I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now but could never quite get my thoughts as eloquent as I’d have liked, so I’ve kinda just procrastinated on it for a while until I just realised, there’s probably not an eloquent way to say what I want (though I think that’s probably more do with me) and nor does it need to be eloquent.
What it does lack in eloquence, I will do my best to make up for in length by keeping this as brief as possible. 🙂
Why am I writing this post? The more I travel (*groans* I’m so aware of how douche-y that sounds), the more I’ve come across situations where people are just too eager to refer to something as ‘bad‘ or perhaps more passively as ‘weird/strange’, when in actual fact, all that the thing in question is, is different. It’s neither positive, nor negative just unlike the norm that said individuals have grown accustomed to.
The manifestation of these situations can sometimes be as trivial as someone referring to certain foods as terrible – for example, ‘Hákarl‘ a national dish of Iceland which is, essentially, fermented shark. Hákarl is as stinky as they come – it’s fermented after all and there’s no getting away from that truth, which is why people (usually non-Icelandic), might describe it as bad but for someone who grew up on the stuff, it’s just another meal.
Hákarl is probably a meal that grew out of necessity to ensure there’s year-round food supply in a place with such unpredictable and harsh weather conditions and so, all it is is different to the steaks or roasted chicken than a lot of us might be used to.
Another example is in certain places where people eat with their hands instead of with forks and knives. It’s not surprising to hear some ignorant person (no matter how infrequently this might be), make fun of this practice whereas all that is, is how people customarily enjoy their meals. Some things (e.g. chicken wings) as we all know, are so much easier to eat using your fingers rather than with forks or knives. It’s not good or bad – just different.
I could go on and on with more serious examples, rather than fairly light ones like the two above but we’d be here all day. 🙂
All this being said, it’s undeniable that some things are universally bad – animal cruelty, kicking a baby, stealing other people’s money …(you get the picture) while other things are universally good – being kind to people, helping out (when asked), cooking for someone hungry (or ordering takeout for them – I won’t judge 😉 )… you get where I’m going here. A lot of the times, these good and bad things are very obvious however a fair bit of the time, there’s so much else that just doesn’t fit into that binary of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
We all as human beings find things so much easier when we can put things into simple categories and file them away. We don’t like ‘grey areas’ – even when it comes to people. Moral absolutism (when someone is just categorically ‘good’ or ‘bad’) is a much easier concept to buy into than the idea that a ‘good‘ person can sometimes do bad things or that a ‘bad‘ person can sometimes do good things.
The idea of classifying things into finite categories is appealing – I get that; however instead of rapidly sticking things into a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ section, especially when it comes to things we know very little about and hence have no context to make an informed decision, perhaps instead it’s worth taking a few extra seconds to put ourselves in the other persons shoes and try to see, if this is one of those times when something is neither good, nor bad but just different.
What say ye? 🙂