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How does the culture we are born into effect the kind of person we become?
Culture plays an integral part in an individual’s life. Various aspects of life are governed and influenced by the culture including the social behavior, norms, and the influence over the judgment and decisions. I particularly believe that culture is a prominent aspect of life and subsequently has to do with the kind of person we become in our life. The testimonies to the influence of culture in one’s life is apparent by some aspects as follow, the culture to which a person belongs has a strong influence over his thoughts and ideologies, the culture manifests his ability and potential of the work he does, the culture reflects his social behavior and the way he responds to various predicaments. On the surface, it shapes our life and our vision for how we look at the world. Culture is dynamic it keeps changing, its surface appearance is deceptive, what you see on the surface isn’t necessarily what is under it. Therefore to determine the effect of culture on an individual is often complicated and there are some implications which are to be accepted without questioning, that is to say the effect of culture on people vary and affects us vividly. However, I am going to fret that it affects us in a positive manner.
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The culture has a strong influence over our thinking, ideologies and understanding. As thinking is one of those aspects that keeps vacillating and growing with in us, shaping our life every time we learn something new. And the culture is one of those attribute which helps in augmentation of our cogitation. Some of the culture which observe open-mindedness are often more likely to grow and develop faster than the others who observe conservativeness. This model of thinking will ultimately affect the development of an individual, hence the one with open-mindedness will grow faster, and this is apparent by taking the example of USA’s and Vietnamese culture. The one who belongs to an open-minded culture will always be ready to take risks and accept the opportunities he is provided with, because such aspects are deeply etched in their culture and resultantly would be exhibited in the individual . So by taking example of two contrasting nations like Vietnam and USA one can witness the force and potent of culture, that how it shapes the lives of the living entities residing within it. In the novel “Fallen Angels” the protagonist-Perry makes a statement that, “We were supposed to smile a lot and treat the people with dignity. They were supposed to think we were the good guys. That bothered me a little. I didn’t like having to convince anybody that I was the good guy. . . . We, the Americans, were the good guys.” (Page 112 Fallen angels, Walter Dean Myers).This statement shows the thinking of Perry which has been influenced by his culture, making him think that they were the good guys, just because they were helping others for their own independence. But they failed to see the other side of it and the repercussions it would bring. That is to say “we only see and understand what our culture teaches us”. Educational phase is an important stage of life, and sometimes it can be linked with some aspects of culture. Some cultures are often considered to be more superlative when it comes to intelligence and understanding of its students. Some of which are indeed in reality, while some aren’t, but relying on such generalized and over-simplistic ideas is dangerous. But if viewed from my point of view, the effects are positive. That is to say, if a person represents a culture where intelligence and understanding are the aspects embedded in them, in a culture where education is considered to be an important aspect and is meant to be achieved, then the student would be of greater knowledge and understanding in the end, which would eventually help him in becoming a better person in life. This aspect of intelligence is either governed by the genetic inheritance or the surrounding environment prevailing the society, an alluding outcome of the culture. Furthermore, sometimes when others don’t meet the boundaries of expectations and anticipations set by us, developed through the thinking we gained by our cultural understanding, we often consider that as cue that either we are different or they. As we can see from the above mentioned examples how the thinking is influenced by the culture surrounding us and resultantly and ultimately affects the kind of person we become in future.
Secondly, the cultural values manifests how we deal or respond to the conflict or harmony that is omnipresent around us and also how it shapes our understanding about them. In the novel “Fallen Angels” Perry had to go through many phases of exasperation and intimidation, but every time he seemed to be responding each situation differently. When he was in hamlet on pacification, he encountered a Vietcong who was trying to shoot him but he couldn’t because his rifle wasn’t working, Perry stood petrified wondering what to do, but finally it dawned upon him that in order to save himself he had to shoot him. At first he wasn’t ready to shoot the Vietcong because he viewed war as “immoral and senseless killing of people”. But he responded according to the requirement of the predicament that is he finally killed the Vietcong. I surmise that, indirectly his response towards Vietcong was influenced by his cultural values. Explicitly stating, the culture had taught him how to respond to each situation, that “it’s not always about responding in a perfect way, but rather responding in a manner the predicament requires and deserves”. In addition, after doing the research on culture of other country (Vietnam) and understanding them through a different perspective, I have also developed a sense of understanding and a respect for their cultural values and how it has transformed them in spite of their ignorance toward knowledge. Considering my response towards their culture as an example in itself, it can be made apparent that my response isn’t an instinctive one but rather an acquired one, because “that’s the way I was brought up, to see the goodness in others neglecting the indecency that occurs in it simultaneously”. The origin of the response can be deeply rooted in my culture itself as it has nothing to do regarding my knowledge itself. Furthermore, in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, Hamlet is confronted by the ghost of his father, asking him to avenge his death. The audience of that time had accepted the event unquestioningly, the question was not whether the ghost really existed or not, but perhaps was it actually the king or a wicked soul masqueraded. But if a similar scene were to be placed in front of the audience of present time they would be reluctant to accept the ideas regarding the ghost, on the contrary they would disregard the originality and seriousness of work. This won’t be considered as an outcome of evolution in the human minds, but perhaps a development in the cultural teachings and understandings, for how we have been brought up to respond to or view such events. So this were the some form of the illustrations, for how cultures trains our reaction to respond to a conflict, not necessarily conflict but rather our response towards the happenings in our surrounding .
