I made a little bed for my cat. It consists of a bamboo basket and one of her favorite blankets. She is currently curled up in it sleeping, and I have no intention or desire to change that fact.
But I was looking at her, and I realized an important fact: my cat could never be Japanese. She’s not even American. She’s a cat, and she will always be only a cat. She may understand some English words, and even sometimes choose to listen to them (I can only wish), but she could understand those words just as easily in Japanese, and it would make little diference to her which language the concepts are spoken in.
There are two reasons for this, I think. Reason number one is that the concepts that a cat understands are generally representable by one or two words in every language, and there is no need for the kinds of complex sentence structures that arise out of cultural separation. But another reason is: she’s simply a cat.
So this, of course, leads to the obvious (to me, anyway) question: is it any different for humans?
Yes, people from the island nation of Japan tend to look different in superficial ways from people from America. They also have a different language and cultural assumptions. But if you were to take all that away, what would you get?
You’d get simply a human.
The cultural differences are important, don’t get me wrong. The concepts that we need to represent and communicate are light years beyond that which a cat needs to understand and communicate, which are limited to pretty much “feed me”, “I’m sleepy”, and “let’s cuddle”. Oh, and in my case “you’re kinda pissing me off”. And we’ve built massive social and cultural structures that are designed to maintain the ability to live in dense populations that would otherwise be untenable. But take that away, and we’re not much different than cats.
Maybe we listen better. Sometimes.
We’re not all that different, really. None of us. We just put a tremendous amount of energy into pretending that we are. Or should be.