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The Three Layers of Culture

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In one of my earlier posts, I had suggested that culture operates at 3 levels. It is the personal, the familial and the communal/national. We shift into anyone of these roles automatically. And this is what I had meant by the term Cultobot. A cultobot is one who has automated certain types of cultural responses Cultobots mechanically negotiate communal and familial cultural responses while fiercely guarding their personal cultures.

Personal culture

For example the teenagers of the previous post, who are as universal (similar) as human beings on earth can be. But this happens only when the teenagers are interacting with their computers. This is their personal culture—shared on an unprecedented scale—the culture of ultra-modern technological beings of a radically globalized planet. When these teenagers become professional, they easily shift to the conventions of global corporate culture and become the LinkedIn professionals.

Family’s culture

It is when people are in their family environments, the culture of their upbringing surfaces—for example a family’s love of music, self-questioning or agnostics, atheists or believers, laid-back or complacent individual of all shades: Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhists and many, many others.

Culture of the community and the nation

And then there is the culture of the community and the nation: extremely dynamic, prone to expansive generalizations, error-prone, dependent on the political flavour of the day. And, yet like the furious water raging in a river, still has stubborn land in its bottom. To each community and country its distinctive culture

So, paradoxically, in a huge crisis of disconnect, 16-year olds cultobots, rediscover the hijab –very often online and alone in chat-rooms and fly off to marry ISIS fighters. They do not at all go to their parents or communities for clarifications.

Or if the virtual world is too much out there, and the real world not quite enough, a 100 people will stand in the middle of crowd of 100, each single person alone and looking down into their phones and tablets.

And then the physical world (of bricks and mortar, snow and sun) around us all becomes a hallucination and a mirage.

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A Firefly in the Forest

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It has been a long break from this blog and the world is none the worse for it….! But fixing the world anyway is not the agenda here.
In a forest is full of fireflies, does one tiny firefly ask itself, “ What should I do with my tiny lantern? Why should I glow? Am I adding any light?” And then it remembers its name, ‘firefly’.
That little spot of shiny light is its nature.
The agenda in this blog is similarly personal, to light my lantern and leave it out there in the forest. It is possible someday, someone will take away my tiny lantern and return to me a bigger one.

The plan is to post at least twice a month.

More than ever, culture is still our shared concern. There is violence in every culture. Individuals can be violent in every possible ways, and mental imbalances are understandable. But if groups like ISIS resort to something as extreme as beheadings, what is one to make of it? Granted that it is about politics. But then, why do they go back to religion and culture to find its validations and justifications?

Why is culture such a convenient tool?