Cultural Awareness

It’s weird to think of culture as mutable when you’re in it. You think of yourself as making informed choices or “following your heart” about everything from which music you listen to, who you find attractive, and what clothes you wear all the way to who you vote for and where you stand on social issues.

And you do! You do make those choices consciously, but there are two big factors that influence those choices. Firstly, you’re influenced by your peers; your “tribe,” however you define it. Social interaction choices have social side effects, and we care about those, for better or worse.

But secondly, you’re influenced by the range of available choices, and that’s mostly determined by your cultural surroundings, not by you. You can choose any music you like, but the range of what’s available is determined by what gets produced. You can vote for whoever you want… of the available choices. And so on.

That window changes over time, but the drift tends to be glacial. So when we’re in it, we usually view the range of available choices as all that’s possible.

It’s worth it sometimes to imagine beyond that. The people that do so are the ones that, an inch at a time, move the window.

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