Wednesday, April 23, 2014
How Very Antediluvian
Every generation speaks of change. Every generation prides themselves on being different from their predecessors: more advanced, smarter, and wiser in every conceivable way. As these same individuals advance in age, the forward-looking aspect of self-identity via progress can sometimes take an opposite course and reverse itself back toward stick-in-the-mud-ism.
Instead of looking toward the new, individuals begin holding on for dear life to the past. Expressions such as "in the old days" or "when I was a kid" take the place of "Look at that! (in reference to something new). Isn't that extraordinary?!" Culturalisms such as "How very English" or "How French" roll off the tongue as if intended to make one feel better about oneself for the simple fact that one belongs somewhere in a vastly changing world.
Referencing the weather, for example, as being "very Scottish" or "English" is a form of self-deprecating humor when one is Scottish or English. However, if one is from the United States, Africa, or Sweden, for example, one feels excluded. At best, culturalisms are an antediluvian form of excluding others by referencing one's own participation in a specific group.
While this is not uncommon, it is not necessarily progressive. Expressing oneself via culturalisms does not speak to the progressive nature of a modern society focused on dissolving outdated mindsets. True, the majority of the world prides themselves on "belonging" to one group or another, to one culture or another, to one gender or another, to one time period or another, but if one wishes to become a Citizen of the World, or better yet, a Citizen of Existence, it is important to shift one's self-identity from one's environment toward a higher purpose: progress.
It is difficult to progress when one cannot adjust to changes in the world. The English or Scottish are not the only ones who must contend with large amounts of rainfall. Take a trip to the Tavoy, Myanmar, Kikori, Papua New Guinea, Henderson Lake, British Columbia, Andogoya, Colombia, Waialeale, USA (Hawaii), or Mawsynram or Cherrapunji, India, and you'll soon find out that the English do not have a monopoly on rainy weather.
For those who consider the croissant to be "Oh so very French" ... the Kipferl, ancestor of the croissant, has been documented in Austria as going back to at least the 13th century. In fact, the "birth" of the croissant itself - that is the adaptation of the plainer form of Kipferl, before the invention of Viennoiserie - can be dated to 1838 (or 1839), when an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, founded a Viennese bakery ("Boulangerie Viennoise") at 92, rue de Richelieu in Paris.
There are hundreds of examples of "Oh so very..." something or another having their roots in cultures other than those to which they are associated. The fact that attitudes or foods become associated with any given culture is again an example of individuals wishing to exclude others or of wishing to belong to something rather than being content in the notion that every being is part of a grander concept called existence.
It is a very antediluvian mindset that cannot embrace the totality of existence without classifying people and things into categories. While it is a rational activity to sort and classify objects according to their classes or genus, it is dangerous to treat people in the same way. Look around the world for examples of peoples fighting over cultural identity as proof of the validity of this statement.
On the news this morning I listened to how the Supreme Court is backing Michigan on Affirmative Action in higher education. Rather than deem one perspective right or wrong, I wondered to myself why we still live in a world focused on separation when we claim we are focused on progress and innovation. If we wish to be honest with ourselves, do we not all have the same origin?
In reality, people are arguing over random cut-off dates associated with early migration patterns of our common species, which is, of course, in and of itself utterly ridiculous. Instead of solving problems, adhering to random moments in the history of existence propagates problems. (Some may claim knowledge or faith in a specific origin, but until that is proven, these are only personal beliefs.)
When a comedian makes a cultural joke, often times it is made in jest, making fun of those who believe or act in one way or another. The difficulty with this type of joking is that the concepts proliferate to a point when common society can no longer differentiate between a joke and real life.
I do not foresee antediluvian notions of culturalism changing any time soon so long as people hold onto antediluvian values, but I need not participate in it. In our personal household, we incorporate a number of global niceties associated with a myriad of environmental origins. Rather than refer to our preference for a larger midday meal rather than "dinner" or "supper" as being "Very Mexican" we recognize that many people around the world, including people living in Mexico, prefer to eat their main meal in the afternoon and lighter fare in the evening for health purposes. Rather than refer to our love of cheese as being "Very French" we pride ourselves on understanding the cheese-making process and on being familiar with the fact that cheese predates recorded history. (The origin of cheese-making can be traced to Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Sahara. According to Pliny the Elder, cheese-making had already become a sophisticated enterprise by the time ancient Rome came into being.)
Our existence is far grander than limitations imposed upon it by present-day borders and limited mindsets. I would like to think that I am not a minority in my thinking that we are all beings born to the same planet and in appreciation of existence should not be focused on our differences or even our similarities, but rather on our two most important goals in life: sustenance and progress - the result of both leads to an increase in global happiness (as well as in things not yet even conceived or imagined).