Friday, June 20, 2008

How noble we are

Let’s suppose for a moment that we are considerate beings (which is true) and that we are visiting in a country where it is considered polite to belch loudly after every meal, the louder the belch the better the meal. We know this. Though livid with embarrassment, we personfully summon up a belch after every meal.

Now, let’s suppose that a person from this country comes to visit us, and, after every meal, gives out with a loud belch. We don’t do that here, but of course, how could this person know that?

So, we are gracious, understanding, generous. Actually, what we are is racist. Look at the assumptions behind our gracious actions. They are 1) that the people we are visiting in their country are too dumb to know that things are done differently in other places, 2) that they are too backward, rigid and unforgiving to make allowances, and 3) that they are too dense to see that things are done differently when they are outside their own country.

So, our graciousness is simply a rather smug acknowledgement of our own superiority. Noblesse oblige in a democracy.

The fact is, however, that the people we condescend to are aware of what’s happening. They resent it, they exploit it, they sometimes use it on us. The Samoans who hoodwinked poor Margaret Mead are an example. So the guy whose table you belched at is probably secretly laughing at the poor dumb twit who isn't very good at belching in the first place and doesn't know he's making a fool of himself in the second.

Isn’t it about time that we realized that we are as dumb as the rest of the world?

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