organization), Selection (who is admitted into the orgnization), and Attrition (who chooses to leave the organization), organizations eventually develop a very distinctive character.

Twin problems of career theories and research
Twin Problems of Career Theories and Research

  • Lack of Cultural Validity (Etic)… CV is concerned with the validity of theories and models across other cultures in terms of the construct, concurrent, and predictive validity of these models for culturally different individuals

  • Lack of Cultural Specificity (Emic)…CS is concerned with concepts, constructs, and models that are specific to certain cultural groups in terms of it's role in explaining and predicting behavior

Cultural gaps in career theories
Cultural Gaps in Career Theories

  • Lack of CV and CS has created major cultural gaps in our career theories & research.

  • Therefore our career interventions are being applied as “pseudo etics” or “imposed etics”.

  • These interventions and their associated assessment tools are often culturally inappropriate and sometimes culturally insensitive


  • Towards more complete and inclusive theoretical models and formulations.

  • Culture, race, ethnicity accepted as major moderator variables.

  • Research BOTH cultural validity of western models and identify culture specific variables that would provide incremental validity

  • Educate psychologists to differentiate between etic, emics, and imposed etics.

Formulations for career counseling
Formulations for Career Counseling

  • 1. Personality Models

    • (e.g., Employee Selection Models)

  • 2. Environmental Models

    • (e.g., Sociological, Organizational Culture)

  • 3. Person X Environment Model.

    • Case example of “Imposed Etic”. Dominant model but insufficiently specified.

Formulations for career counseling1
Formulations for Career Counseling

  • (a) Person X Environment = Match

    = High Job Satisfaction;

    = High Job Performance

  • (b) Person X Environment = Mismatch

    = Low Job Satisfaction;

    = Low Job Performance

  • Both the culture of the Person and the Environment are ignored in this model.


  • Creating more complete models for formulations in career counseling:

  • (a) Person X Environment = Match

    = High Job Satisfaction;

    = High Job Performance

  • (b) Person X Environment = Mismatch

    = Low Job Satisfaction;

    = Low Job Performance

  • (c) Person X Environment X P-Culture

    X E-Culture

    = Match = High JS & High JP

    = Mismatch = Low JS & Low JP


  • New Formulations of Determinants of Vocational Choice and Work Adjustment.

  • Old Formula:

    Vocational Choice = Function (Individual’s Interests + Ability + Values)

  • New Formula:

    Vocational Choice = Function (Individual’s Interests + Ability + Values) X (Family Influences) X (Cultural Constraints) X (Structural Inequalities)

Leong s 1996 integrative model of cross cultural psychotherapy
Leong’s (1996) Integrative Model of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy

  • Leong’s (1996) multidimensional, integrative model of cross-cultural psychotherapy found its beginning in Kluckhohn and Murray’s (1950) tripartite framework.

  • In their classic chapter, “Personality Formation: The Determinants” Kluckhohn and Murray (1950) introduced the tripartite framework: “Every man is in certain respects: a) like all other men, b) like some other men, and c) like no other man” (p.35).

Leong s 1996 integrative model of cross cultural psychotherapy1
Leong’s (1996) Integrative Model Psychotherapyof Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy

  • Leong’s integrative model represented the 1950 model as consisting of three major dimensions: Universal, Group, and Individual.

  • He proposed that cross-cultural psychologists and psychotherapists need to attend to all three major dimensions of human personality and identity to effectively assist culturally diverse clients.

Leong s 1996 integrative model of cross cultural psychotherapy2
Leong’s (1996) Integrative PsychotherapyModel of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy

  • Given the limitations of the three single-dimensional models discussed above, Leong’s (1996) integrative model of cross-cultural psychotherapy proposed that individuals exist at all three levels, the Universal, the Group, and the Individual.

  • What is required then is a model that integrates all three dimensions and allows for dynamic and complex interactions between psychotherapist and client, as well as across dimensions.

