“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” (Wade Davis)
I love this quote. My daughter gave me a poster of it, which I have up in my house:
Why do I love it? Or perhaps more to the point, what does it mean to me?
I guess I like it because it highlights a central trap or pitfall of our natural ethnocentrism - the tendency to see everything (and everyone) from our (cultural) point of view, and then to measure everyone else against that point of view, and find them lacking, less than human (i.e., less than me, than us).
Steven Covey, in his 7 Habits, points out that self-awareness is the key human gift that unlocks all the other unique human gifts. He makes the point that until I gain self-awareness, I treat others as if they were me. The obvious problem with this is, others are not me, and treating them as if they were me does not lead to positive or healthy relationships.
The same is true on the cultural level. Until we gain cultural self-awareness, including awareness that our perception of the world is not the same as the reality of the world, but rather, a model of that reality; and that other peoples, looking at things from a different vantage point, have different perceptions and different models; and that there is much for us to learn from those other perceptions and models - i.e., until we learn that others are different from us, but still human, and that there is a beauty in the difference - we will not relate well to those different others. And we will find ourselves mired in the kinds of intergroup tensions and problems that are manifesting themselves around us on a daily basis.