Friday, July 1, 2011

Cultural Divides?

Ruth Benedict in 1937 Anthropologist, cultural relativist, and folklorist

Experiences of Culture

What comes to your mind when you say the word culture? How about cultural influence?

The word "culture" is most commonly used in three basic senses:
  • Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group

As I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington in West Seattle and lived briefly in San Diego California and also in Huntingdon Valley Pennsylvania before moving to Nashville Tennessee I have had a few experience of culture across the country. For the last two and a half years I have had many unpleasant experiences where I currently reside. The workshops, conferences and transformation coaching I have done over the past twenty odd years should have provided me with the skills to handle such situations. Sadly it did not. There was more learning and exploring for me at the ripe age of 49. I took to research and oral/written interviews of the locals to get to the "root" of the challenge.

Here I will share what I found. Ruth Benedict did extensive research and I had come to many of her conclusions twenty odd years ago.

Benedict, in Patterns of Culture, expresses her belief in cultural relativism. She desired to show that each culture has its own moral imperatives that can be understood only if one studies that culture as a whole. It was wrong, she felt, to disparage the customs or values of a culture different from one's own. Those customs had a meaning to the people who lived them which should not be dismissed or trivialized. We should not try to evaluate people by our standards alone.

Because my challenges were with brown people in the South I found this interesting.

Environment has more to do with intelligence than birth does, including how much money is spent on schools. "Southern Whites", for example, scored below "Northern Negroes" in the IQ tests administered to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in World War I. And the per capita expenditures on schools in the South were only "fractions" of those in northern states in 1917.

Almost 100 years later the scores are still the same. Why?

After many interviews with locals and people who migrated here from the "North" I believe I am on the trail of discovering the "Truth".

Part 2 coming soon!

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