  • As we have observed, the problem with many psychotherapeutic models, especially current cross-cultural models, is that they focus solely on one of the three dimensions.

Leong s 1996 integrative model of cross cultural psychotherapy3
Leong’s (1996) Integrative PsychotherapyModel of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy

  • Using the Hindustan parable of the elephant and the ten blind men, Leong and Tang (2001) illustrated the point that just as the ten blind men had to piece together their individual knowledge to form the whole elephant, we too need to put different perspectives together.

  • By ignoring the relevance and importance of other parts that exist, we limit ourselves from seeing the whole picture and from complete solutions.

  • The Integrated Model can lead to better therapeutic outcomes by providing a more complete and complex and presumably more accurate picture of the client.

Leong s 1996 integrative model of cross cultural psychotherapy4
Leong’s (1996) Integrative PsychotherapyModel of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy

  • Leong (1996) further emphasized that effective cross-cultural psychotherapy would need to appropriately shift between dimensions as the psychotherapy relationship develops.

  • The integrative model assumes that all three dimensions are present in both the client and the psychotherapist. Each dimension can serve as the most salient factor in the psychotherapy relationship at different times.

Moving forward the cultural accommodation model
Moving Forward: PsychotherapyThe Cultural Accommodation Model

  • The Cultural Accommodation Model (CAM) is an extension of Leong’s (1996) Integrative Model of cross-cultural psychotherapy

  • The goal of CAM is not to abandon current theories and models and make new ones; instead, the aim here is to identify variables specific to cultural groups that can be incorporated into the assessment and formulations so that our psychotherapeutic interventions are more effective and culturally valid.

Cultural accommodation model cam
Cultural Accommodation Model (CAM) Psychotherapy

  • As outlined earlier, Leong and Brown (1995) raised the concern that the cultural validity of every psychological construct or model must be examined before applying it to a cultural population different from the cultural population for it was originally developed.

  • Cultural validity must be evaluated in order to increase the effectiveness of cross-cultural extensions and applications of such models without limitation.

  • The many models being developed and based upon White middle-class persons are only culturally valid for that specific population and may be culturally invalid for cultural and racial/ethnic minorities in the United States and populations in other cultures.

Cultural accommodation model cam1
Cultural Accommodation Model (CAM) Psychotherapy

  • Major Western models of psychotherapy:

  • 1) are based upon a restricted range of persons (e.g. White middle-class population);

  • 2) are based upon assumptions of limited scope (e.g. little room for variance in the Group dimension model);

  • 3) they tend to ignore or address in a limited way the socio-political, economic, social psychological, and socio-cultural realities of minority individuals (e.g. tending to focus usually on one dimension).

Cultural accommodation model cam2
Cultural Accommodation Model (CAM) Psychotherapy

  • However, while we know that not all theories are culturally valid for populations culturally different from the dominant culture, we should not automatically conclude that all models are invalid.

  • We must carefully evaluate each model to determine its cultural validity for other cultural groups first before making any such conclusions.

  • Indeed, given the Universal dimension, most theories will be partially relevant to all clients if they tap into some universal elements.

Cultural accommodation model cam3
Cultural Accommodation Model (CAM) Psychotherapy

  • Through careful analysis, we find “cultural gaps” that are missing the necessary components for enhancing the theory to become applicable to ethnic and cultural diverse groups.

  • The essence of the CAM is to provide a more relevant, valid and predictive paradigm on the personality and behavior of culturally diverse populations as compared to unaccommodating models.

Cultural accommodation model cam4
Cultural Accommodation Model (CAM) Psychotherapy

  • The cultural accommodation approach involves a three-part process:

  • (1) identifying the cultural gaps or cultural blind spots in an existing theory that restricts its cultural validity,

  • (2) selecting current culturally specific concepts and models from cross-cultural and ethnic minority psychology to fill in these missing components and increase its effective application to the group in question, and

  • (3) testing the culturally accommodated theory to determine if it has incremental validity above and beyond the culturally un-accommodated theory.

