Dealing with the Fact of Diversity
But before addressing the problems of cultural organization, it is useful to consider how people deal with the fact that many of the understandings that are basic to life are not shared by all those around them. The recognition that each person is different from every other in what he believes, in what he values, and in what he wants is probably universal. A Swahili proverb reminds those who are pleased with achieving a desired end, Kizuri kwako, kibaya kwa mwenzako : Your good thing [can be] a bad thing for your companion.
This proverb and the recognition of differences it affirms is like the one that gives this chapter its name: Intelligence is [like] hair, each one has his [own]. Another that makes the same point says, Penye wengi pana mengi : [Where] there are many people, there are many views.
The diversity seen in the data on cultural sharing is not only a finding of research but it is explicitly familiar to the community members themselves. Yet group members have to be able to predict, and to believe they can predict, within broad limits what those around them will do if social life is to continue (e.g., Parsons 1964 :10, 27–29, 36–37). This suggests that people, like anthropologists, do not allow their knowledge of diversity to interfere with their belief in uniformity as concerns important values and beliefs. The next chapter examines a main device Swahili use to obscure the absence of general sharing.