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Desert Diary
Culture/Up and Down


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Many things are learned so insidiously that we accept them without question. Undoubtedly, for example, the north pole is up and the south pole is down. Ever stop to think that this has no validity whatever—that the south pole has every bit as much right to be considered "up" as does the north pole? Yet most of us haven't been formerly taught that north is up—we've merely absorbed it as children from hearing people talk about "up north" and "down south", and later, that north is at the top of a map. Too, most of us have heard tales of youngsters wondering how Australians could walk around upside down!

Thus, what essentially is an accident of history—the fact that the great colonizers were from the northern hemisphere and that culturally "up" was good and "down" bad—has set something firmly in our minds that in actuality is as arbitrary as whether you put your shoe on the right or the left foot first. Now, anyone for going down to Santa Fe or up to Chihuahua City?
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest. rule

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.