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The importance of a lime green horse with purple ears

A fond memory I have is sitting with, first my children then grandchildren with a simple box of Crayolas and dot-to-dot colouring pages. You know the ones, take the black crayon, draw lines from 1, 2

, 3…hunt for 4 because it isn’t where you thought it should be. Grand-daughter squeals with delight when finds 4 before me. (usually I didn’t let her ‘win’; she’s much smarter than I was/am.) Voila, a horse. Which we proceed to colour lime green with purple ears.


What does dot-to-dot have to do with intelligent cross-cultural engagement? I’m glad you asked. For the last 15 years I have been doing two things simultaneously but artificially separating them.


First, I have been studying cultural values and cross-cultural engagement from an academic point of view: books, seminars, personal research. This is absolutely necessary to articulate my own cultural values and another’s cultural values. And I’ll continue to research.


Secondly, I was living in a different (than mine) society for most of the 2010s. I would find myself wondering how the academic learning I was enjoying showed up in day to day life. Why was that cup of tea so important? Why did the school leader speak to his staff that way? Why did I have to accept a title; can’t they just call me David?


See I understood many dots – many cultural value descriptions. But I didn’t connect the dots – what kind of society is made from these values.


Let me, again artificially, separate culture from societies; from academic descriptions of values from social customs; from dots to horses. Cultures have values, but societies have ways of living. There are three social operating paradigms: Honour/Shame, Guilt/innocence (or justice) and Fear/Power. An example: when I was 15 I left a diner without paying. I felt so much guilt that I headed back and paid the bill. My internal conscious drove me to make it right (guilt/innocence). If I was living in honor/shame context, my actions would, first and foremost, be shaming the family’s name. And I could go on.


Just let me say, the dots from 1 to 67 is not complete until joined. The lime green horse with purple ears can’t be seen by studying the dots.

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