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Culture is such a weird thing.  It defines nearly everything we do.  The time we wake up in the morning.  The side of the road we drive on.  The size of cups at McDonalds.  Whether of not we have to capitalize mCdonalds.  The types of cellphones we own.  The size of our car tires.  The width of our roads.  The varieties of beer at the store.  The taxes we pay.  The way we cook meat.  The designs of our kitchens.  The prevalence of dryers.  Where we take our shoes off.  How we bathe.  What we eat with.  Partially, our language.

We all live our lives, yet we never really think about it.

Unless we leave it, and experience another.

What the hell is culture determined by?

Geography (latitude, longitude, continentality, elevation, precipitation, population, population density, access to the outside world, access to resources, electrification, wildlife), media access, art, politics, climate, history, (including dumb, random, sad, stupid, and unfortunate history), and of course (with the extent of which debatable) language.

Yet, culture itself can determine half of those things.  What boggles me about culture is that no one can really define it well.  Karl van Wolferen, in The Enigma of Japanese Power, quotes it as “the totality of man’s products.”

But what is that?  It’s essentially a copout explanation of the confusing crap I’ve already written above.

Your thoughts?

3 replies on “Culture”

Possibly it’s traditions and routines that keep culture alive. More so the practice of traditions over routines. ? ?

I’m beginning to think that culture is just a made-up security blanket to help humans cope with the stark cold reality of existence. We tell ourselves things need to be a certain way not only to order our lives but to enable us to make value judgements, which is essentially what culture allows. This thing is acceptable, but this thing is not, for example. It’s actually kind of a repugnant view to take, that culture is remarkably arbitrary. George Carlin made a similar point when he discussed how the sanctity of human life is not intrinsic, “we just made it up!”.

Culture is not exactly a ‘made-up security blanket.’ Don’t forget, culture itself is part of the stark cold reality of existence.

Human culture is simultaneously the excrement and the growth medium; the road and the building of the road. A human is the product of his/her own independent development within his/her culture; a culture is the product of a large number of humans simultaneously living within and defining aspects of the culture itself.

When humans do their human things, culture is what results. You can even see culture developing on the internet when anonymous nerds congregate on a message board to say how much they like or don’t like something. Observe how the rules appear, how arbitrary they are. “If you refer to OVER 9000, the famous internet meme, you will be banned.” That’s culture, forming.

Why DO we drive on one side of the road? Those other guys drive on the other side. Why DO we have a taboo against cannibalism? Those other guys eat all the dead human flesh they want.

You could go farther and start talking about things that are OK or not OK for one person to do to another living person, in this or that culture, but all I’m going to say about that is, rules very reliably appear in some form or another (no matter what your culture) about taking various actions “against” another person; this appears to show what is more or less a constant in overall *human* culture, and seems to me to be a good thing. Misogyny, also, appears also to be somewhat of a constant in overall human culture; that one is (to me) a pretty major human mystery and a bummer.

While culture appears to be generated by pure happenstance, I disagree with the implied assertion that it is therefore immaterial or unimportant. I could not disagree more. A person’s culture is all they have; it is all they are. It is extremely important because it does shape you.

“No matter how good the lens, it is no good for examining the lens.” I just thought that up. Awesome, right? I know, it totally is. 😉 But that’s the issue with culture. You’re using your culturally biased thought process/pattern to examine your culture. It is no surprise that – once you gain the ability to notice it – you sort of recoil and you say “Wait, whose the hell idea WAS all this? This is not even logical. Why do we think this way??” You are using your culture to examine your own culture. All cultures are confusing and relatively arbitrary. Don’t let it undermine your own worldview and don’t let it worry you.

All cultures inherently have demonstrably sane aspects, and demonstrably insane aspects.

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