Saturday, October 19, 2013

Being Counter-Cultural: a how-to

Is culture collectively self-imposed? Is there an unspoken cycle of peer pressure and conformity which reinforces our beliefs about the way things work? I started thinking about this a while ago, ever since I came to Reed anyway, and I'm not sure if I have even gotten anywhere. Within a few weeks of being at college, I heard a term I had never experienced before, Stress Culture. hmm... Stress Culture? that sounds like... wait... i have no idea what that sounds like.

Well two years have gone by since this first happened to me. I now have a pretty good understanding of not only Stress Culture, but also Drug Culture, and Rape Culture. These terms  describe an intricately self-organized system of beliefs, habits, behaviors, and customs. This system doesn't have a purpose, it was not designed by someone or even a small group.

It is the result of years of widespread cognitive dissonance. When we, human beings, hold two contradicting ideas in our heads, we have an incredible ability to justify this dissonance, removing the appearance of contradiction. When hundreds of people do this individually, within their own heads, then talk about it, both online or in person, a system is collectively constructed that holds each belief to be true, ignoring inherent dissonance that started it all.