The Only Purpose of Culture

An unspoken contempt of culture in general has grown throughout white America. All these silly rituals and specific foods and colorful garments and jewelry and ceremonies. Even most of the relativists have forgotten the purpose of culture and blindly dispense hollow respect for it. Sociology and anthropology texts imply it’s just arbitrary stuff people come up with for the hell of it when they live near one another. With such an implication, it certainly seems a little silly in today’s world.

Culture emerges in only one circumstance and serves only one purpose. When a group of people face the same adversity at the same time, they do better if they deal with it together. A people’s collective solutions to adversity is their culture. If there’s a limited supply of food, we’ll get used to the same fruits and meats and use the same cooking techniques. If we live in the same climate and around the same building materials, we’ll learn to build dwellings together. If we experience the same weather and live near cotton plants, we’ll weave similar clothing. If we’re confused by the same astronomical phenomenon or killed by the same unknown disease, we’ll come up with myths together.

Without unified adversity, problems are fleeting. If I face hunger one month, infant mortality the next, and predators the third, and you face these things in the opposite order, we build no culture together. We’re not going to hunt together or create a common death ritual or learn to build secure dwellings together. This is the only reason culture is geographically localized.

Now, many classes of people do not face any perceptible adversity that unification is a weapon against. A non-trivial percentage of the world who are of certain races, live in certain countries, and are born to affluent families no longer see problems in their lives that could be overcome if they just had the help of their fellow man. There is no hunger for them, no discrimination, no infant mortality, no predators, no droughts. As far as they know, their only enemy are the people around them competing for the same jobs, resources, and mates.

Genuine culture cannot emerge in these situations. Instead, we end up with something that looks a lot like culture—a common language, beliefs, some customs, ways of greeting and acceptable conversation. However, for these people, this commonality does not serve the purpose of culture. Instead, it’s used only to smoothly interact with those in proximity. [T]his [phony] “culture” … leaves us feeling isolated and without purpose, something humanity has never really encountered on such a large scale until recently. Consequently, this “culture” does not offer any of the benefits of its real counterpart. It does not fulfill our innate desire to survive against the odds with the help of our tribe. Rather it leaves us feeling isolated and without purpose, something humanity has never really encountered on such a large scale until recently.

One way of dealing with this emptiness is through subculture. Subcultures create or aggrandize an adversity so that a small group may together rally against it. Of course, it’s not often obvious that this is what subcultures do, just as it’s not obvious that wearing similar clothing is a way of dealing with shared adversity. Some choose obscure types of music and imagine they are resisting popular music as if it were threatening their very identity. Coworkers at a fast food restaurant may form a bond based on shared hate of a boss. Hackers work together to defeat a system that denies them free exploration. Even people who support unpopular computer hardware and software form bonds as if Microsoft and Intel were threatening their personal survival.

Subcultures are generally harmless. They satisfy the human appetite for what is past without endangering the common good. Ideally, when the adversity is over, which it now is for several classes of people, culture is abandoned. It should be; it’s a veritable weapon against adversity, and if that adversity is competition with others, a weapon against those people.

This may partially explain why Zionists are hated by some. They used culture to overcome adversity, achieved equality, and are still using it to lobby and keep other cultures out of their country. When culture is used by a people who’ve achieved and surpassed equality, their actions are better described with words like ethnocentrism and racism. One could accuse racist whites and Zionists of cheating the purpose of culture, using it beyond its design intent.

That’s also why the powerful want America to be a melting pot. Melt away the minorities’ culture, and along with it, their ability to coalesce and overcome oppression. Most of us take for granted that there’s nothing wrong with an NAACP meeting but a KKK meeting is spooky. We already have an understanding of when it’s appropriate to use culture. Blacks are a minority who do not yet enjoy equality. If they’re congregating, it’s to achieve this goal. Whites currently enjoy more than equality. Why are they congregating?

That true culture can only exist in negative circumstances is a damning proposition if true. Luckily for the middle and upper class, they still do have an enemy to unite against, even if that enemy is largely invisible to them: corporate greed. But that issue is better explained by essayists like Noam Chomsky.

3 thoughts on “The Only Purpose of Culture

  1. Before critiquing culture as a means against adversity, we must remember that we humans are social animals first and foremost. Therefore, we must assume that we seek stability above all things. We humans like for things not to exist in balance, but in equilibrium. A stable system is a good one. That is why our culture goes through Messianic and Tyrannical cycles—it is the nature of systems to fall into chaos and thus the nature of society to become unstable. Once some critical limit has been exceeded, a society is ripe for a new rise of culture or religion that will reestablish equilibrium in the system.

    For instance, this is readily evident in areas that are dangerous or otherwise adverse to the well being of humans. When Shiite Muslims see their ways of life decaying and the system for which they have previously bonded falling apart, they will take any measure necessary, be it inventing a systemic order of violence to implement into their culture, or simply committing mass exodus. One could theorize, that every action taken by a human would be to improve stability, even if it is short sighted. Not only will a human seek stability through society, but also psychological stability. Even people who kill other people do so to relieve a psychological pressure that has developed in their brain, be it genetic or otherwise.

