Culture as an equal pillar to defining Quality of Life
In my previous blogs, I discussed the critical importance of culture/Culture in our lives. It is so important and influential; it is considered by some sociologists to be equal with three other sectors to defining our quality of life: ecology, politics, and economy. But let’s take a step back for a moment and think about each of these other sectors, starting with Ecology. One aspect of how ecology determines our quality of life has to do with understanding that our physical environment, the land we live, work, and play on, is at the root (pardon the pun) to the creation of language. For you’re not going to create nor learn the word ‘coconut’ if you don’t have an environment that naturally grows coconuts, as an example. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, as Shakespeare suggested and to loosely butcher Romeo and Juliet, but would it (the rose that is)? Now I don’t want to take you all down this particular rabbit-hole yet, but when we think about it, I have to resort to a question that I ask of most audiences I have the honour to chat with: “How do we know what we know?”
Our home-life, and the direct influences of family, biological or otherwise impact and mould all our relationships and our confidence toward participating in those relationships. We often hear our first songs and learn our first dance moves with family. We learn and understand kinship relationships through family, for better or worse. Even my reference to Shakespeare and using a quote from one of his play’s lays bare the colonial educational experience of which I was groomed. But as our communities, neighbourhoods, places of congregation expand, the languages we speak, interpret, and hear expand to match those spaces and the animate and inanimate features they hold.The smells, the textures and tastes of all we engulf penetrate our synaptic nerve endings and remain encoded in our memories, only to (re)emerge when all the right conditions, bring about a parallel pattern of doing, being and thinking. Ecology and culture, I argue, overlap in their influence and interpretation of quality of life.
Political surroundings also share a cultural component that is ever more present when we think about an election season. We create easy to read, bold coloured placards with candidates’ names to be posted all across our landscape. We expect publicly showcased ‘all candidates’ debates to art-forms unto themselves . Dressing in suits and ties, shiny shoes, hair coiffed (okay who doesn’t laugh at Boris Johnson on the BBC every day) with the talking heads and bodies spewing propaganda that makes everything sound perfect, accomplishable and healthy. Now if the political arena is not a cultural gallery or curiosity cabinet, then I do not know what it is.
And finally, the economy. Economics rests itself in stocks, real estate, commodities, buying, selling, ownership and exploitation. Now granted at its core, i.e.currency, economics might not be seen connected to culture beyond anything more than the Roman coins, Europeans love to find on archaeological digs, epitomize the custom, fashion and power of each rulers era. But just like coins, currency can come in many forms, and from architecture to high fashion, there are certain economic stocks and industries that have everything to do with Culture/culture.
Therefore, the value we place on individual understandings of culture can be priceless, for as the old sayings go, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure; one’s person paradise, is another’s purgatory”. The determination of a person’s culture, quality of life, cannot therefore be judged randomly and at will. For if we all loved to eat seafood and only seafood, the oceans would become desolate and ecologically barren spaces overnight, (albeit the ozone might not be suffering with C02 issues to the extent it currently is). Likewise, if we all loved dogs, then dog food companies would rule the world, and I wouldn’t have to leave my furry girl in daycare when I went shopping or travelling. But in our reality, we don’t all appreciate the same thing, and therefore having diverse, unique and individual cultural stories to share, keeps us learning, thinking, growing… keeps us all humble in reflecting that what we truly know is very little, and that’s okay.
Therefore, the idea of inter-cultural refers to this appreciation for all voices and bodies to share what and how they uniquely define quality of life. Inter-cultural reflects an equal opportunity to expand and include how we live our lives; from the moment we choose our hairstyles in the morning to the preference for how we unwind (or not) before laying our heads down to sleep each night. Inter-cultural experiences can range from the art and advertising you see on the subway, train, or bus, to the land acknowledgment that confronts you when you enter an Indigenous-conscious building and/or organizational space. And more specifically, the inter-cultural in my professional title, means that I specifically seek out those unique, often overlooked, ignored, de-valued and maligned voices, bodies, knowledge, and experience to define and mould the work I do and the world I anticipate you are interested to live in.
Next time, “How to use this concept of inter-cultural in the work I do?”