Friday, January 30, 2015

There is No SuchThing As Culture

        Don Mitchell is a geographer writing a scholarly paper to fellow geographers.  His title “There’s No Such Thing as Culture” is a reconceptualization (meaning to form into a concept) an idea of culture in geography.  Mitchell is bringing up a very interesting concept to his fellow geographers that maybe the way in which cultural geographers look and focus on culture pertaining to geography should possibly be challenged.  Mitchell is suggesting that the main focus of modern geographers should not be on its original origins.  Instead, Mitchell is suggesting that culture and it’s origins are almost impossible to define because culture is not naturally occurring.
        Mitchell goes on to explain that, “In this paper I will establish a rationale for dispensing with the notion that ‘culture’ is ontologically rooted, and then proceed to show how such an understanding liberates geographers and others to understand how the idea of culture (rather than culture ‘itself’) has been deployed by powerful social actors.”
        Mitchell is trying to move away from the idea that “culture is everything” as so many geographers focus on.  He argues that, “the idea of culture leads to an infinite regress:  there is no solid ontological ground that serves as a foundation for ‘culture’.  Even so, powerful social actors continue to behave as if there is something called ‘culture’, for it is precisely the phantom nature of ‘culture’ that provides the idea’s power.”  Mitchell would rather see more studies and a focus on the idea of culture being used as a means of attempting to create order, control and a way to define others in the name of profit and power.
        Disagreeing with culture geographers like James Duncan and Peter Jackson whom both have very different views of what culture is and how it should be defined; Mitchell proceeds to agree with one aspect of which Jackson appears to hint that, “ ‘culture’ in the end is indefinable, suggesting that ‘the stuff of culture … is elusive, best approached obliquely in terms of the processes through which meanings are constructed, negotiated and experienced’ “. 
       The author continues to expand that culture ” is simply a list of activities.”

In reading this article I had a few “ah ha” moments of my own.  I would like to further discuss my ideas and thoughts on those in power who create culture for their own personal agenda and how it affects individuals.  Secondly, I would like to discuss how culture drives some of us crazy and stifles “authentic living”.  Lastly I would like to share my thoughts and feelings of the millennium and if culture will play a role or not in society.
     Mitchell brought up a very interesting concept that had never crossed my mind before.  He expresses the idea that culture is not naturally evolving.  He emphasizes the thought that culture has been created by those in power for their own profit and gain.  This concept flabbergasted me.  It’s so true!  There are endless examples of this in history and in modern day.  From the scriptures we can read about the Judges in Alma chapter 11:20.  These judges purposely fed contention in the land to one against another just so they could make more money. 
(Do you think Culture naturally exists or is it just all made up?)

20 Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to rioting’s, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek.
On the contrary we can also see in the Scriptures that King Benjamin was a vital component to Nephi culture for the good in bringing about much righteousness among his people.
 16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.
 17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
 18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?
 19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
 20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
 21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
 22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
King Benjamin is a fine example of his words and deeds.  He labored for his own food and did not take from his people to provided riches for himself.  Those were not his desires.  He desired to keep the commandment of God and serve others and that in turn affected his peoples culture and his teaches became part of them and they were able to have a mighty change of heart and come closer to God.
A similar vision of those whose task it is to run BYU-I have created the Honor Code.  Those in power instill good values and have crated a culture defined by the “spirit of Ricks”.
In more modern culture we can see the affect on culture by those with power and authority.  The Cultural Revolution in China.  The civil rights movement.  The women’s movement and sexual revolution have clear implications that have affected our culture.  Today we see the “green movement”, multiculturalism, and extreme fitness movements in the USA.  I can’t help but question the motives of these movements.  Who is behind these movements?  What do they have to benefit from them?  Why do we feel that need to participate?
My second “ah ha” thought that came to me while reading Mitchell’s work was that if Culture is fake and made up by those in power trying to push an agenda, why on earth are submitting ourselves to these ridiculous standards put in place in our society?  Mormon culture kills me!  I suffer from major cultural dissonance here in “Mormon Land”.  The box of what a Mormon woman is supposed to be is so very small.  I don’t fit in that box.  I have a potty mouth; I’m a single mom with five kids who loves to wear skinny jeans and heels.  I can’t stand maxi skirts, and Mormon style.  I am very passionate and have oppinons about things that acutually matter and am not afraid to voice them.  I hate gardening and canning and have no desire to start up a WHAM company.  Oh, sewing.  Not going to happen!  Crafting, toll painting, scrapbook-not for this minimalist.  I feel like I don’t fit in or have a place or home here because I don’t fit in and fit nice and neatly into “the box” and just get brushed aside.  My situation in life of being “single” in my mid thirties just freaks people out.  I am not introduced as Sister Donnelly, I’m a “single sister”.  Really?  I am defined by my familial status among church members.
My biggest beef about culture is that it prevents us from living true, authentic lives.  We all want to have a place and belong, so we try to find our niche in society.  For some that is comforting.  They play the part well and they don’t have to stop and look deep down inside, they can find comfort in mediocracy.  I can’t do that. Yet, I feel like I have to smother my true self.
My final thoughts on Mitchells paper are concerning the Melinium.  I was pondering on the idea if culture would even exisit during the melinum.  If everything is running in God’s way during that time will we naturally come to be the like the spirits that we were in the preexistence?  That’s very profound to me.  Will we see things in such a different light?  Will we rejoice in the beauty of individuality and uniqueness, or will we be a bunch of cookie cutters?  I don’t believe we will be the latter.  It touches my heart to think of the time and effort and explicit thought and time Heavenly Father put into each of us when he created us.  Is it an insult to our Father in Heaven when cover up our authenticity and judge and snicker at others? 


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