Monday, February 27, 2017

"Three Men Make a Tiger" and Cultural Misconceptions

"Three Men Make a Tiger" is a Chinese proverb that refers to the act of banally thinking that what everybody says must be true. The story is told during the Chinese Warning States Period, when the minister of the Wei State, Pang Cong, asked the King if he would hypothetically believe that there was a tiger in the city just because one person claimed to have seen it. The King responded that he wouldn’t believe it was so until Pang Cong suggested the idea of two people reporting the presence of the same tiger. The king said he would start to consider such claim, and when Pang Cong presented the case with three people, the crazy idea seemed even less absurd to the King, who said he now certainly believe the premise. Pang Cong used this scene to remind the King not to believe in what people were saying about him while he was away. Even though the King said he wouldn’t do so, once Pang Cong left, he undeniably believed the rumors that were said about Pang Cong and no longer trusted him.  

This story represents one of the most common mistakes in argumentation and in our daily life reasoning: we rapidly assume  "a fact" as the truth just because there is a mass belief that "this fact" is true. As a Latin-American student, a clear evidence of this fallacy is when people wrongly assume that my home country is either Mexico or Spain because of Spanish being my native language. The truth is that Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world, counting with more than 500 million speakers worldwide. Despite of being the official language of 20 countries, generally speaking, people quickly categorizes me as a Mexican or Spanish when there are 18 other possibilities on the list. I can understand that we can't know everything in life, but most countries in Latin-America speak Spanish and geographically speaking my home country –Colombia- isn't that unrelated to the U.S for that lack of information to exist.  If Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa was my home country, maybe following the assumption that Spanish is not an official language in Africa seems more justifiable, but still just because this latter is in Africa and we don't initially see any geographic relationship, doesn’t mean we don’t need to go beyond this assumption. My aim isn't really to criticize any of who have assumed this, but I do think it's an uncultured thought and a quick act to omit other countries like mine just because it's not everyone's first thought when identifying Spanish speaking countries.    

 At first, it seemed hard to believe that people could make such rapid denotations, but once I understood the common thought that Latin meant Mexican and Spanish speaker meant "from Spain" it ceased to amaze me that as a Hispanic/Latino my home country simply wasn’t Colombia. This might have come -and this is only one of many examples- from the advertising of some restaurants that put "Spanish food" -and it turns out to be tacos, which is actually from Mexico- and people start having this misleading thought of the term Spanish. We can find these type of confusions everywhere, not only in restaurants; in fact the rumor originated by the three people who supposedly saw the tiger in the story depicts one of the most common causes of our biggest misconceptions. For instance, when the media only show Mexicans when they refer to Latinos, or when we call "Chinese" to everyone who has a certain eye shape or even when we think that all African people are black, we are being part of the group of people who says and accept facts just because they seem true. I know this is more related to cultural assumptions, but they all depict the same issue: We have trouble going beyond of what is generally assumed.  


No comments:

Post a Comment