Monday, February 26, 2007

Culture transfer

We can speak of culture transfer when people of one society borrow cultural fragments from another. Maybe "sharing" would be a better word than "transfer", because the borrowed fragments are not, of course, lost to the first society.

Throughout my blog, I've often spoken of culture transfer between two antipodean societies: my birthplace, Australia, and my homeplace, France. Meanwhile, in off-blog conversations, I've often discovered that some of these culture transfer situations are not well understood. The worst situation of all is when both societies seem to be capable of transferring culture fragments in the same domain, but of a totally conflictual nature. In such extreme cases, communications can be totally screwed up, since the messages end up destroying one another. That's what seems to be happening in the environmental domain...

Out in Australia, we had—until recently—an environmentalist hero named Steve Irwin, who promoted the idea that our relationship with the planet Earth might be linked in weird ways to the pastime of stirring up combats with crocodiles.

Here in France, we have an environmentalist hero named Nicolas Hulot who accomplishes extraordinary missions of a crocodile-combat intensity. The great difference is that Hulot never gets into fights with the wonderful animals of the world. He doesn't even whisper in their ears. He simply talks to us humans about the planet Earth. About all things bright and beautiful... and the ugly stuff, too.

In France, nobody has ever heard of Steve Irwin. In Australia, the same thing might be said of Nicolas Hulot. Transposing the language of a crocodile combat into the domain of culture transfer, this would be called a draw. In our planetary combat, it's a more dramatic situation.

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