How good a defense is “this is our (or against our) culture?

Because I feel so illiterate about a lot of history and modern politics, I decided to take this free online course that would help we re-caputure on modern history. Modern world being the period from 1600s-1700s till today. A bunch of stuff happened here that was distinct from the traditional world, but that’s beside the point.

What struck me is that a lot of what we call culture and which we use as a defense during victim blaming or abusive bull fighing, is really, such a shifting concept. I mean, think of the fact that modern armies were first developed by Eurpoeans and then caught on by the rest of the world. Writing language was invented in Mesopotemia and the Printing press in the Roman Empire. Now imagine, if the rest of the world shot up their hands saying, “No, the printing press was invented in the Roman Empire, it’s not our culture” – where would we be today in terms of dissemination of knowledge?

The fact is that culture and ways of life come not only from your geographic location, but ever since we entered the modern world, culture also comes from an exchange of ideas. And we are very happy when culture infiltrates. I mean, aren’t our weddings all the more colourful thanks to the addition of cocktails and bachelor parties?

We see other people with different ideas, different ways of life and then we take some aspects on. Because that’s the point – to make life better. So, this  “culture” which we seem to be gaurding, which seems to be the reason why we are so resistant to change – this concept of culture has itself never been the same. Culture has always been evolving and because it is evolving, we got so far.

Now, a bunch of xenophobic people are inducing mass hysteria and paranoia in others, with notions like “they will take your jobs” or “this is against our values” – you know why? Because their power is rooted in the old ways of life. For example, if we really did see the light of the day and do something about all the animal abuse happening at bull fighting sports, obviously, all the people who arrange for the sport will get affected. Of course they don’t want to let it go!

Culture? The real reason for staying back, is commerce. The commercial interests of a few people.

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The Overrun Tenure of Hierarchy

If you are in a collectivistic culture, like Asia (India) lines of command are a way of life, even if you are not part of the military and armed services. In India, hierarchy is multifold – caste hierarchy, class hierarchy, age hierarchy, gender hierarchy, seniority hierarchy and even piousness hierarchy.

I am sure that there was a time when hierarchies were important to establish order and get work done. However, these hierarchies are oppressive now, from the school to the workplace, from the police station to the hospital, and from the family to the religious institution.

For example, under the District and National Mental Health Programs in India, the psychiatrist is to lead the team, and is also paid better. Why? There could be stringent qualifications for all the professionals and all of them could be paid well. Surely, knowing what medication to give is not enough and mental health requires holistic treatment. But it is driven with the assumption that the psychiatrist is some holy figure – male (no surprises) and with sound knowledge of medicine which no one understands anyway. But medicine has an 80 % relapse rate. Is it wise to trust just that? And it is proven now that much of mental illness is psycho-social and popping pills won’t help.

Another example, take any school or traditional corporate office. The feedback system is so flawed that anyone at the lowest wrung of the chain will always be crushed – in these cases, students and fresh employees. Much of the motivation to climb the career ladder comes from wanting to move to the position of the crusher from the crushed : the only way to make your situation better is to stamp the others and make theirs worse. Ditto for bullying.

Are we then surprised that we are growing herd of people and children who are spewing toxic hatred wherever they go, who themselves feel alone, and the whole point of human connection is lost. We have become mindless chewers of technology and materialism.

the cruel climb

Work is important. Order is important.

But what is more important is to realize that humans have evolved, and our systems from before may simply be redundant. We don’t need to stand over our employees with a stick in our hands to get work done. People have work motivation and achievement needs of their own. Appreciation and reinforcement are concepts that actually work.

Sounds too fuzzy?

Check out this organization that is taking these brilliant concepts to heart, and also making money!

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/396527/case-32-hour-workweek/

This really is a dream organization: adequate offs, good pay, no hierarchy, and mutual respect. And works get done all the time – and people enjoy doing it!

As Ryan Carson says, ‘We should be thankful that we live in a time where we don’t need to work so much’. And we should be using that to achieve a balanced and holistic life.

Meanwhile, in India we continue to slog in 6 and 7 day weeks.

The tenure of hierarchy has really overrun – from the pot to the parliament.