The cultural accommodation process
The Cultural Accommodation Process Psychotherapy

  • Once Western models of psychotherapy have been reviewed with regards to their cross-cultural validity and degree of cultural loading, then culture-specific constructs need to be identified in order to fill the gaps.

  • This constitutes the second step in the cultural accommodation model. It is essentially an incremental validity model whereby the universal or culture-general aspects of these Western models need to be supplemented with culture-specific information.

  • It is proposed that adding the culture-specific elements to the Western models in order to accommodate for the cultural dynamics of racial and ethnic minority clients will produce a more effective and relevant approach to psychotherapy with these clients.

The cultural accommodation process1
The Cultural Accommodation Process Psychotherapy

  • The question then becomes what cultural variables should be used for this accommodation process. There are a myriad of cultural variables that may be implicated in the cross-cultural dyad that constitutes the cross-cultural psychotherapy encounter.

  • Our proposal is to be guided by the Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) approach. As suggested by Cochrane (1979), we need to be guided by a critical summary of the best available scientific evidence for how we approach our practice.

  • It should be no different in how we select cultural variables for accommodation in the current model. Namely, we need to go to the scientific literature to identify those culture-specific variables that have been systematically studied to use in modifying our approach to psychotherapy with racial and ethnic minority clients.

Culture specific variables to accommodate for when working with asian american clients
Culture-specific variables to accommodate for when working with Asian American clients

  • Cultural Identity and Acculturation

  • Self-Construal

  • High context communication style

  • Shame proneness and loss of face

  • Interpersonal harmony and conflict avoidance

  • Self-restraint, conformity, and subordination to authority

Cultural specificity from indigenous psychologies
Cultural Specificity from with Asian American clientsIndigenous Psychologies

  • Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen (2002) had articulated that the second important goal of cross-cultural psychology is to “explore in cultures in order to discover psychological variations that are not present in one’s own limited cultural experience” (Berry et al., 2002, p. 3).

  • This is the stage of the indigenous psychology studies that address culture-specific phenomena and emphasize that Western theories and models may not have a universal validity.

  • Indigenous psychology seeks a bottom-up and culture-specific (typically non-western) approach to the study of culture.

Cultural specificity from indigenous psychologies1
Cultural Specificity from with Asian American clientsIndigenous Psychologies

  • A quote from Durganand Sinha (1993) in his chapter on indigenous psychology in India serves as an excellent example of this motivational force behind the movement:

  • “When modern scientific psychology, based on the empirical, mechanistic, and materialistic orientations of the West, was imported into India as part of the general transfer knowledge, it came in as a ready made intellectual package in the first decade of the century. It tended to sweep away the traditional psychology, at least among those who had been involved in modern Western education. In fact, this transfer in a way constituted an element of the political domination of the West over the third world countries in the general process of modernization and Westernization. The domination was so great that for almost three decades until about the time India achieved independence in 1947, psychology remained tied to the apron strings of the West and did not show any signs of maturing…….

Cultural specificity from indigenous psychologies2
Cultural Specificity from with Asian American clientsIndigenous Psychologies

  • …….Very little originality was displayed, Indian research added hardly anything to psychological theory or knowledge, and was seldom related to problems of the country. Research conducted was by and large repetitive and replicative in character, the object been to supplement studies done in the West by further experimentation or to examine some of their aspects from a new angle. Thus, the discipline remained at best a pale copy of Western psychology, rightly designated as a Euro-American product with very little concern with social reality as it prevailed in India. (p. 31).

Indigenous psychologies
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • The movement to create local indigenous psychologies in non-Western countries is a reaction to Euro-American dominance, the most salient aspect of which is the limited attention in cross-cultural psychology to issues that are relevant to the majority world, like poverty, illiteracy, and so on.

