26 Aug Cultural Impotency – Part 3 (And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You)
“Culture is not inherited, but is instead acquired unconsciously during childhood simply by participating in human interactions with others. This process of learning or acquiring our native culture is termed“enculturation.” (Culture, Communication and Conflict, Gary R. Weaver)
I’d bet money you had no idea you were suffering from enculturation! Here you are, going about your daily activities or nighttime shenanigans depending on where you live, and I come, spill the beans and break your heart by changing the way you think about yourself and your relation to the world.
You might not get the Zika virus, but you’re “enculturated,” and there’s no easy cure for it. Now, before you run out and check in with your primary care physician on venereal diseases, keep in mind your doctor experiences the enculturation burden as well!
In the glorious United States, specifically in Washington, D.C., where I live quite happily, the question, “Where did you grow up?” is commonly asked.
My usual answer is “I never did.”
Before becoming a real Washingtonian (I have lived my entire adult life here), I had high suspicions about the real meaning of the seemingly innocent question. Now, the way I look at it is people ask this question to figure out where and from whom the person they’re speaking with got their enculturation.
A few months ago I watched two American men who went to school together decades ago enjoying an amazing friendship based on that unique experience.
While life had taken them down different paths, they still had several things in common they weren’t aware of. They were really, I mean really, good people. They shared pure, solid values and beliefs that were honest and respectful, and considering the chaotic world we live in, absolutely endearing.
One of the men, who was very successful, well read and travelled, managed to remain totally unaffected by any form of human hypocrisy.
The other one was equally as successful, well read and travelled, and had also acquired chameleonic forms of communication. He picked up this skill thanks to his job as well as where he grew up. At the core, they’ll always share the goodness that was instilled in them during their formative years.
By contrast, I had the chance to observe two women from another country who were “suffering” from a different type of enculturation. They hadn’t seen other in years, but also went to the same school.
While they grew up in very different types of families, pursued completely different professional fields and had contrasting life experiences, they were happiest when they were together. Both had been living abroad, so they were very pleased to be speaking their native language and talking to people of their own ethnicity.
The common denominator in both relationships was how they communicated with each other.
If only they’d known it was all caused by enculturation!
‘Till next time from Washington, D.C.