#6 // the little mermaid and cultural differences

I passed on the coffee this morning and went back to Yorkshire Tea. This stuff is delicious. I was deeply hurt when I saw that they sold it in the grocery store. Some things I like to call my own.

Anyway, drinking it reminds of being back in West Yorkshire.

It’s also breezy outside.

The breeziness reminds me of being back in West Yorkshire.

I really miss being in West Yorkshire.

It’s going to be a busy fall and I won’t have time for much but I really hope I can manage to get back there for a couple weeks. Those moors leave a taste in your mouth as I’m sure salt water does for those who live by the sea.

Speaking of the sea, let’s talk about the little mermaid.

I just read #4 again and realized that it didn’t have much to do with the other posts.  I can’t keep doing that. As repetitive as this gets for you, as much as my site views decrease, I need to push myself to write as much as possible on this one subject of meaning and understanding.

Last night after having a few drinks, my friend Justin told me to write the most philosophical thing I could. This probably won’t be the most philosophical thing, Justin, but I think it’s pretty important.

I’m going to talk about the little mermaid.

Ariel was brought up to use that 3 pronged object to comb her hair. But the people she is with used it for something different.

Watch this scene.

Now here comes the million dollar question: Was Ariel wrong?

If you base it on his standard then yes, she was using it in the wrong way. But guess what? Ariel doesn’t live by their standards! She’s a foreigner. She’s not from the same place. She doesn’t have the same background. She doesn’t have the same understanding. She has different rules she lives by.

It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong; it’s that they are different.

We’re not talking about natural, universal, objective laws.

We’re talking about culturally created rules, which are given their meaning based on how they are used. Certainly some of the rules are similar from culture to culture but we cannot assume too much of those things we don’t know.

In Ariels culture the 3 pronged object had a certain use and it is that use which gives it its meaning. In his culture the 3 pronged object had a different use and its meaning is given from something entirely different.

Should the one culture condemn the other? Does he have the authority to say to Ariel
It’s a fork! You don’t comb your hair with it! You have it all wrong.

No. How can he? He’s judging her on rules which are outside of her own language and culture.

He simply laughs it off like a child who sees something different for the first time.

He could say
Actually Ariel, in our country we use that thing to eat our food. We have other objects we use to comb our hair. Here. We call this a comb. Look, see for yourself and see whether or not it makes sense to use this as a fork and that as a comb.

We tend to take the speech of a Chinese for inarticulate gurgling. Someone who understands Chinese will recognize language in what he hears. 


I want to keep writing but I think I need to stop there. This really needs to make sense before I get into the next 5-10 posts.

The meaning is dependent on how it is consistently used.

Categories: 25 cents, culture, ideas


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  1. #9 || you’ve got to play your own game « Michaels 25 cents - August 24, 2011

    […] Earlier we talked about Ariel and the example with the fork. […]

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