Our personal "worlds" are virtually Social Constructions: achieved through Culture
So, what is Culture?
Every human being has a culture, but no one is born with one. We are born into a culture.
Culture refers to the entire way of life of a group of people - your way of life:
- It is the pattern or blueprint (or "rules") people live by
- Basically, it's what you know, and what you are familiar with;
- It is (it became) your "comfort zone";
- Culture is the major determinant of what is "acceptable" - and what isn't; what is "possible", and what
isn't; what is "permissible", and what isn't.
- Culture is what teaches us what our "limits" for achieving our potential are: and can enhance our
chances, or retard it.
- The family is the smallest cultural unit or component of society - it is a culture itself; and it is our
point of contact with "the world".
- It is that way of life, and way of doing things, that you regard as "normal".
- "Normal" really means "what you're used to" - other people's ways that are different are
called "strange", "weird", "crazy", or "abnormal". Also see "Normal".
- The thing is, those "other people" regard your way, in the same light.
Culture is a learned behaviour; acquiring it is called enculturation (socialization), which is the
process learning one's culture. We acquire it gradually, often without being aware of it, and
because we're unaware, we don't reflect on the things we're acquiring, nor do we examine them.
And because of that, they go deep - and root themselves tenaciously - I encourage you to read
the Education-Socialization page. This is the process of "Social Construction of our "reality".
- Culture dictates everything about us - how we dress, what we eat, what we think, and how
we think, where we live, how and what (or whom) we worship, how we earn a living, what
rules and standards guide our lives; what our "value system" is; who to marry, or not.
- It's what we base all our ideas and views about "what is appropriate" on.
Seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn't it? Actually, it is a tricky thing to describe,
because it is a very elusive thing, because the description above, and the one below from the
social sciences is so broad, that it is close to being meaningless. Culture as a concept is elusive
to describe because it is time, space and situation specific.
- That is both its beauty, as well as its Achilles Heel.
- A child born in Canada, for example, but switched at birth with a child born in China,
(thus living in China) - would be culturally Chinese: s/he would speak the Chinese language,
dress in the Chinese fashion, follow Chinese rules and standards for living.
- Culture is not related to one's language or religion or race or ethnic group - but language is
related to culture!
- For example, many different cultures (American, British, Canadian, Australian, etc.) speak
English - but in slightly different ways.
- Many religions, such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, cross many cultures. Canadian
culture, for example, includes people from dozens of racial and ethnic groups.
All rules, ideas, activities and actions in a culture have a purpose, or function. These functions
are known to all members of the culture, but often are not obvious to "outsiders". These "rules"
and "functions" are passed-on (transmitted) by the family.
So the question becomes, who's idea of "normal" is the right one, the correct one. And the
answer is that it cannot be decided that easily - who would be the impartial judge to do that?
Anthropological Definition of Culture: "A system of values and norms that are shared among a
group of people and that when taken together, make up a design for living."
- This function is known to all members of the culture, but often is not obvious to outsiders.
- These "rules" and "functions" are passed-on (transmitted and perpetuated) by the family.
Number 2 is an important aspect, for it tells us that all cultures were slowly developed over many
generations, perhaps over millenia. This did not occur suddenly, overnight. And they all continue
to develop and change; gradually.
So I hope it's clear that "the other guys" have their culture too; for that too, is an important
consideration, because each is a "sub-culture" of a larger, over-riding one - they operate within
the "dominant culture". That's a lot of rules and differentiation to absorb, learn and remember.
It is also the main reason why "Normal" is virtually impossible to define definitively.
Ideally, culture's function is in large part to ensure that all persons in it have the freedom to be them; thus
there are "rights" and "obligations" built-in; so that none of us impinge on the rights of others. It is when we
impinge on those rights, that our behaviour is considered to "Abnormal" (not conforming to th majority).
The Obligations are there to ensure the safe and smooth interaction of life in environments that contain
They are therefore, "restraints" on total, absolute freedom of anyone to do everything they want to do in
whatever way. That is the price of living among others.
Caveat/Beware: Acquiring our place in our culture is to a very large extent a process of conditioning,
"programming" and "brain-washing" - to get us to conform . . . which is a numbing down, or dumbing down -
see Education-Socialization for more detail on this, but I'll include a relevant quote here:
"It is no measure of mental health to be well adjusted in a profoundly sick society" ~Jiddu Krishnamurti
So, you can see that culture is "the" major influence on human life. And that the are many "cultures",
and even more mini ones within those. It results in great Cultural Diversity. And it is because of that rich
and wide diversity, that the word "normal" is virtually impossible to define. We are born into it, learn it
(a process called enculturation (or socialization) - and then pass it on to the next generation.
This is basically what the branch of psychology called "Neuro-Linquistics" tries to address.
- Our minds are like filters - really "magical" filters: everything we learn, hear, see, feel, experience,
etc, is "filtered" through our intellect & emotions - which were shaped by culture. But the mind-
filter adds new information in, so it changes the memory banks - the memory banks are growing
- (see the illustrations below).
|Culture The Base Of The Spectrum Of Human "Normal" Behavioural Diversity
How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one finds darkness not only in one's
culture but within oneself? There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions.
You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
|Dawn Cove Abbey
Roadside Assistance For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman MA, © 2007-2017
Questions and comments welcomed.
To summarize: culture structures, shapes or
creates your "reality".
- Family life
- Child rearing
- Myths and stories
- Sense of "right" and "wrong"
- Division of labour
- Birth and death rituals
- What a "man", "woman", and "child" is
- it shapes everything; . . . . .
- However, because we're each unique, we
modify it - however slightly, or in some
cases, majorly, to become who we are and
how we fit ourselves into the world, so to
- And that makes you your own "mini-culture"
or "subculture". And because of that, you
are "Normal" - being the way YOU are - that
is the normal for you.
Culture is where our concept, idea, or
sense, of "Normal" comes from.