themes · editorial   
themes literature agenda archive anthology calendar links profile

The flower lady



  A young Mexican woman comes across an indigenous street vendor, who offers a basket full of wonderful flowers for sale. She asks the price for the dozen, and the old lady tells her. Since this appears to be a very good deal, the young woman says she wishes to buy all the flowers. But the lady answers with a stern face:
— But if I sell all of them to you, I will have none left, and I will not have anything to sell for the whole day.
Perplexed, the young woman says:
— Well, then just call it a day and rest!
But the old indigenous lady does not agree to that and repeats:
— No, what are you thinking, young lady? If I give all the flowers to you, I will have no more left to sell.
And so the indigena sells only a dozen of flowers and not the whole basket.

Vendedora de Alcatraces
Diego Rivera (1942)


  This story, an episode occuring in Mexico-City in 1995, provides food for thought: we always have to reckon with the resistance of cultures. If we do not this into account in our own thinking and doing, we produce what was simply called 'imperialism' earlier on. Thus anybody thinking about social and economic justice in a truly global dimension will have to leave behind their customary thought patterns, if they wish to take intercultural challenge seriously. The otherness of the other is not subsumable under apparently universal presuppositions; its acknowledgement remains a task for philosophy.


  But stopping here would not be enough, because at the same time global problems require global understanding. Social justice has not been a concern for the whole world only since the age of globalisation. Still, the 'grand', national, continental, or global approaches always have to be supplemented with 'small' ones, regional and local approaches. Remember that the big world is made up of many smaller parts.


  Intercultural philosophy situates itself right in this field of tension between universalist and particularist temptations. In its attempts for global understanding it should be conscious of this fact: we have to reckon with the resistance of cultures – taken in a positive sense.

Bertold Bernreuter

themes literature agenda archive anthology calendar links profile

home  |  search  |  sitemap  |  newsletter  |  interphil  |  imprint  |  donations