Essay Cove

Essay Cove

Questions: Do you think that people from Canada and the US are greatly different or generally the same? What are the differences? How would you use the sociological perspectives to measure the differences? What are some implications for you as an international student/immigrant/global citizen? While comparing the two cultures in the North America, have you gained any insight regarding how to perceive other cultures that might seem similar at the first sight? |
Include in-text citations and at least 1 reference. Please note using the textbook as a reference is mandatory for this discussion.
| Textbook
Little, W., McGivern, R., Keirns, N., Strayer, E., Griffiths, H., Cody-Rydzewski, S., Scaramuzzo, G., Sadler, T., & Vyain, S. (2016). Introduction to sociology (2nd Canadian ed.). https://open.bccampus.ca/find-open-textbooks/?uuid=6140c265-61a6-455b-80b8-6ec8fcdf5a48&contributor=&keyword=&subject=%20
Chapter 3: Culture. Section 3.1 – 3.4 inclusive.
| Video
McWhorter, J. (2013, February). Txtng is killing language. JK!!! [Video]. TED Conferences. http://www.ted.com/talks/john_mcwhorter_txtng_is_killing_language_jk
| NOTES: What is Culture?
I’m going to provide several definitions because each one adds clarity.
It is defined as the beliefs, values, behaviour, and material objects shared by a particular people.
It refers to shared symbols and their meanings prevailing in any society or part of society.
Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by humans as member of society.
But culture involves more than simply adding up all the ways people act and think, and assessing the sum of their possessions. Culture melds past and present, synthesizing achievement and aspiration. Culture comprises a complete social heritage.
Culture is divided by sociologists into two components:
non-material culture = the intangible creations of human society
(ideas ranging from altruism to zen)
material culture = the tangible products of human society (objects ranging from axes to zippers)
In everyday life issues such as the way we dress, when and what we eat, where we work, and how we spend our free time are all grounded in culture. Our culture leads us to sleep in houses of wood and brick, while people of other cultures live in huts fashioned from brush, igloos of ice, or tepees made of animal skins.
In addition, culture frames the meanings we attach to our lives, indicating standards of success, beauty, and goodness, as well as reverence for a divine power, the forces of nature, or long-dead ancestors.
Culture also shapes our personalities.
What sets humans apart from other species is the capacity to create culture, which we learn as members of a society. And although culture is transmitted from generation to generation, specific elements of culture are all subject to change.
The creative power of humans far exceeds that of any other form of life, so that only people rely on culture rather than instinct to ensure the survival of their kind.
The Components of Culture
Although people the world over express their humanity differently, all cultures have five common components: symbols, language, values, norms, and material culture.
Symbols
A symbol is anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by members of a culture. It may be any object, sound, word, gesture or action useful for communicating with others. (Examples serve as symbols – a whistle, a flashing red light, a wall of graffiti, and a fist raised in the air.)
It’s important to recognize also that symbols refer to certain things but they are not the thing that is symbolized. Therefore, for instance, a fist in the air symbolizes power and defiance, flashing red light symbolizes danger, whistle symbolizes rules in a game, and wall of graffiti symbolizes youth subcultures.
Symbols are the basis of culture and the foundation of everyday reality. Generally, we become so fluent in the language of our culture’s symbols that we take them for granted. Many aspects of our culture are shared by most members of a society. Examples are things such as the monetary value of different coins and bills, and the rules of traffic governing drivers and pedestrians.
Cultural variation means that an action or object with a specific meaning in one culture may have a very different significance in another. A baseball bat to us symbolizes a sport or game, but to others it might symbolize hunting or war. Cows are regularly consumed by North Americans as rib-eyes and quarter-pounders but to millions of Hindus they are sacred.
In practice, behaviour that seems quite normal for Canadians may cause offense amongst other peoples. For example, women wearing shorts in hot countries like Saudi Arabia have discovered that this is entirely inappropriate and in fact is condemned by society.
Gestures are also imbued with different meanings
In Canada, we use the A-OK gesture made with the thumb and forefinger to express approval and pleasure, yet in France and Belgium the same gesture has an insulting meaning — “you’re worth zero”.
Language
Language, the key to entering the world of culture, is a system of symbols that allows members of a society to communicate with one another. All cultures have a spoken language, yet some have no written language. Written symbols themselves are culturally variable, with societies in the Western world writing left to right, those in North Africa and Western Asia writing right to left, and people in Eastern Asia writing top to bottom.
For people throughout the world, cultural heritage is rooted in language, therefore, language is the most important means of cultural transmission.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) was blind and deaf from birth. Because of this during her early life she was totally cut off from the symbolic world around her. Only when her teacher, Annie Sullivan, broke through her isolation with the concept of language did Helen Keller begin to realize her human potential. In the following passage Helen Keller recalls the moment she acquired language:
