Sunday, September 13, 2009

Culturism in Nature

We are hardwired to absorb the culture we’re brought up in. People quickly become partial to the ideology of their culture even if it is ridiculous. Tribes would die if each new person had to be rationally convinced of the logic of the tribe’s system. Males must be willing to die for their group by thirteen years of age. Having a solid zeal for your tribe would present a huge battle advantage against a tribe where people don't consider their tribe rational or special. In nature, critical assessment is a luxury that would be bred out. Automatic cultural absorption and zeal would be bred in.

We see that cultural transmission is natural in the speed with which kids pick up language. We also see a mechanism for naturally reinforcing culture when kids seek out differences and mock each other. Teens are notoriously (rock) group oriented. In the Nurture Assumption, Judith Harris locates the point of cultural melding at the new generation. She notes that when parents move to a foreign country the parents unsuccessfully adopt. If the child came early enough, it is not a matter of “when in Rome do as the Romans do;” It is a matter of “When in Rome, become a Roman.” The kids become one of the locals.

Group formation happens throughout the animal kingdom. Chimps patrol their borders and are murderous to those who come in from an outside group. Scientists have taken baby rat out of their family settings, cleaned it and then put the smell of another group on it. When they put that rat baby back in the den, the family kills them. While they do not recognize each other as individuals, coral fish have bright colors to mark their presence at a territory. Antigens mark invading foreign bacteria. This is natural. Groups form and this serves a survival function in nature.

These pressures steer us subconsciously. Michael Mitchell created artificial groups by (incorrectly) telling people they were part of a group that overestimates or underestimates based on the amount of dots they thought were on a piece of poster paper. Once formed the groups discriminated against each other. We only need the slightest pretext to favor our group. It is natural. And, it feels good! My love for the Lakers is an example. GO TEAM!!

Natural and wonderful are not synonymous. But there are two culturist takeaway points that come from this post. First of all, the tribe that is most united often wins. Even if, as with the Greeks fighting the Persians at Salamis, we are united on our respect for individual conscience, group affiliation helps. We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately. That is why we need to push culturism, not multiculturalism. The second culturist point is that, since children come hardwired to absorb a culture, we adults have a duty to provide one. If we do not give the youth a satisfactory sense of belonging to a community, they will find it in gangs. Fortunately, when pushing a sense of belonging to the western world, natural and wonderful happily converge! GO TEAM GO!!!!

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