Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cultural enrichment

If we take a random bunch of people and analyze their cultural backgrounds, we're bound to find a lot of differences. It may be due to the fact that they were brought up in different environments or maybe because they met different people(from other 'cultural' domains) in life. I wonder how one can enrich his culture so to speak. And what is this enrichment anyway?

At some level, culture is defined by the way a set of intelligent humans interact with each other, their behavioral patterns and activities. So, the way a person reacts to different situations with different individuals or groups has some sort of correlation with his cultural fabric. Now, coming to how one can enrich himself culturally. Some methods that are widely accepted are the following. One could read literature written by articulate people from different areas of the world or from different time-lines. One could watch movies and serials that serve as some sort of a window to the world. One could listen to different music genres. But does this really help?

Isn't meeting new people and exchanging ideas the way to go about it? I mean, you can't really take something that someone says at its face value, can you? Again, how can one be sure that this is an unbiased way to go about it? The books that those people read, the movies and serials they watch, the bands they listen to, all that is influencing you indirectly, right? And of course, you can't really meet all the people in the world. Is a person who follows some ideals that he formulated based on his limited exposure to people, art and literature culturally backward as compared to someone who has better access?

Anthropologists try to classify the different components of culture to be values, norms, institutions and artifacts. Aren't these functions of the geographical location of a society, the era one is in, etc? Is there a set of values and norms that is universal and independent of everything?

A lot of emotions and instincts are actually universal. For example, honesty, trust and faith are considered to be important everywhere. Most people get angry, happy and sad for quite similar reasons. Breaking one's trust is considered as something that is 'wrong' by most people in the world. I shall not dwell into the topic of what is 'right' even though it might be related to culture. Considering this, isn't it plausible that there is a universal time-independent set of values?

In that case what is enrichment? Getting as close as possible to that ideal set?

And I am done documenting my train of thought.