We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the smell of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water, and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul; gave it light, hope, joy, set if free!
Does Language Shape Reality?
Two anthropologists who specialized in linguistic studies, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, argued that language stands between us and the world—words actually shape the reality we experience. They challenge the common assumption that the many human languages describe a single reality. They note that every language has words or expressions that have no precise counterpart in other tongues
So what is called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that people know the world only in terms of their language.
Values
Values are a society’s conceptions of the desirable goals people should strive to attain in life and criteria by which actions should be evaluated. Values are judgments, from the standpoint of the culture, of what ought to be. They are standards by which members of a culture distinguish the desirable from the undesirable, what is good from what is bad, the beautiful from the ugly.
Milton Rokeach has identified two classifications of values:
Terminal values (which are goals)
Instrumental values (which are standards for judging the means to achieve goals).
Cultural values shape our personalities. We learn from families, schools, and religious organizations how to think and act according to approved principles; what personal goals are worthy; and how to properly relate to our fellow human beings.
Norms are rules that guide behaviour.
Once a norm is supported by people’s normative beliefs they are said to be institutionalized; they are more or less entrenched in society.
They can be proscriptive norms – mandating what we should not do (for example we are often warned to avoid casual sex).
Prescriptive – stating what we should do. (along the same lines, we should practice safe sex – which has really become a norm in recent years)
Mores, Folkways, and Laws.
Norms vary in importance. An early American sociologist named William Graham Sumner used the term mores to refer to norms that have great moral significance.
Proscriptive mores, often called taboos, include things such as our society’s prohibition against adults have sex with children.
An example of prescriptive mores – are the requirements that people in public places wear sufficient clothing to conform to standards of decency. Because they are deemed vital to social life, mores usually apply to everyone, everywhere, all the time.
Sumner used the term folkways to designate norms of little moral significance. They are rules about customary ways of behaving. Examples of folkways include norms guiding dress and table manners. They generally involve matters about which we allow people considerable personal discretion.
Laws have two forms:
Common law – is based on custom and precedent, reflecting the past practice of the courts (so they go back and look at previous cases and base decisions to a great extent on what happened in the past)
Enacted laws – are formally codified and enacted by legislative bodies.
“Ideal” and “Real” Culture
Values and norms do not describe actual behaviour as much as they state how we should behave. Sociologists therefore distinguish between
ideal culture – social patterns mandated by cultural values and norms and
real culture – social patterns that actually occur.
An example would be marital fidelity, which is generally acknowledged as important in our society — yet at least one-third of married people are sexually unfaithful to their spouses at some time during the marriage. Such discrepancies call to mind the saying “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Subcultures and Countercultures
Subcultures are groups that have a great deal of interaction amongst themselves and whose experiences set them apart from the larger society. Although members interact in the larger society, the intense interaction in these groups ensures that there develop group specific values, beliefs, and norms.
Examples of subcultures within Canadian society include groups such as Italian Canadians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sikhs, and occupational groups such as doctors and lawyers.
Countercultures: Cultural diversity in a society sometimes takes the form of active opposition to at least some widely shared cultural elements.
Counterculture refers to social patterns that strongly oppose popular culture. Countercultures develop not only their own values and political principles, but distinctive folkways, including dress, forms of greeting, and music. Although they have diminished in prominence since the 1960s, countercultures still exist. For example, various white supremacist groups with anti-Semitic, anti-native, and/or anti-non-white views have emerged in Canada and elsewhere under names such as the Heritage Front: the Exalted Cyclops, the Church of Jesus, and Christian-Aryan Nations.
Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativity
Common to people throughout the world is ethnocentrism—the practice of judging another culture using the standards of one’s own culture. So people are loyal to their own culture and judgmental about other cultures.
For example, we wonder about cultures where brides are exchanged for cows, dogs are normally eaten, and women punch holes in their noses and hang large rings.
It’s easier to reject ideas like these than to re-evaluate one’s own beliefs and that’s why people think ethnocentrically.
An alternative to ethnocentrism is cultural relativity—the practice of judging a culture by its own standards. Cultural relativism is difficult because it requires not only understanding the values and norms of another society, but also suspending cultural standards we have known all our lives. While there are ideas about what is moral in every society, there appear to be a few cultural universals such as certain incest taboluvos and certain prohibitions on violence.

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