The Goals & Vision of Culture as Comfort:
Long ago when I (Sarah J. Mahler) began to think about the “problem” of culture I began with a hypothesis:
Most people think that they have a culture. Do you agree? If so, terrific but while I’m glad you confirm my hypothesis I want to convince you that, although this viewpoint is totally understandable, it’s also both inaccurate and unhelpful. To start understanding why, take a look at what this statement asserts: that we each have (possess) culture (and this possession resides inside each of us individually) and that we all have one culture (Some people may be “bicultural” but they’re the exception not the rule. Agree?). If you possess culture were you born with it? Most people will answer no to this question but then have little knowledge about how they acquired culture other than to say they acquired it in childhood. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know more about how children learn culture? And if each person has one culture, where does that culture end and another person’s begin? Do teenagers share the same culture as that of their parents? If not, where do they get their one culture since we acquire culture from those around us? Hopefully you begin to see that culture is a very worthwhile concept to understand. It’s my mission to open up the black box of culture so that we all understand it better and can be more creative cultural practitioners. My goal, therefore, is that through the book Culture as Comfort, blogs, talks and workshops I will shift your view about culture.
Why do I care and why should you care about your views on culture? In the brief exercise above you hopefully can see that people hold ideas about culture that obscure more than expose this incredible human ability. There are many consequences to our lives, from the personal to the geopolitical, for maintaining the views we have one culture. At home we inadvertently teach our children habits we do not want them to learn and we also overlook ways we have at our fingertips to bridge differences between family members and generations. Among nations, outmoded ideas about culture are behind the so-called Culture Wars and many cross-cultural disagreements; we often fight each other to “preserve our culture” and retreat to outdated cultural customs out of fear of cultural change. We now have the knowledge to understand culture much better but this knowledge has yet to circulate widely. Bringing this knowledge from its current location in academic circles and publications into public spaces and conversations is what I strive to do. I see myself as a culture broker, bridging new insights into how we learn in general derived from neuroscience and psychology with a broad-based understanding of the human condition contributed by other social sciences but anthropology in particular to you. The applications of this knowledge and understanding to individual lives and to our existence as humanity are infinite. The Culture as Comfort vision is that once you learn these critical analytical tools, you will put them to good use in a wide array of problem-solving and culture-building projects for the benefit of yourself, your people and people in general.
To make this vision reality, the website will soon host your innovative approaches to applying CaC. Please check back soon to see how your ideas will be incorporated into the campaign.