(THE BOOK) Chapter 17: Culture

There’s one more social element that nudges us into compulsive controlling.

Let’s call it culture.

Culture means all the unspoken values, rules, assumptions, expectations, tastes and preferences of the tribe (or subtribe) to which we belong.

Even within one society, cultures vary wildly.  New York bankers live in a world light years away from that of Wisconsin dairy farmers or teens in a Los Angeles barrio.   They wear different clothes, speak different languages, dream different dreams, understand the world differently.

We can’t avoid being shaped by some culture, even those of us who try to resist it.  Culture surrounds us, penetrates our feeling and thinking.  It’s a psychological sea in which we all swim.

 And the culture that saturates us all is a culture of control.

 Control, remember, means the ability to make things the way we want them, to tailor reality until it fits our needs and expectations.

Culture is a voice that tells us what to need and expect.  It does this indirectly, by promoting some values and dismissing others, rewarding some preferences and ignoring or denigrating the rest.

For example, take the culture attached to democracy.  Who, if they live in a democracy, won’t end up expecting and demanding freedom, fairness and equality?  Or feel outrage when those ideals fail?

Or the culture of materialism.  Which of us can watch endless ads on tv and not end up wanting to buy stuff and own stuff, new stuff and more stuff?  And not feel at least slightly deprived when we can’t?

Or the culture of technology.  Who hasn’t come to depend on electric light, computers, cell phones, remote controls, microwave ovens? To where we panic a little when they break down?

Besides shaping our expectations, all cultures offer one more thing: an unofficial guidebook to getting along by going along.

Do this, culture whispers, or be different.  Conform, or be abnormal.  

And as noted in the last chapter, abnormal is dangerous.  Different is a hard way to live.

On the other hand, if all you can see is what everyone else sees, and all you want is what everyone wants, you’re less a member of a society than its victim.

Think of culture as socialization in sheep’s clothing.

 

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