The Other

The Other

We have a tendency, perhaps natural, perhaps acquired, to compare things amongst one another and subsequently attribute them with a particular value. We then rank these things in a hierarchy, accordingly. Ideas, objects, and places, actions, individuals, and peoples, all are subject to this process, the results of which we accept as absolute. This is right and that is wrong, this is good and that is bad, or merely this is better than that, and so on and so forth. We often forget though that these things do not exist in and of themselves. Everything is relative, to culture, to history.

The notion of cultural superiority is such a tributary of this thinking that is so engrained in us: civilized – conducting yourself with grace and elegance at the dinner table, carving your food politely with cutlery, chewing with your mouth closed and swallowing small pieces without so much as a sound? Uncivilized – eating with your hands, while sitting on the floor with your legs crossed? These are the stereotypical notions of what we often characterize as civilized or uncivilized in the west, but what is civilisation? The notion of being civilized is relative to a given time period, region and its culture. In certain cultures being civilised and having appropriate table manners is eating with your hands, but never soiling your palms. No one culture is necessarily better or worse than another, they are simply different, each unique in their own idiosyncratic way. This is not to say that any culture is perfect or that certain traditions should be upheld. But there is no other, for we all are a product of one another.

 

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