We can so easily forget just how much we are bound by culture. How culture influences us through the force of our surroundings and the mimicry of others. Just think of the reaction to Coronavirus as a display of cultural tendencies. Wearing a mask is second nature to those in the Orient — a moral obligation in order to protect others. This idea is deeply embedded in culture. Compare this with attitudes in the Anglosphere, where mask-wearing is something quite alien, considered burdensome to the individual and even politicised.
Now, I am not saying that certain cultures are ‘better’ than others. That will vary from situation to situation and what is at play. Certain cultures will better deal with certain problems than others, and the ‘final score’ will be a mixed bag with pluses and minuses.
What I want to address here is the importance of personal awareness. The importance of recognising how each one of us is bound by culture. By the norms and traditions that we are born into and exposed to. The norms and traditions that become hidden beliefs about the way things should be done. Beliefs about how we relate to the world and to ourselves.
Culture can also have many, overlapping layers from regionally very specific, to more globally-present patterns. And, it is only really through counterpoint — comparing to something different — that we become aware of our own cultural tendencies. The richness and diversity of cultures is then a great advantage to those willing to observe and learn!
The real danger comes when culture becomes so pervasive that we forget that it is culture. That some other way of living, beyond the ‘normality’ we know, is actually possible. Just think of the rise of the Machine paradigm that seeks increasing levels of control and certainty in all walks of life. Spurred by vast technological progress and our ability to dominate our environment, we are in danger of wanting so much control that things are getting out-of-control!
Beyond being bound by culture
Culture is the water that we swim in and it mixes in strange and contradictory ways with our own personal experiences. We are creatures of habit and our surroundings will inevitably condition us. At the same time, we need not become passive victims!
By investigating the deeper beliefs behind our behaviours, we empower ourselves with real choice. The choice that comes from knowing if our actions are reflections of cultural mimicry or very conscious decisions about how to live. Only by looking into your own mind can you discover the motivations behind your actions.
This is the path of personal awareness.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.