Our culture is what defines us. It has supplanted our nature to become our nature. We develop it, are beneath it's thrall and whim, it remains as primitive as it appears also convoluted and advanced. But where did it come from? Where will it lead? Do we need it? Despite still desperately clinging to cultural models like an unnerved child clings to their mother?
The first port of call would be our evolution of course. Human beings are apes, apes have a densely layered social structure, with the onus/apex of said structure being the alpha. Another common form is the wolf pack or pride of lions (perhaps the hierarchical nature of the dog is what explains our long standing affinity with the animals?) Once we emerged as a species, this mechanism of function remained with us, it was clearly a vital survival method.
What were once elders and alpha males/females (they did exist, before monotheistic, paternal religions demonised them) became chieftains, then monarchs and priests. What was once tribes became territories, nations, then empires. The alpha pack mentality became burdened with an overwhelming forced adulation, enslaved populace and the desire to bend more to the autocratic regime.
If the suppression by a distant God-like ruler was not enough, then came religion and the intangible gods themselves. Religion, peddled by those crucibles of divine providence (priests), gave culture a more sinister edge still. Divested of it's roots in primitive mythology, an attempt by primal minds to explain our origins. Opportunists seized those legends and used them as a snare to proselytise more of the populace into their cult.
Emulating the successful promulgation of control by religion and subsequent suffering then comes capitalism. Money becomes god, success and wealth the tenets of new faith. All culture has been a demagogic process from primordial plane to mega metropolis. A finely constructed method, promoting subservience. What was initially essential for the survival of the species in less enlightened times, has now evolved into a binding, virtually undetectable prison. Culture has always been an attempt to quantify the ability of our own unique, highly powerful minds, unfortunately there have been unscrupulous individuals at the rudder of our cultural vessel. It has been akin to venturing into our foray of discovery surrounded by a perspex box, secure from all without, experiencing nothing in it's truest sense whilst within. Permitting the succour of old cultural controls to dominate our thoughts (we can be influenced by them certainly, but we must allow osmosis from extended, wider sources) leads to a dependence, then reluctance to acknowledge the new.
If we shatter the cube of cultural protection around ourselves, interaction begins. The fundamental edicts of the civilisation we have permitted to persist, despite it being damaging to us in some ways, don't allow for further explorations into how and why we are the way we are. To look beyond, which is the most important element our wonderful gift of a mind can achieve, is stymied by limitations we put on our ourselves, personally and culturally. Culture and civilisation can goad you into thinking all the answers are here, that the leaders hold them, question that!
© Brad James, 2014.