04 August 2014

Cultural Differences #1: Three illustrations

The Monkey ‘Serves’ the Fish

A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place on the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current.

It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish.

A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters.

Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.

- an Eastern proverb

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In 1893, a pair of pioneering brothers set up a sawmill at Limuru, Kenya. Facing the challenge of shifting hundreds of tons of earth without mechanical assistance, they imported a consignment of wheelbarrows.

But when they inspected the works later, they found laborers filling the wheelbarrows and carrying them to the dumping grounds on their heads.

This was interpreted as behavior of unfathomable stupidity. But it simply illustrates the gulf between two ways of thinking.

- Too Close to the Sun, by Sara Wheeler

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It’s like two whole separate circles revolving around each other – their world and ours – and only just touching occasionally.

Flame Trees of Thika, by Elspeth Huxley
(spoken by Tilly, a British settler in Kenya in the early 1900's)


Naomi Hattaway @ naomihattaway.com said...

I love the monkey and fish one ... so often we think we know what another culture needs ... and how we could "fix" it. So often, we have NO idea!

deb said...

It might be hard to admit, but we're all ethnocentric (thinking our culture is better or more important). And for some reason, we have a tendency to want to 'fix' and 'help' even when, as you say Naomi, we have NO idea!