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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in irrelevant details. Whatever’s right in front of our faces is what we are going to tackle. We might think we have problems, but if they don’t affect our end goals, do they really matter?

When I was a kid I had a cavity. The dentist gave me a little gray filling, and I was embarrassed that my dental habits were apparently sub-par. Then the tooth fell out, a fairy paid me for my reject bone + putty or whatever fillings are made of, and my problem went away. I’m not sure why the dentist even filled the cavity (yes I do: $) if the tooth was going to shed anyway.

Most people have heard about the Japanese square watermelons, genetically engineered to fit on store shelves. Most people my side of the tracks already denounce them as unnatural products of capitalistic societies. A branding and marketing blog touted the watermelons as a creative innovation, example of the power of human ingenuity. A lesson in identifying a problem and coming up with a solution. While the lessons in that blog article were all well and good and I don’t know enough about business to argue with anybody, I want to point out the inherent cultural issue at hand.

The identified problem might not address the end goal. It might not matter.

I don’t know what the priorities of the Japanese stores are (yes I do: $). If increasing sales is their only motive, that’s fine. But a lot of stores seek to provide a service – to provide goods to markets that might not have access to those items. Watermelons to the people of Japan. Why? Because watermelons are delicious. Natural fruits contribute to health and wellbeing.

Some might say, “Well, now Japan can provide more watermelons to contribute to the wellbeing of its people.” To that I guess I don’t have an answer right now, except that some people are opposed to the watermelons on the principle that they are unnatural.

If your goal is provide and sell watermelons to people, for whatever reason, which should you change – the watermelons or the people? I think this is setting an unnerving precedent for the ways in which we interact with the world. There’s an ethical component to the problem-solving agenda here. Sure, come up with innovative strategies. But also keep in mind the personal responsibilities one has.

  • What can you change?
  • What shouldn’t you change? [Who decides should and shouldn’t?  (Now I’m just arguing with myself.)]
  • Is your problem actually a problem (in the world)?
  • Will your solution contribute to the problem or perpetuate it?

Read the reference: “Lessons of the Square Watermelon,” in Hard Knox Life by Dave Knox.


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