Saturday, August 23, 2014

Three Mistakes You Make

Found this quote in an old NoahSmith post:
There are three common mistakes that many Westerners make when observing or analyzing Japanese culture. First, they essentialize it - they assume there are some core things that never change, and that you can understand these things by studying samurai culture, or stuff like that. Second, they exoticize it - they assume that Japanese culture is very different from Western culture, and that there are deep secrets that only Japanese people themselves understand. Third, they homogenize it - they assume that the difference between Japanese individuals or subcultures is much smaller than the group difference between Japan and other cultures.
Seems to me we often make the same sort of mistakes in analyzing many things we don't  have first hand knowledge of:

  • bureaucracy: bureaucrats are essentially [something--lazy, overpaid, not interested in the job, stupid, disinterested specialists, etc.]; Washington bureaucrats are not people like you and me, but a strange breed; bureaucrats and entrepreneurs are entirely different breeds.
  • [do it yourself--apply the three mistakes to: blacks, whites, gays, professional athletes, weathermen, farmers, ...--see if the formula doesn't work for them]

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