    That being said, it’s unwise to assume that subcultures form simply because of an increase in adversity towards a smaller group. Rather, a more accurate definition of a subculture would be any sociological splinter group that forms to provide an undifferentiated mass of like minds to which someone who has felt unstable due to this sense of un-belonging can belong, thus alleviating the psychological pressure of being an outsider, in violation to their original programming.

    Therefore, true culture is omnipresent. Given any shift in an equilibrium, culture (including religion and society) will shift accordingly to alleviate any stress put on the system. If there exists no stress, the current culture will continue foreword by it’s original followers. This of course, raises the question as to why such a structure would remain in use even after its original intent was long gone. This is properly answered by the workings of the human mind. Given that any extraneous circumstance being inserted into the system can cause unbalance and instability, it is reasonable to assume that any circumstance being removed from the original condition set will also cause unbalance and instability.

    This is why we humans are naturally reluctant to abandon tradition and are more willing to turn such things into habit (so we don’t have to ponder them) than simply walk away from them. It is perhaps this non-retrograde cultural adaptive technique that has allowed humans to become versatile creatures. On the other hand, all creatures seek stability – we continue respiration to alleviate toxic buildup and to ensure that cell health remains stable, we eat to alleviate hunger, and we breed to ensure a stable species.

    The cause of “true” culture is therefore instability, and it’s purpose, like all other human constructs, is to change that instability.

  2. We might learn something essential about ourselves if we take the argument about the sole purpose of culture another step down the reductionistic path.

    We are, indeed, “social animals”. At a more basic level, we are–animals. Darwinian natural selection dictates that animals all up and down the the taxonomic tree must behave in whatever ways are most likely to ensure their species’ survival. Homo sapiens is no different in this regard.

    Mankind has been remarkably able to adapt to all but the most extreme conditions and spread over nearly the entire globe. Adversity (read “threats to survival”) exists everywhere, but the nature of adversity varies widely according to the particular geoclimatic region in which humans find themselves. These threats to survival may include famine, disease, drought, thermal extremes, and flood, among others.

    I would argue that culture is nothing other than a set of behaviors, values, and expectations that evolve among a geographically stable human population. These behaviors, values, and expectations are shaped by the perils particular to the geoclimatic regions in such a way as to allow the inhabitants to work efficiently together and thus survive. Our cultures are, therefore, as varied as the planet’s environments.

    So it’s little wonder that every culture finds other cultures strange, even threatening. Living within our cultures, we feel comfortable. We feel prosperous. We feel good. When we interact with “the other”, we feel uncomfortable. We don’t know what these immigrants want, nor how they will behave, nor what they may do to us. We get the sense they don’t belong in our part of the world, and we wish they would go away. Rationally, immigrants do not belong in their adopted culture. They are tolerated as long as they are useful and are making progress toward acculturation. From what I have seen in South Texas and California, I question their usefulness. Whatever they may contribute to the well-being of our economy, it seems to me their heavy dependence on social services results in a net burden to society. As they congregate in Los Angeles and Houston, they appear to be forming geographically and culturally stable communities. They seem less interested in learning English. They seem less interested in adopting our Anglo-Protestant ethic. They seem less interested in becoming American.

    We may shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” If we don’t like it, we can still move to Montana or Minnesota. I am very concerned, though, that in their enclaves they are gaining political influence at a national level.

    Harsh environments tend, in general, to engender what we in Anglo-American culture might call harsh cultures. We see this throughout Southwest Asia, where tribal strongmen rule with an iron fist over their people and are invested by their people with great power over all aspects of life. But it is true everywhere that power corrupts. The people of harsh cultures seem to tolerate a certain amount of corruption to gain the benefit of protection by the strongman/leader. As immigrants from harsh cultures come to our country, they are highly likely to elect political leaders who embody this combination of authoritarianism and corruption. I suggest that this is inappropriate in our less harsh cultural environment and threatens to destabilize it. I believe that once a political culture in which an increased level of corruption is established, it may be impossible (short of civil war) to rid ourselves of it.

  3. I agree, a culture probably does influence what type of leaders it will select. White Christian culture, for example, suggests a distinctive style of parenting. These parents frequently use phrases like, “For your own good.” without explanation and physically beat the child to discourage a behavior. That no explanation is given is a key part of the process. The parent simply knows best and is to be obeyed. (Proverbs 13:24, 23:13-14)

    Like you say, this is inappropriate in a less harsh environment and threatens to destabilize it. These people seem to be looking for father-like qualities in a leader, and are happy to be abused as long as they’re told it’s in the name of the greater good or that “father” knows best. Bush overtly lies to justify a war and then comes back like a Christian father would, telling us it’s for the best and that the ends justify the means. It’s accepted for the most part because of the conditioning of the person’s parents.

    As a person who understands ethics and holds political leaders to a much different standard than I hold my father, I’m worried that these people brought up in their harsh Christian culture will undermine our freedoms and resolve. I do not desire infallibility in a leader as a child might in his father, hoping that there is at least one person always watching out for him and protecting him and never admitting to being wrong. Much like an abusive father holds his children emotionally captive against their better judgment, Bush is doing this to our country, making it incredibly difficult for conventional discourse and disagreement to exist as it should.

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