The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On grapefruit and culture

As I cut, squeezed, and blenderized grapefruit to make some juice (and even a few grapefruit ice cubes) I tried to think about what I should write about today. I come up blank a lot of times, it's my nature. I'm a blockhead. That is, a lot of thoughts get blocked in my head.

I have been thinking about cultures of late. Possibly because of the contrast between the Japanese culture and the American one in regards to the disasters in Japan. There are a number of differences but we could call the Japanese a fairly homogeneous one while American culture is more.... well, it really isn't one anymore. That is, it is so fragmented by the immigration of so many different ethnic groups (who bring their cultures with them) that American culture is highly dependent upon where you are in the country. We have a southern culture (which is actually southeastern), we have a western culture which is a mix of several again depending upon what state you are in. We have a northeastern culture and a midwest culture and any number of subcultures at city level and even below that. Each of these reflects the heritages of the dominant population of that area. Or at least the once dominant population.

A wise person once said "language is culture." I have no idea who that wise person was. But it isn't quite true or maybe it is true in a broad sense. Maybe dialect is culture also. Or reflects culture.

First, let's define culture. I like this one:
"The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group."

I think that provides a foundation for how a culture forms. I would say families each have their own culture, of a sort. They may have traditions, a history, values, goals, and standards that are handed down through the family. Mine didn't. Our family was/is quite fragmented. And we have little sense of our history. We are a mix of Protestant and Catholic. That alone should keep us fragmented. Our values are simple and also quite common. Our goals are practically non-existent. We have no family traditions. But that's us and we are a sorry lot at times. Most families do have these things.

As I see it, humans evolved from families into tribes into societies into cultures. Nations grew out of the cultures. Nations are usually fairly homogeneous. The evolution of their culture, built primarily upon the culture of the dominant tribe in the region, is influenced by war and migration. America has been greatly influenced by both but I think mostly by migration.

The only worrisome thing about cultures is the apparently inherent competitive nature of successful ones. There is a tendency to believe one's culture is superior to all others. All have creation myths which define the people as descended from gods or put there by gods. This has caused countless problems over the millennia

Will we ever evolve a human culture? One which unites us rather than divides us? Or will there always be conflict?


Pearl said...

We have become divided by disagreements, primarily ideological ones. In my own lifetime (and I am 49) I've noticed an increase in lack of mutual respect that, in my mind, really picked up steam in the last 10-12 years. Frankly, I would like to swing back a bit to NOT speaking of religion or politics in polite company.

Can we not just agree that some people are funny, some people are good dinner conversation, some people are good at fixing cars without looking for differences?

I am heartened by the people in my neighborhood, on my bus. Every day I see examples of small kindnesses among people of diverse backgrounds. Where we get into trouble are with the ones who see themselves as "better/richer/entitled" and those who either will not show respect or have not been taught to show respect -- two sides of the same coin. There are also problems with boundaries, ie, what is acceptable in public places. There is a lot of fear out there, and people don't want to step up and be the voice that says, "Excuse me -- that's a lot of cussing you're doing. Would you mind toning it down?" . I've had people suggest to me that this is based on our reluctance to be seen as "non-PC". I see it as the fear that any one of the nuts you run into in a city (since I live in one) may be carrying a gun.

I hope that, should a disaster befall us as it has Japan, that we learn to help each other, to see the angry as afraid, the elderly as requiring assistance, the very young as needing protection. My fear is that the opposite will be found true and that we're all a bunch of violent, self-important, stingy sociopaths...

Here's to hoping we never find out, Douglas. :-\

Hugs from Mpls,


Douglas4517 said...

I thought a lady never revealed her age. :)

You have a lot of wisdom for a pretty (and funny) girl. It seems we are
disintegrating somewhat. But you are right, there is still a lot of charity
and goodness in people. I have been the recipient of good will more than a
few times when my need was apparent. Those incidents give me hope. But it's
the grand scale that worries us, isn't it?

Steven Scott said...

People of all cultures tend to band together in times of disaster, from studies I've read about recently. I mean, here's an easy one: 9/11. Only in Hollywood do the unwashed masses inevitably panic and riot while the town is destroyed. And the media needs sensation, hence the misreporting of looting and violence during Katrina that were blown out of proportion or just fabricated (unfortunately the stories of police illegally seizing citizen's firearms weren't made up).

Douglas4517 said...

But there was documented looting in New Orleans. It may have not been as
rampant as it appeared on TV but it did exist. There was also great
kindnesses and there were stories of selflessness and sacrifice. One often
sees not just what the media presents but what one wants to see.

Steven Scott said...

Yeah, I guess it was worse than I remembered:
I was probably thinking of the Superdome stories. But still, this was in a city where the murder rate was already an order of magnitude higher than the national average. Sorry to say, but GIGO.