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Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Thickness of Culture

By Jenny LaventureSpecial to CSMS MagazineCulture is not tangible. You cannot see culture walking or packaged for sale. But the representation of culture is everywhere. In our world, everything that a region shows is culture, everything that a country shows is culture, everything that a town shows is culture, everything that a family shows is culture, and everything that an individual shows is culture. We cannot find a place on earth without people living there; therefore we can’t find a spot on earth that does not have its own culture, its own identity.Simon Blackburn defines culture as “a way of life of a people, including their attitudes, beliefs, values, arts, science, modes of perception and habits of thought and activity.” Culture is invisible then, but it is also extended and powerful. Once we understand what culture is, it becomes the easiest aspect of life to observe.            Culture is made of beliefs, values, worldviews, moods, topics chosen for conversations, dress, leisure activities, food and time and place chosen to eat them. Culture is how many gods you have, and how important education is. Culture is what we do to feel beautiful or to be accepted by our society. Even when we die, our funeral sends the last message about our culture. So, culture not only can be very visible, but also it can be “in your face” at times.            According to Mrinal Miri on the work titled “Understanding Other Cultures”, culture has visible and invisible manifestations. Following, there is a table with a description of the manifestations of culture:

Visible Manifestations of Culture Invisible Manifestations of Culture 
·Dress Code ·Work Environment ·Benefits ·Perks ·Conversations ·Work/Life Balance ·Titles & Job Descriptions ·Organizational Structure ·Relationships  ·Values ·Private Conversations (with self or confidants) ·Invisible Rules ·Attitudes ·Beliefs ·Worldviews ·Moods and Emotions ·Unconscious Interpretations ·Standards ·Paradigms ·Assumptions 

             All these manifestations of culture constitute our everyday communications. Our behavior and conversations keep our culture alive and also modifies it. “Language is not merely descriptive, it is generative. Language and conversations have the power to generate a new, powerful future and to create a cultural energy field that will support and sustain this future” (Mrinal Miri). But even without communication, I believe it is possible for culture to manifest itself. I see a single individual standing in front of me and I see culture. Just for existing, a person tells a lot about himself: his skin and eyes, his hair, his hygiene, his posture, what he is wearing, or if he is making eye contact.            Plurality of cultures is now an accepted fact. To the point that many times, people without knowing it feel obligated to like everybody. This, liking everybody, is an unreachable goal. Every individual has it own values and limits that they are not willing to cross. I will give two examples: I know a middle age woman, very involved with her religion. She is a Born-Again Christian. This woman loves her boss, a delightful single man who happens to be gay. Once, she wanted to introduce him to a girl from church and told me so. Another afternoon, this woman expressed to me that she did not like gay people, that it was hard for her to accept them. I was shocked. Four years have passed since that conversation and she is still talking and inviting this man to work parties at her house. Without her knowing, she is enjoying and communicating with diversity, but she does not know she has crossed her limits, an unsubstantiated limit in my opinion. The other example is my own daily experience. Because of my physical appearance and my French accent when I speak English, I am accepted everywhere, even in the circles where being a Hispanic is an obstacle, only crossed by people who are too pretty or too rich to be denied the entrance.            “If concepts such as ‘attitudes’, ‘beliefs’, ‘values’, ‘arts’, and ‘science’ are to be cross-culturally available – which they must if they are to perform the function envisaged for them in the definition – then they must be independent of any particular culture, i.e. they must be capable of being wielded and understood independently of reference to any particular culture. This, of course, immediately brings up the question of a core – a decisive core – of human consciousness which must be culturally uncontaminated, which must be available in a culture-transcending, pristine form.” (Thorsen 2005).            To finish this work, I quote Thomas Nagel and his vision of a view-from-nowhere man. “The viewer ‘from nowhere’ stands outside the world of cultures, or culture-worlds, and judges the respective worth and place of such worlds from an uncontaminated viewpoint”.


 Mrinal Miri. Understanding Other Cultures.                 http://www.articlecity.com/articles/business_and_finance/article_4969.shtml)Mrinal Miri. “Understanding Corporate Culture”            http://www.articlecity.com/articles/business_and_finance/article_4969.shtmlDebra Lea Thorsen.  Corporate Culture Change: Aligning People and Profits. (December            2005). www.culturebuilders.com.Simon Blackburn. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Note: Jenny Lewis is a student at University of North Florida. She lives and works in Jacksonville, Florida.Also see : What you will never hear  https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060803I203Stereotyping: https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060628I146

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