  • In a sense, indigenous psychology was developed in reaction to the increasing monopoly and dominance of western models.

Indigenous psychologies1
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • Another important argument, of concern, is theoretical: namely that psychology by nature is culture-bound and that each cultural population needs to develop its own psychology (hence our preference for the plural – indigenous psychologies).

Three approaches to culture
Three Approaches to Culture with Asian American clients

  • Three separate culture-related psychologies have arisen:

  • Cross-cultural psychology

  • Cultural psychology, and

  • Indigenous psychologies

  • Each has its own intellectual ancestors and traditions and a unique history of development

Indigenous psychologies2
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • As pointed out by Enriquez (1989, 1990), Kim and Berry (1993b), Sinha (1993,1997), and Yang (1993, 1999), indigenization of psychological research has become an academic movement among psychologists and scholars in related disciplines in several developing and developed societies (especially non-Western ones).

  • This indigenization movement, which reflects a worldwide concern for making psychological knowledge culturally appropriate (Sinha, 1997), is a direct reaction to the domination of Western (especially American) mainstream psychology and of Western-oriented cross-cultural psychology as applied to non-Western societies.

Indigenous psychologies3
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • It represents non-Western psychologists’ self-reflective realization that they have been completely wrong in regarding North-American psychology, which Berry et al. (1992) and Triandis (1997) considered an indigenous psychology, as the universal human psychology.

  • In this respect, Triandis (1997) is right when he says that the current (world) psychology is one of the indigenous psychologies – the one from the West.

Indigenous psychologies4
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • Various theorists have defined indigenous psychology in different ways. Enriquez (1990) regarded indigenous psychology as a system of psychological thought and practice rooted in a particular cultural tradition.

  • Kim and Berry (1993a) defined indigenous psychology as ‘‘the scientific study of human behavior (or mind) that is native, that is not transported from other regions, and that is designed for its people’’ (p. 2).

  • For Berry et al. (1992), it is ‘‘a behavioral science that matches the sociocultural realities of one’s own society’’ (p. 381).

Indigenous psychologies5
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • Ho (1998) viewed indigenous psychology as ‘‘the study of human behavior and mental processes within a cultural context that relies on values, concepts, belief systems, methodologies, and other resources indigenous to the specific ethnic or cultural group under investigation’’ (p. 93).

Indigenous psychologies6
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • Yang (1993, 1997b) defined it as an evolving system of psychological knowledge based on scientific research that is sufficiently compatible with the studied phenomena and their ecological, economic, social, cultural, and historical contexts.

  • No matter how these psychologists define indigenous psychology, the definitions all express the same basic goal of developing a scientific knowledge system that effectively reflects, describes, explains, or understands the psychological and behavioral activities in their native contexts in terms of culturally relevant frames of reference and culturally derived categories and theories.

Indigenous psychologies7
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • The primary goal of indigenous approaches is to construct a specific indigenous psychology for each society with a given population or a distinctive culture.

  • After that, the specific knowledge system and its various research findings may be used to develop the indigenous psychologies of progressively larger populations defined in terms of regional, national, ethnic, linguistic, religious, or geographical considerations.

  • Finally, the highest indigenous psychology, a universal, or more properly a global, psychology for all human beings on the earth will be formed by integrating lower-level indigenous psychologies.

Indigenous psychologies8
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • Kim and Berry (1993a) have pointed out that the indigenous approach is not opposed to scientific (including experimental) methods and that it does not preclude the use of any particular method.

  • They have also asserted that the indigenous approach does not assume the inherent superiority of one particular theoretical perspective over another on a priori grounds.

Indigenous psychologies9
Indigenous Psychologies with Asian American clients

  • Yang (1993, 1999) has recommended that the principle of multiple paradigms be adopted.

  • Under the principle, different indigenous psychologists in the same society may be encouraged to apply different or even conflicting paradigms to their own research.

