Re: Culture

Can we have a personal culture? That was a question that recently spawned a dinner table conversation. As you would expect, there were views ranging from no to yes. Thankfully no borders were established as with countries espousing and protecting their unique cultures. The grey areas within the bounds were deliciously dissected and analyzed.

Since clubs, teams, societies, all have their own particular culture why can’t a person have a culture of one? Since culture is often defined as something that is shared that might rule out a personal method of doing things, and yet, can’t we say that each day we choose to go about our business in a certain preferred way? My behaviours may intersect from time to time with others and conversely there are times when others join me in my particular pursuits.

I wouldn’t like living in a country that insists its immigrants distance themselves from their original culture. I like to believe I’m comfortable with pluralism, multiculturalism or cultural diversity: a rose by any other name. I like walking around spotting various clothing styles, ethnic garments, headdresses or coverings on people of various hues.

Recently I enjoyed a light picnic at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Others assembled in small groups looking for shelter from the sun. The benches that lined the walkway held a mixed community of Canadians: near our Caucasian circle sat a family of East Indian decent, across the path a First Nations group chatted with another in a wheelchair. For an idealist like me, it was a harmonious sight in a beautiful setting. As the mother of my grandson was breastfeeding her new baby, two women from the Asian camp, came over to offer support and words of advice. We were marginally startled by the invasion of our space. Three white police officers on bicycle patrol stopped the Aboriginal group from publicly drinking beer from cans. The fluid was discarded and the patrol continued. I wondered if that group had been racially profiled. A mild clash of cultures was evident to me as I chomped my bread on the very grounds of Canadian democracy.

And I am aware I am revealing a sense of ownership with that last statement.
When I say ‘I am Canadian’
have I wrapped my culture in my country’s flag like some commercial promotion as this famous Molson advertisement? Does this mean my definition of my culture excludes others from having their unique take on it?

Questions like this circled about me as Victoria City Council announced the removal of a statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister from its municipal centre. Just as my personal culture has changed as I have grown older, here was an example of a local culture adapting to a new understanding of the times within which we live: A new day. A new idea. A new view. Must we risk throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when we redefine who we are as a people?

I need my culture to be inclusive enough to allow me to fit in as much as the next person.

Re: Spectrum

In high school physics class I learned that light comes in a spectrum based on wavelength. Red has a longer wavelength than violet. Red is like soft, gentle swells while violet waves are the choppy ones. On a sunny day these visible electromagnetic waves come through the cut glass in my front door and spread the familiar colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet in that order, over my entrance wall.

Spectrums can be found or made in our imagination. I find thinking of spectrums useful when I’m searching to understand the range of possibilities in my world. It’s fun to play the game: ’Where are You on the Spectrum?’ For example, with Point of View: Are you more a tree or a forest person? Socially: Are you Introvert or Extrovert? Risk: Averse or Bold? Energy: Mellow or High Strung? Most personality tests are based on determining the answers to questions like these, then sorted to find your ‘type’.

I suspect fewer people are at the edges of any spectrum you can dream up in this game of finding out. Most of us will have personal qualities or preferences that put us somewhere to the left or right of the mid point. That doesn’t necessarily make us dull, just balanced. But strangely, most of us get nervous when it comes to diversity within the spectrum of humanity. We like to have things all the same and we often attempt to keep the outliers in boxes of our creation.

I belong to some online survey groups. The opening questions are intended to sort me into categories. I find myself unable to answer some of these questions because, like most people, I don’t easily fit into a binary world. In the modern marketplace, companies would love to find out who we are on a spectrum. If corporations can determine your likes and dislikes then they can create an algorithm that can match you to one of their products. To me this is another example of profiling. Police departments have been accused of racial profiling as a way to narrow their arrest protocols and Big Business regularly tries to get a handle on their customers, so that they can get easier access to their wallets.

Recent Gay Pride events highlighted the spectral nature of sexuality. The rainbow is a fitting symbol as it suggests that humans, collectively and individually are varietal. On the sex spectrum I feel more masculine than feminine and I appreciate members of the gay community stepping up and out to remind me that we are all a blend of hormones and attitudes. We all need to feel free to express ourselves in ways trivial or universal. I like yelling at ball games as much as I do crying while watching musicals. I try to vote responsibly and I have marched in solidarity for causes that acknowledge diversity. I am grateful that I live in a society that recognizes the value of inclusion.

Many colours make up the light that streams through my window. That light animates all life.