Saturday, August 31, 2019

Unfamiliarity ≠ Inferiority

Let me begin my American impressions with two impressions I had before I went to America. One was an incident and the other an idea; and when taken together they illustrate the attitude I mean.

The first principle is that • nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign; the second is that • he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny.

The reaction of his senses and superficial habits of mind against something new—and to him abnormal—is a perfectly healthy reaction. But the mind which imagines that mere unfamiliarity can possibly prove anything about inferiority is a very inadequate mind. …

A man is perfectly entitled to laugh at a thing because he happens to find it incomprehensible. What he has no right to do is to laugh at it as incomprehensible, and then criticise it as if he comprehended it.

The very fact of its unfamiliarity and mystery ought to set him thinking about the deeper causes that make people so different from himself, and that without merely assuming that they must be inferior to himself.
Source: What I Saw in America by G. K. Chesterton

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