Can we live without being influenced by our surrounding and be an island to ourselves where no outside influence can affect us? I don’t think so. If we believe that we cannot BUT be influenced by our environment, our culture, our neighbours, our leaders, our religion, our family, our friends by the media than doesn’t it make sense that we conduct ourselves in such a way that its beneficial to both our society and ourselves? ( or if you like ourselves and our society?).
In my previous posts I mentioned how by interaction with others we are patterning our mind to react or behave in a particular way. But our quality of interaction and the kind of relationship we have with each other is dependent on the kind of cultures and societies we live in. This means our cultures and social structures can activate and pattern our minds, too. In our fast paced , competitive society we are going to be interacting and stimulating different patterns in each of us than if we were in slower , more contented societies.
Does it not than follow that we have to think about ourselves radically differently than “island among ourselves.” It would be more accurate to think about ourselves as “mutually influencing beings” ? So on individual level, our irritation with each other will raise our stress and increase our vulnerability to range of health problems and to social discord, while our kindness to each other will lower our stress and impact positively on our well-being and increase our social safeness. At a societal level mental illness and criminality are born from complicated genetic, social mentality and cultural/ social interactions. At international level , the ways in which our societies operate, seek goods and services, secure trade agreements and enable international companies to extract huge profits from stock markets will greatly affect the lives and pattern the minds of people far away. Clearly we are all connected , even to those we have not met and are far away on the other side of the world.
So we have a choice of either encouraging selfish tribal behaviour in ourselves and try to be an ” island among ourselves” or we can choose a compassionate approach that’s more thoughtful of others. Ideally, of course , we want to blend our interest and interest of others. We will have to reflect and think carefully about our values and try to be the ‘best we can be’ but at the same time, not ruthlessly exploitative.
The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert.
- What is Culture? (articles4friends.com)
- Cultural Anthropology (articles4friends.com)
- Dichotomous Thinking: Structure and Agency, Nature and Nurture (nortonbooks.typepad.com)