Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Culture Matters, Values are not Relative

I've heard people talk about how unimportant (or wrong) it is to attach yourself to some things...things like, identifying with a particular community or "tribe", or looking to others to prove our value or self-worth.  The idea, I suppose, is to be independent, to not allow "negativity" to "attach itself to us", not to allow yourself to be lumped together into a particular group or group mentality.  The idea belongs to that set of ideas which advocates relativity in beliefs and values, "tolerance" and "acceptance", that it is "okay to be who you you are" and to "find happiness wherever you may".  By all means, if it causes you distress, you are to cast it away.  If it hurts you, you must reject it because that is the only healthy way to live.  Heaven forbid we should be negatively affected or hurt.  Heaven forbid we should in some way allow bad things to touch us.

These people are self-deluded.  (As we all are in our particular ways.)  No one, and I mean *no one* can live like that.  No one does live like that.  It's completely and utterly impossible.

We all identify.  We all need a group.  We are all, each and every one of us, affected in the core of us by the society and culture around us.  No matter how introspective we are, not a single human being on this earth can realize how deeply they are affected by surrounding society and culture.  No matter how we feel that others are not the yardstick with which to measure ourselves against, the fact is that we do.  We allow our friends or family to affect us in deep ways; we allow these people closest to us a great sway over not only our emotions, but *our very being* and *our very identities*.  We tell ourselves that we are independent, but the reality is that we are all very dependent on people and things around us.

I like to observe people, and I like to observe their reactions to these things.  So I've seen these very same people (the very same individuals--people who reject being identified with something and yet I still see them identify with something that is just not labeled a "tribe") hurt very deeply by individuals whom they do identify with on some level, by those closest to them.  Sometimes the reaction is, well I will forgive them and cleanse my own heart if they do xxxxx first.  Sometimes the reaction is a reflection on how often they have bent over backwards and supposedly received nothing in kind.  Usually the reaction is some sort of selfish self-centeredness...and that is a perfectly acceptable *reaction* when one gets hurt, but it's not a way to live life.  It's not a correct way to formulate a worldview.

We should not be attaching our happiness and self-worth on the actions of others.  But we do anyway.  We should not be allowing society and culture (which, by the way, are often embodied by our friends and those we choose closest association with) to dictate anything within our minds and hearts.  But we do anyway.

This is part of what it means to be human.

So the question then becomes, on what do we rely?  What groups or identification do we surround ourselves with?

The problem is, many of us reject many good things for bad reasons.  And we accept bad things for good reasons.

Many many times I have seen it said that people are the same everywhere.  In a way that is true.  Human nature is human nature.  Our nature has been passed down through all of human existence.  This nature does not *basically* change.  We aren't going to find ourselves in some utopia one day where everyone gets along and peace reigns and individuals make good decisions and the people around us are genuine, caring, unselfish people.

That is true.

But...it's *not* the same everywhere.  People are not the same in every society, in every culture, in every "tribe".  (Man, I still hate you, Joseph Campbell.)  They don't act the same.  They don't think the same.  They don't believe the same.  Even relativists, in their own lives at least, must conclude that there are good influences and bad...this involves one's culture, the nature of the typical person within a particular culture.  (It is culture, not race, that needs to be discussed far more...but I digress.)

Again, the question is, where do we find ourselves?  Where *should* we find ourselves?

This is where the *vital importance* of morality and values comes in.

You have a society of relative values, a society that places a great amount of importance on "personal happiness and fulfillment" over an actual set code of behavior and belief, and you reap a society rife with selfish behavior, with people who cannot put others first.

Society is not where we *should look* for morality or guidance, but it is where the morality of our culture *resides*.  Goodness is not bred by human nature; leave human nature to human nature and you get human nature.  You allow human nature to be something untouchable and given up on and then *all people have to look to* for their morals is their culture and society...because no matter that we choose to deny this, we *are*, each of us, influenced by that.

What we ought to do, individually, is find ourselves a decent culture and identity.

Sadly, that's not going to happen for most people, because first they'd need to identify something as good and more correct than what they have, and we aren't good at looking at things beyond our own history and experience.  It's nothing against the person; here we are again, up against human nature.
So, I would suggest that those of us who do find something good and healthy that can be given to the world--I suggest those people share that.

While society by its very definition is not something we can individually affect...it is individuals who make up a society.  I see too many people shrugging their shoulders and staking claim to the idea that people are people and human nature is human nature and the faster we accept that, the faster we can move on to easy solutions.

Sometimes we need those easy solutions.  Sometimes we sell our souls for them.

In either case, it is not the easy solutions we need to fight for and accept, but the hard ones.


Jessica P said...

I'm pretty sure this post is about me in some way. :)

~!Carey said...

Ha, I can see how it corresponds to what you wrote. Funny. Or not really funny, I don't know. I don't, of course, believe in coincidences.

Culture and the impact people have are topics that are really on my mind lately and have been affecting me a lot personally. I've been surrounded by a lot of related things. As is usually the case.