Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cultural Musings on Birds

As I was exercising this morning, I thought of a picture that explains some of the differences between Chinese and American culture.


I'm always looking for ways to describe the vast sea of cultural differences we find ourselves swimming in culturally. This one dives into what we value.

One of the hobbies of the older and much, much WISER generation (your welcome, mom) is to take care of birds. You see the old people take them for walks, whistling to them, carrying them on long, wooden poles, teaching them to gamble, and whatever else they can do to fill up a 16 hour day.

I've asked around and have found out that most people here believe that by getting a bird and putting it into a cage, that they are protecting and loving the birds from the predators and evil elements that are found outside of cages. They will tell me "inside the cage, the birds are safe and well fed. Outside of the cage, they can be eaten or hit or abused." So, the cage offers safety, security and consistency. This is the most loving thing the caretaker can provide for the birds.

Now, we Americans on the other hand, see a bird in a cage (I realize that some Americans still have birds as pets, but I just don't think it ranks up there with dogs, cats, or even ferrets), we think: "Fly away! Fly away while your owner is changing your newspapers!! Get away and find your soul mate and make happy birdy babies while sipping lemonade in a Florida retirement community."

Fundamentally, we believe that birds were meant to fly and soar, to scale new heights and experience the world from a view that nobody else gets to see. We value the freedom that birds have. We see the cage as oppressive and stale.

Neither one is good or evil, just two different perspectives on the same thing...a cage. But it unpackages a lot culturally for both sides.

And to prove just how much we Americans hold dearly to our worldview, I leave you with this:

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