And lastly, culture is also an important body controlling the manifestation of our social behavior, etiquettes, attitude and the potential of an individual to strive or work for something. Learned behavior is the foundation of human cultures and the transmission of this behavior ultimately powers the wheel of development of human culture. Human behavior produces cumulative changes in the society, and the constantly changing society requires constant behavior adjustments. Simply stating our demeanor and attitude are neither static or nor deterministic, it chiefly depends on the changes in the culture. In an interview conducted in Canada, a Chinese elder man pointed out that he hasn’t experienced any conflict since the last 40 years of his life [*]. Among one of the possible reason for his denial, one would be seeing the cultural preferences and differences in society through lens of harmony and mutual respects for others, which is the result of his Confucian upbringing. This attitude and perception of the Chinese was eventually a result of his cultural values, which helped him in becoming a wise and knowledgeable person in his life. His culture had taught him about the attitude he should have towards his own culture as well as for the other cultures. Now to demonstrate the influence of surrounding culture on our disposition, let’s take an instance of culture of Vietnam and India, if a boy was born in a Vietnamese family but his upbringing allegedly happened to be in Indian family, than the boy rather than getting accustomed to social behavior and etiquettes of Vietnam would tend to get accustomed to that of Indians. And fundamentally would demonstrate the attitude and disposition of a typical Indian. So the point of my insistence is that our surrounding culture demonstrates the way we would behave and how our attitude would tend to be. Now rather than using chop-sticks while eating, he would insist upon using his hands to do the same activity. And while greeting people instead of bowing and handshaking he would do Namaste (a gesture formed by joining two hands and bringing them down to chest). Now, an illustration of influence over our potential or our ability to strive for something. In Indian culture, the “sants”  (a person who attains the highest state of enlightenment by meditation and worshipping god) are considered to be an exponent of the Indian cultural values. They only strive for achieving salvation in their life, regardless of how tempting objects you place in front of them, they don’t develop desire for them. Consequently if there is no desire in the mind, they won’t be worried about it and also if any desire arises they won’t feel ease without shunning it. My point of emphasizing the idea is that that their commitment towards their works is so determined that they would never deviate from their path. The aspects of their potential and that of their outstriven ability are an example in itself, if viewed from my point of view. In no other culture in world, would you find such adamant people. Their deterministic demeanor is a result of the cultural values. Again taking the culture of Vietnam and USA as a point of justification, in Vietnam children are encouraged to solve math problems mentally rather than using the calculators, but they do not consider this as a sacrifice and also their education system emphasizes more on morality rather than independent thinking. On the contrary, the Americans try to make their life as easy as possible by using technology. Also their education system emphasizes more on independent thinking rather than morality. So the inference which could be drawn from this happening is that both the culture are approaching the same work, but they have two distinct ways to achieve and strive for it.
In conclusion, it is obvious by now that the way of life a person would live in future is derived chiefly from the cultural values and aspects of the specific group he belongs to. The three specific reasons I used for justification of my thesis are as follow, firstly the culture has strong influence on our ideologies and thinking, in a broader sense we as a person are an outcome of our thinking and ideologies. Secondly, culture demonstrates our way of responding to various conflicts and harmony prevailing in the society, dealing with conflicts is an important dimension of life and eventually and indirectly our response generated towards it is determined by the culture we are influenced by or born into. And lastly culture is the primarily body, that demonstrates our disposition, attitude and the potential and ability to strive or work for something. Just like economy and country, culture is also one of the most important dimension of our life. Cultures are not just about traditions, food customs, languages, dress etc. but perhaps, it has a broader horizon than the literary context, which requires a great deal of understanding and contemplation as a whole. Cultures are like underground rivers flowing within our lives, which gives us messages and teachings, shaping our perception, judgments, attribution and ideas for self as well as others. “We as a whole are inseparable from culture”.
*Lebaron: Mediation and Multicultural Reality.”Lebaron: Mediation and Multicultural Reality. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 201
LeBaron, Michelle. “Culture and Conflict.”Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: July 2003 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/culture-conflict>.
“Cultural Influences and Education.”Cultural Influences and Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.
“How Cultural Differences May Affect Student Performance.”GreatSchools. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.
Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels. New York: Scholastic, 1988. Print
Shakespeare, William, and David M. Bevington.Hamlet. Toronto: Bantam, 1988. Print.
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