Monday, May 05, 2014

A Few More Links On Culture

Read two examples of ways to talk about culture (in the broader sense)

From the New York Times - "The Case For Disobedience" which includes these lines, which I think are crucial to understanding the public response, and the most relevant cultural angle to the issue:
“The elder generation’s responsibility for the younger generation has always been a central Korean value,” Christopher Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to Seoul and the Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, told me. “It’s absolutely counter-cultural to have crew members not take responsibility, which explains the national revulsion.”
From Jason Lim, for The Korean Herald - "But Korean Culture Is To Blame" talks about the culture of unbridled capitalism and profit-seeking, the way too many Koreans, for too long, have been willing to sacrifice too many other concerns, for profit. If you stretch the meaning of culture one way -- to mean the behavior and values reflected in every day life, then it's a cultural argument. If you stretch culture the other way, to mean the framework of ideals reaching out of the past, you'd say "that's not culture: profit isn't a Confucian value!" Defining terms helps. The other most relevant way culture plays in:
But it’s not just the love of money. After all, who doesn’t like money? But it’s the almost Machiavellian pursuit of money, growth, and success that has reached its peculiar zenith in Korea and trampled any other considerations in its way, including safety. The Washington Post quotes Professor Lee Chang-won of Hansung University as he poses the question, “The thinking is, is it worth stalling progress to deal with these regulations if there’s only a 1-in-10 million chance of something going wrong?”
In my book, this is a legitimate cultural argument, because profit is one of the values and priorities by which Koreans make judgments and decisions for action. Held up to survey results like these - wherein 2010 a larger percentage of Koreans listed wealth as the most important determiner of success than any other country, and had a top 5 result in this one. Is that a slam dunk proof? No. But it's enough to warrant further investigation.

Sky Kauweola's Tumblr blog has a piece about Cultural Determinism and the "Fundamental Attribution Error" I name-checked but didn't really expand upon in my last post. I encourage you to read it.

That article also links to a discussion of the obedience issue, in the context of older studies on "destructive obedience" - obedience of authorities, even when it goes against one's better judgment: the famous Milgram experiments (where doctors told subjects to administer electric shocks to unseen victims, and the rate at which people delivered strong enough shocks to kill -- even while hearing screams of pain -- because the Doctor told them to, was shockingly high.

Bringing the Milgram experiments into the discussion of hierarchy and obedience to authority is an extremely useful addition to the conversation. Humans do seem wired to obey authorities and leaders, which is why (as protests online and offline gain steam) the point comes home, again and again how important it is for us to choose the right leaders.

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