east doesn’t really meet west, as it turns out

Our son emailed our family this article that is worthy of Adar, but it will have to do now. He writes this as an introduction:

I have decided to quit working as a consultant and have begun to manufacture my ear juice for sale in China.  Apparently it is a delicacy there.

Now, of course, there is family history here.  When this son was much younger and we all were much more innocent in the world of fine wines, we once had a bottle of Schapiro’s dry wine.  He took a sip and declared that it tasted like ear wax.

Our unanimous response was “How do you know?”

And then our next comment was “Hey, you’re right!”

Now going back to the article and the slide show (Oh, do make sure you see the slide show!),  I’m not sure what is my favorite.

Yes, I do.  It’s this one.  I want that in my shul.  Immediately.

Now, of course, there is a very serious matter of how we figure out the way to get along with foreign cultures, and to stop being so ethnocentric, or I guess so America-centric.  And even that is not enough, since Canada is not exactly part of our US collective image, either, as you figure out the first time visiting Canada.   I’ve been reading The Geography of Thought by Richard E. Nisbett, on and off, that someone lent us about this same problem.  It’s an interesting premise, but unfortunately,  I think that the author over-reached.  He can easily make a claim that language has to affect how we think, but I don’t think he should have gone in for why it is so.  I think his reasoning is too amateurish and based on too few sources.   But let’s go for the cognitive differences that such language and okay, basic philosophies and produce.  Does having gender recognition in Hebrew grammar make people more sexist?  Does having no differentiation of “you” for singular or plural in (modern) English make people more selfish?  Is there a difference in French and Spanish with how people identify “you”?

Or, back to the book, do people of Far Eastern countries have problems driving because they have problems with following individual objects in the field?  And is this stereotype just a stereotype or is it a reality?  So how do you teach more effective driving skills?

And does this change after living in western lands?  He says at the very end, in an attempt to make everything fit together nicely more than realistically,

Thus we all function in some respects more like Easterners some of the time and more like Westerners some of the time.  A shift in characteristic social practices could therefore be expected to produce a shift in typical patterns of perception and thought.

So I believe the twain shall meet by virtue of each moving in the direction of the other.  Est and West may contribute to a blended world where social and cognitive aspects of both regions are represented but transformed–like the individual ingredients in a stew that are recognizable but are altered as they alter the whole.  It may not be too much to hope that this stew will contain the best of each culture.

And they lived happily ever after?  Yeah, it’s worked real well in Israel.


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