Flipping the Bird...

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"Even our best intentions, he seems to suggest, can have disastrous consequences in an alien environment." (Foster, How to Read Literature like a Professor; chapter 19, page 169)

When I encountered this quote, I immediately thought of Australia (at least, I think it's Australia?) Anyway, I can recall being told that our "thumbs up", a pleasant, encouraging gesture, means, well, something not so pleasant in Australia. This is a perfect example of what Foster is trying to convey. All of the things that distinguish us (culture, race, ethnicity, age, gender) bring with them certain standards and practices that determine how we ineract with one another. In order to connect to one another, we need to learn to express ourselves in terms of these standards and practices; especially, so we can understand others. I believe Foster is also trying to say that our best intentions are only as good as the cultures, social groups, and the like in which they are found. This desire to "fit in" and act according to the accepted standards is what makes even a less extreme situation such as changing schools or moving to a different neighborhood somewhat stressful. Ultimately, we should always make pains to learn and model the intentions of others, so we can understand one another and connect despite our differences.  



Christopher Dufalla said:

Foster speaks the truth: even actions performed with the best intentions can result in total disaster and failure. Whether the differences be cultural, geographical, or even scientific, there is room for misinterpretation, improper preparations, and disasterous mistakes. A person might accidentally flick someone off while in a foreign country, a tarveler might pack the wrong gear for a hiking excursion due to misinformation, or a lab worker might atttempt to put out a magnesium fire with water causing an explosion. All of the nuances in life and literature mmake a difference. Even actions performed with good intentions can result in bad happenings.

Josh WIlks said:

I agree with Alicia in the fact that it is important try and understand others. When i read that part of foster i didnt really make that connection but i do see it now. It is important to try and understand others to make society a better place. The more we try and learn about others the more accepting we can become in society. If we take the time to learn other ideas then these disastrous consequences wont happen.

Carlos Peredo said:

The example that instantly comes to mind is one that often comes up in philosophy classes. If you are walking down the street and see someone having a heart attack, and you know for damn certain that you've never had a CPR training class in your life but you get down there and try anyways and the person dies, is it your fault?

People debate this all the time, but I always find myself coming back to the same solution. If you don't know what you're doing, get the hell out of the way. Someone in the crowd might!

Alicia Campbell said:

It's as if there is a fundamental set of standards that applies to all people at all times. But then there are also standards that differ among social groups, and are constantly evolving. Those are the standards we need to try and understand.

We do need to understand others and their culture in some way before we encounter them. Obviously when we would meet them we could ask them questions so we wouldn't offend them but it is important to know some things so they feel comfortable with us.
I live near Amish people and to them sticking your pinkie finger up is like sticking your middle finger up. Now to us it's just our pinkie finger, no meaning behind it but everyone knows that when someone sticks the middle finger up it's not a "Hey, how are you?!" It's not a good thing at all.
So even if we are trying to be nice we need to make sure it's nice in someone else's eyes.

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Alicia Campbell on Flipping the Bird...: It's as if there is a fundamen
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Christopher Dufalla on Flipping the Bird...: Foster speaks the truth: even