This node is presented for information. The orginal, ranting version is presented, complete with the odd pipelinks, at the bottom of this WU.
Ethnocentrism in your write-ups is bad. Everything2 is (in principle) here to inform the users about all aspects of life. To assume that a reader is familiar with institutions or conventions with a limited geographical extent is to do your own work a disservice. This applies particularly to Americans, who form the majority of the users and therefore feels reinforced in their cultural attitudes. Nothing wrong with that. But to make your information truly accessible you need to explain (not remove) elements which are stongly culture-dependent.
Whizkid explains the essentials of this in A Couple of Tips for Noders. - so what have I got to add?
Specific examples and advice. Here's a selection, which I will keep adding to, of cultural pointers for Americans, Britons and others who want to make their nodes inclusive. I'd encourage people to enact this by linking their text to the other nodes explaining concepts not directly associated with the topic under discussion, and by presenting background to any new disucssion of a local issue.
The residents of most democratic countries outside the USA do not swear a pledge of allegiance to a flag, or feel special reverence for their national flag or any other, except when used appropriately as a national display. Many are not aware that this is the case in the USA. So, when presenting your ideas on the flag burning amendment or the oath of allegiance, make sure you provide a little context. (Both of those nodes do provide that context, by the way.)
A lot of anger has been expressed on Everything2 about the role of the Christian religion in the state life of the USA. Independent of the validity of this anger is the point that the establishment and observance of religion is not consistent the world over. The United Kingdom has a church established by law (the Church of England or Anglican church), but it is very rare for a senior figure such as the Queen or Prime Minister to mention religion, unless on a personal note. This contrasts sharply with the United States tradition of putting 'In God we Trust' on currency and being told 'God Bless the United States of America' after presidential broadcasts.
The names for certain signs are not universal. In particular, the down-pointing fork in a circle known to many nations as the peace symbol is known in Britain by its original name: the CND badge. And this sign - # - is called 'pound' in America, but hash in most other places. The dot at the end of a sentence is known to Americans as a period, but in the UK 'period' means a woman's menstrual cycle, and the dot is called a full stop.
The cultural attachments of festivals are not universal. The USA regards Hallowe'en very differently from most of the rest of the world. In the UK there is a certain amount of dressing up, but trick or treat is comparatively rare and costumes are expected to have a certain gothic horror flavour. In other countries the traditions are yet more ancient. The Brits are not exactly fans of the Great Pumpkin. :-) In the UK, the expression 'Kris Kringle' for Father Christmas is unknown. The Easter Bunny is not a common symbol in some parts of Europe. In the UK, Veterans Day is called Remembrance Day. And so on.
Some festivals are completely culture-dependent. In Britain, Harvest Festival is celebrated (if at all) at least six weeks earlier than Americans mark Thanksgiving, and many Europeans are unaware of the significance of Thanksgiving. Citizens of the United States may let off their fireworks on the Fourth of July, but in Britain fireworks are saved for the Fifth of November, to mark Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. Former colonies have retained the British firework tradition, but moved the display to other days of the year again. In Scandinavia, fireworks are only normally used on New Year's Eve. In Sweden and other parts of Europe, Whitmonday (the day after Pingst/Pentecost/Whitsunday) is a public holiday. In certain countries - Norway for example - Christmas Eve is the date for major Christmas celebrations.
Some English-speaking countries have different names for the same things. In Britain, elevators are generally called lifts, and fall is called autumn. In Britain, while both arse and ass are terms of abuse, the latter usually carries the meaning of 'donkey' or 'fool' rather than 'buttocks'. In the UK, the word 'wank' is considered far more offensive than in the USA. In Britain, 'fag' means a cigarette, not a homosexual, and a faggot is a spicy meatball or a large log for burning.
American politics are not necessarily readily comprehensible to others. It's not immediately apparent what, in a democratic republic, parties called Democrats and Republicans might stand for. Nor is it necessarily obvious which countries' Liberal parties are genuninely liberal, which socialist, which centrist and which right-wing. Don't assume that your reader has heard of Alan Greenspan, Peter Mandelson, Göran Persson or Gerhardt Schröder.
