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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

As Heidi Klum would say, “In fashion, one day you are in, and the next day you are out.” Who decides what’s “in” and what makes us want to buy or wear those garments? I’m not going to go on a rant about fashion, trends, or self expression. But I am going to talk about a pair of pants.

During the fall semester of my junior year of college, I withdrew and came home. After a while of being bored, I ended up getting a part time job at a commercialized hippie store called Free People at the good old local mall. Free People sold black leggings with motorcycle zippers at the ankles that I thought were stupid… at the time. Two years later, I bought an identical pair.

Have you ever found yourself singing along and possibly actually liking a song you really disliked at first?

I recognize that much of my life is filled with hypocrisy. It’s okay. In some ways, though, I lament the corruption of the original by the onslaught of other cultural influences, like the media, pop culture, and even social networks. Sometimes I just want to go Walden and forge ahead on my own (but I won’t because I’d scoff at my own constructed simulacrum of reality). Instead, I’ll just marvel at the permeability of our cultures.

Through enough repetition, our cultural values* actually change in a sneaky metamorphosis to an appreciation of altered perceptions.

Or at least mine do.

When I went back to school I finished out my degree with a minor in Classical Civ, so don’t mind me when I tell you that the ancient Romans utilized an ingenious sociological tool to control the masses** through adaptable religion. As the Empire expanded, the religious customs absorbed indigenous or common practices of the newly acquired lands. For the most part, those conquered peoples were allowed to continue those regional religious customs in addition to the worship of the state cult of Rome.  I am somewhat forgetting why I found this relevant. I guess I wanted to call attention to the comfort associated with familiarity but obviously this example doesn’t work very well so I’m going to stop.

Things I want to know:

  • In terms of feelings of enjoyment or satisfaction, are there changed brain behaviors when exposed to repetition?
  • If the above phenomenon can be likened to some kind of cultural indoctrination or initiation, for what are we training? Why does this happen?
  • What consequences, positive or negative, arise from the repetitive transformation of cultural values?

* Definition still forthcoming. See my thesis (when I write it).

** Some scholars might purport; if I have time to look up some articles I’ll post them, but don’t think that this is an original idea of mine.

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