Culture Binds & Blinds
“No one chooses which culture to be born into or can be blamed for how that culture evolved in past centuries.”
― Thomas Sowell
Culture isn’t a problem. It’s the glue that allows human beings to survive in the world, physically, mentally, and emotionally. What can be a problem as Thomas Sowell points out in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, is not understanding the cultures that affect you
Things that violates the norm – a kid smoking or child marriages.
Photograph Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar on via Unsplash
The Short Version
Cultures evolved to protect, unite, and sustain human groups in a particular environment. Culture binds and blinds.
Naïve Realism is a biased belief that you see the world as it really is, while others are subject to their biases.
It is essential to learn to spot your own cultural blindspots and combat Naïve Realism in order to gain empathy, interact with our rapidly globalized and interconnected world, and survive Humanity’s First Family Dinner.
For better or worse, “rules” were put in place to keep the group together, protect everyone, and maintain order within these groups of people. Breaking these rules has consequences. Sometimes the consequence is losing social standing within the group, sometimes it’s banishment from the group entirely; in extreme circumstances, the consequences are losing your life.
A docudrama that centers on amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell.
He periodically journeyed to Alaska to study and live with the bears. He was killed, along with his his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, by a rogue bear in October 2003.
The films explores their compassionate lives as they found solace among these endangered animals
Bound By Culture
The reality we see isn’t reality at all. What we perceive is distorted through the lens of our culture like colored glasses we can’t take off. Like Neo who doesn’t realize he’s in the Matrix, none of us sees the world as it really is. Anäis Nin famously said: "We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are.
This blindness has a name. Social psychologists call it “Naïve Realism.” It’s the belief that we see the world as it really is, objectively and rationally. Others will agree with our views if given the same information; those who don’t are clearly ignorant or biased.
“If I could nominate one candidate for ‘biggest obstacle to world peace and social harmony,’ it would be naive realism because it is so easily ratcheted up from the individual to the group level: My group is right because we see things as they are. Those who disagree are obviously biased by their religion, their ideology, or their self-interest.
Naive realism gives us a world full of good and evil, and this brings us to the most disturbing implication of the sages’ advice about hypocrisy: Good and evil do not exist outside of our beliefs about them.”
– Jonathan Haidt
Everything feels so chaotic right now because we are constantly confronted with other cultures as an effect of the internet and globalization. The cultures that shock us out of our naive realism all have their own rules and practices that are different from our own. Anthropologists call that shock a “culturally rich moment.”.
We call it Humanity’s First Family Dinner.
We are all blinded by culture, and we are all fighting because we all think we’re right and everyone else is wrong.
In truth, we all have cultural baggage: shit-sitters think shit-squatters are disgusting, holists think atomists are narrow-minded, W.E.I.R.D’s think rednecks are stupid, and the pessimists think the optimists are just plain naïve. And it goes both ways.
We’ve all got loads of cultural baggage, but how do we remedy this problem? Should we get rid of culture altogether? Even if that were possible, humans without culture are as helpless as toddlers. Culture is what gives us the tools to survive our environment. Culture is the glue that holds human society together. Nevertheless, naive realism and cultural blindness hurt us all.
When it comes to major parts of intelligence, we’re probably no better than any other ape at birth. Luckily, humans have a superpower. It’s a power we can use to combat cultural blindness and naive realism. Humanity’s Superpower is social learning, the ability to download culture at top speed. We’re better at learning things from others than any other species.
It is NOT our Intelligence
Extract from The Secret of Our Success
Shedding Naïve Realism allows us to use Humanity’s Superpower with precision. Got a problem you can’t solve? Use Humanity’s Superpower to quickly copy a solution from another culture. It’s how the Irish got potatoes. It’s how the Japanese got railroads and then became the leader in high speed trains. Humanity’s superpower will immediately improve your life.