On a related note, don't assume that your reader is familiar with your nation's history. I may know all about Harald Hardradi or the Prince Regent, but not everyone will. Not even Queen Victoria is as well-known as many British people would like to pretend. Karl (or Charles) the Twelfth of Sweden isn't taught in British schools. Not everyone recalls which King of France was executed in the French Revolution, or who signed the Treaty of Utrecht. Provide background.
Not every nation has the same literary icons. Until joining E2, I had only heard the name Ayn Rand mentioned once, in an imported American novel. Her works are not taught in British schools, or for that matter very often sold in British shops. Most non-French readers won't know the difference between Alexandre Dumas père and fils
Local terminology is not widespread. Don't expect everyone to know what hub man, jock, sassenach or gaijin means.
This is a serious point: many American-authored write-ups regard Islam as something which mainly affects the Middle and Near East. Here in Britain, it's a major religion these days. There are mosques in many cities, and an increasing number of non-Muslim Britons are gaining an awareness of the faith. The same applies to Australia. Please be aware of this when writing about Islam.
The political attitudes of various nations, now and in the past, are not necessarily the same as those of the USA. Anti-communist paranoia was far more pronounced, and still is, in the United States than elsewhere. As a side-effect of this, not everyone understands the Vietnam War. Conversely, most non-Britons know little about the Falklands War of 1982. Many noders are German. Remember that before writing something insensitive about the two World Wars.
The racial composition of your local area is guaranteed not to be reflected elsewhere. Don't introduce needless references to visible minorities into what you're saying. The fact that the girl was Japanese may have nothing to do with the case. And if such things do matter, don't forget that we can't see you, and may not know you, and don't know what colour you are, or if your neighbours are similar or not. Personally, I don't think such issues are meaningful - but if you say it, make it clear. Thanks to rougevert, who is clearly red and green, for prompting me to add this section.
Addendum: At the encouragement of dem_bones, I'd like to ask any noders who are not from either the USA or UK, or whose experience touches heavily on countries other than those two, to /msg me with more data that can be used to enlarge and enhance this node. I am myself a creature of my home country, and I'd welcome the chance to learn and to teach more on the subject. Thanks to Sverre and others for giving me a hand with this.
The original form of this node follows. Note that, despite its intention, it is itself ethnocentric, in that it alludes to citizens of the USA as 'Americans' without thought to South and Central America, Mexico or Canada.
The World is not American
The above should be tolerably clear. The whole world is not belong to the United States. If you remember this, you can write better nodes. Sadly, the attitude of many Americans today (more in general than here on E2) is that everywhere else in the world is tiny and insignificant next to the might and glory of the USA. Here are some general pointers:
Not every country requires you to swear an Oath of Allegiance to a flag.
Not every country is blessed by its President (or other head of state) in the name of God after every major announcement.
Not every country has 'In God We Trust' (or, for that matter, 'New World Order') on its currency.
Not every country calls the CND symbol 'the peace symbol'.
Not every country or faith regards Hallowe'en as an appropriate festival for dressing up as Superman.
Not every person uses the expression 'fall' for the season after summer and before winter.
Not everyone associates July the Fourth with fireworks.
Not every person uses the word 'period' for the delimiter at the end of a sentence, and many use it to mean something utterly different.
The oldest democracy in the world is almost certainly not the United States. Depending on what definition you use, it's Iceland, or the Isle of Man, or somewhere.
Not everyone spells 'arse' 'a-s-s'.
Not everyone has read or even heard of the works of Ayn Rand.
Not everyone considers this word inoffensive.
Not every person is ignorant about Islam.
Not everyone means or understands the same thing by the word 'fag'.
Not every country executes its murderers.
Not every country persecuted the communists.
Not every country was on the same side as America in each of the two world wars.
Not every country has a crisis over gun laws.
Not every country believes that the national flag is sacred.
Please take account of this and Node for the Ages and for people of all nationalities.
Of course, all this cuts both ways. It's all very well for me to write this apparently anti-American diatribe, but I too am from a country guilty of cultural imperialism, and I ought to remember that the issues and points I mention above will be important to the target audience, too.
Fog in Channel: Continent Isolated
Let's all be a little more inclusive, shall we?