However one preconception which is cross culturally

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cultural system is probably necessary and [[p_176]] universal. However, one preconception which is cross culturally widespread and perhaps universal is the notion that more is more that not-so-much and that bigger is bigger (and probably better) than not-so-big. [Thus it is that the dilemmas produced by culture contact are often resolved by focusing on that common premise on which it is easiest to agree, so that the meeting of civilizations is turned into a matter of commerce and an occasion for profit or a jockeying for ―power,‖ in which it is assumed that domination of one by the there is the necessary outcome. If we look at the tragedies that occur at the interfaces between two human cultures, it is not surprising that similar tragedies occur at the interface between human societies and ecosystems, leading to gross reduction or slow deterioration. The premises of such encounters have tended to be simplistic, permeating the interpretation of messages, shaping observation, and gradually expressed in the unfolding of events. The premises that led to conflict between settlers and American Indians were the same as those that led to the destruction of the tall grass prairie and that today threaten the rain forests of South America and their inhabitants. [The alternative would be a shift of our ways of seeing that would affirm the complexities and mutual integration of both sides of any interface. We reduce ourselves to such caricatur es as ―economic man,‖ and we have reduced other societies and the woods and lakes that we encounter to potential assets, ultimately reducing them in still another sense as the prairie was reduced to desert, ,members of other groups to servitude, or the schizophrenic to the less than human by psychosurgery. [What will it take to react to interfaces in more complex ways? At the very least, it requires ways of seeing that affirm our won complexity and the systemic complexity of other and that propose the possibility that they might together constitute an inclusive system, which a common network of mind and elements of the necessarily mysterious. Such a perception of both self and other is the affirmation of the sacred. [The way we act, the way we balance the complexities of freedom and responsibility, these depend on what answer we give to an ancient riddle,
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―What is man?‖ The Riddle of the Sphinx, which we encountered in chapter 13, is one of the many variants of that riddle. It asks, ―What is it that walks f irst on four legs, then on two, and finally on three?‖ posing the question within the context of the interfaces that always exist within human society between infancy and adulthood and between adulthood and old age. What is it that is sometimes a bus, some times a tram, but never entirely ―free‖? And what is it to move through a larger and [[p_177]] more complex mental system, involve in multiple encounters with other mental subsystems, each of which offers a certain possibility of wholeness? We are dealing with questions of the encounter between minds, encounters framed by even larger mental systems.
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  • Fall '19
  • Gregory Bateson

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