There is no such thing as an isolated event. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. All things happen in the context of the surrounding environment, and thereby when we acknowledge the pitfalls of a particular individual we are really acknowledging the failures of culture. Based on the sheer amount of chaos we see on an individual level throughout our culture, it is safe to say that there are much broader and more extensive issues at work here, specifically those of our collective value-orientation. Let’s take a deeper look.
What is culture, really?
Culture could be most aptly summated as a vast societal ego, by which we mean a broad yet centralized collection of our individual sense of self. It is, in essence, a kind of super mind, and just like any ordinary mind it has its own drives, desires, values, needs, and perhaps most importantly it’s own doubts and insecurities.
Culture is, in essence, our collective unconscious, an immense conglomeration of that which we have yet to address about ourselves. If we were to judge our culture as if it were an individual, how would we characterize it? Greedy? Selfish? Arrogant? Certainly such descriptions roll off the tongue more naturally than their opposites. These are the qualities that define the cultural enterprise, but make no mistake these are not the qualities that define human beings.
It seems as though when people group together, our worst qualities tend to be that which become accentuated outwardly. For instance, if an unconditioned mind stumbled upon a homeless person, it would do anything and everything to help them. It is our very nature to be caring, affectionate, helpful, and to express love. However, when it comes to be culturally acceptable to let people starve in the street, it is our inclination to look the other way. When something horrifying is made culturally justifiable, through whatever calamity of unconscious movements, then we rather passively accept it as the case.
We may be cooperative and considerate individuals, and for the most part we tend to be, but surely we are asleep at the wheel collectively. Until the cultural paradigm comes to be deeply questioned, inquired into, investigated, it will remain as it is, which at this stage is a fairly disjointed and destructive force.
Culture is not your friend, and never has been. It will likely remain a boundary to be crossed for many generations to come; something perpetually acting against the progress and increasing ingenuity of mankind. Groupthink is an issue embedded in the deep inner workings of the human psyche, but this isn’t to say it is something that cannot be transcended.
Each and every human being is intrinsically capable of eclipsing the inhibitions imposed by culture, of moving beyond our unconsciously derived value systems. We are innately autonomous. We are inherently powerful, but that power cannot be actualized as long as we remain capitulated to a particular authority. The latent potential of our consciousness cannot be met until we have become entirely unbounded by the cultural enterprise, and coincidently this “unbounding” is the very act that rearranges the values of culture.
In the words of the great eastern philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, “You are the world and the world is you.” To realize this fact wholly, which is to say to understand rather deeply that your existential movements contain consequence on a cultural level, is to be the change that you’d like to see in the world. Never succumb to an authority that is outside the authority of your own experience.