The Value of Language Differences (and the danger of valuing based on a person’s language)

Being lost in translation seems like a universally bad Babel-situation, but Bill Murray’s perpetually sour look conceals the face of self-satisfaction (perhaps bordering on smugness) and even joy. If all language is subjective and the project of creating definitions merely starts a tenuous project of understanding between any two given people, I’ve come to appreciate the difference between the languages (both heard and spoken/written) of each person I interact with, think about, or whose writing/art I consume. I don’t even speak the same language as me – my stomach seems to speak one language after my brain writes and enacts a certain story about adding half & half to coffee (mmmm, but smelly in the end). An enjoyable experience and maybe even entertaining, as long as the smell doesn’t scare all my friends away. There is a feeling of fear and riskiness and can arise when around those that speak other languages. Which type of bear do you play dead with, which one do you try to scare, which one is going to eat you no matter what you do? Always carry a shotgun in polar bear country (or stay out of polar bear country), is mostly what to remember. In situations with humans, much more nuance is required in the language understanding. Beyond instincts, the memes that infect human brains create outcome possibilities and probabilities that are extremely difficult to predict, even if you’ve just read a detailed memoir and a rigorously researched biography on someone. Valuing humans in general, I’ve observed, is a useful place to start when in unfamiliar language situations (either in English or otherwise). Patience also seems to help. There do seem to be situations when the translation error (or human-valuing by other humans) is egregious enough to set patience aside. I believe it is critical to determine when and how to be less patient, particularly when some humans are engaged in behaviors that result in some humans being valued lower than others. Perhaps fairness and safety require a fight, but this appears to be hypocrisy. However, maybe if the fight is brief and fairness and safety can be assured for a period of time afterwards, it might be worth initiating. My preference continues to be for valuing all humans and each human, but perhaps some actions and choices make someone less human. I’m uncomfortable with the possibility, even as I acknowledge it.