  • This rule has been actually practiced among indigenous psychologists in Chinese societies (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China) for some years.

Some examples
Some examples with Asian American clients

  • Hardin, E. E., Leong, F.T.L. & Osipow, S.H. (2001). Cultural relativity in the conceptualization of career maturity. Journal of Vocational Behavior,58,1-17

  • Pek, J.C.X. & Leong, F.T.L. (2003). Sex-related Self-Concepts, Cognitive Styles, and Cultural Values of Traditionality-Modernity as Predictors of General and Domain-specific Sexism. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 6, 31-49.

  • Cheung, F.M., Cheung, S.F., Leung, K., Ward, C., & Leong, F.T.L. (2003). The English version of the Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,34, 433-452.

  • Chang, L.C., Arkin, R.M., Leong, F.T.L., Chan, D., & Leung, K. (2004).Subjective Overachievement in American and Chinese College Students. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 152-173.

Towards indigenous models
Towards Indigenous Models with Asian American clients

  • Desiderata: To question and challenge the cultural validity and cultural specificity of the Western models of career development and vocational psychology which are currently using.

  • To use the Cultural Accommodation Model (CAM) of career counseling and accommodate for culture specific elements.

  • To join in the Indigenous Psychologies movement and begin investigating indigenous constructs to enrich our models and make them more culturally appropriate and culturally relevant for our clients.

  • Therefore, I come to you today not with these Indigenous models already developed but instead with an invitation and call to join me in the journey.

Ways forward speak your truth quietly and clearly listen to others
Ways forward…. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; Listen to others...

  • Fanny Cheung, Fons van deVijver, and I have a paper on a combined etic-emic approach to personality assessment across cultures. Our paper ends with the following recommendation which is relevant here:

  • “Given the complexity of the undertaking, it would be most helpful use a team approach and to ensure that both the etic and emic perspectives are represented on that team. If possible, it would also be desirable to have team members from multiple cultures or at least a member of the target culture who is familiar with indigenous psychology constructs and approaches to ensure that the indigenous perspective is represented.

Ways forward speak your truth quietly and clearly listen to others1
Ways forward…. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; Listen to others...

  • “To avoid “imposing an etic”, the research team should invest time in evaluating measurement equivalence of the measure at different stages as outlined above. Members of this research team should have knowledge of target cultures and of methods to acquire this knowledge. At the same time, researchers with knowledge of qualitative, ethnographic methods, such as interviewing and content analysis, as well as quantitative analyses and cross-cultural methodology, should be sought out for the team (Byrne et al., 2009).

Conclusion many ways to be human
Conclusion: Many Ways to be Human Listen to others...

  • For many years, Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development dominated the field.

  • Then in 1982, Carol Gilligan published “In a Different Voice” as a more accurate description of the moral and psychological development of women and a critique of Kohlberg’s theory.

  • Kohlberg’s theory, like many other theories of that time was both androcentric and eurocentric.

  • Like Gilligan, those of us at the forefront of cross-cultural psychology need to challenge the existing theories and the status quo.

Conclusion many ways to be human1
Conclusion: Many Ways to be Human Listen to others...

  • Forrest Tyler, one of my professors at the University of Maryland, put it succinctly when he observed that..“there are many ways to be human”.

  • As cross-cultural psychologists, I believe that we need to explore and research these “many and different ways of being human” to counter our natural tendency to view one way as superior and those of others as inferior.

  • In recognition that there are many cultures in this world and that each culture is inherently worthwhile, we need to study these “cultural ways” in the myriad forms and functions around the world.

Closing thought on the need to infuse cultural diversity into our theories and our practices
Closing Thought: Listen to others...On the need to infuse cultural diversity into our theories and our practices

  • “What sets the world in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions. Life is plurality, death is uniformity. By suppressing differences and pecularities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death. The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us. Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes the possibility of life”

    From: Otavio Paz,1967, in The Labyrinth of Solitude