I’ve come to a better understanding of culture. Culture, as defined by Seth Godin, is ‘the way we do things around here’. Which he often rephrases as ‘people like us do things like this’. I was recently wondering if culture was a negative thing, and thus about the place of what we commonly call culture : works of art, information and general knowledge.
I now think that culture is indeed hindering the progress of individuals. Culture as the list of expectations a group is carrying. I don’t think there is anything wrong with films, music, books, maps, recipes or politics, though.
But these objects of attention should be pursued out of a genuine, almost naive interest for them. The reason why an individual should choose to focus on, say, the history of the U.S. presidents is not cultural. Arguments like ‘you should know that’ or ‘everyone knows about them’ should not be considered. An individual on a path to self-discovery can only progress by following what will help her complete her next step, what is of true interest to her.
Cultural pressure only blends people into the status quo. Self-realizations happen on the edges, in the places where you and only you go because you are following a very clear and personal desire, curiosity or interest.
All things and behaviors imposed to you by other people can be dismissed. Not because of their nature, but because of the intention of the relation you have with them. Being imposed by other people doesn’t make a song bad. That same song could be genuinely discovered by an individual, and the approach would be laudable. The song imposed onto you is not bad : liking it because others like it is.
Just as you should follow your taste when discovering a new something in order to personally connect with everything, you should follow that same taste to inform yourself.
Whatever way you have of becoming aware of things, ideas, behaviors and people, it should be very focused and independent. The news, big channels like official Spotify playlists, all shitty curation platforms like magazines, ‘top 10’ blog articles, YouTube compilations, and so on are unworthy of attention. Instead of hearing about something because everyone is talking about it, you should hear about it because you followed a trail of interest, regardless of how many people and what kind of communities also follow intersecting or overlapping trails.
Now, I’m not saying that culture should or will disappear. I think culture is the easy way, the comfortable place. But it’s also a static place : ‘people like us do things like this’. That’s it. These are the things we do, and they will not change. If, however, we wish to progress, to confront our fears, to discover, we must dissociate ourselves from culture, and take our own step.