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Changing Times: How Cultures Old and New Perceive the Perplexing Concept of Time

Changing Times: How Cultures Old and New Perceive the Perplexing Concept of Time


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Time is a concept that exists in most, if not all cultures, and exerts a strong influence on how a culture sees itself and the world around it. Time has been, and still is a major topic in various fields of studies, including philosophy, religion, linguistics and science. Thus, there are many aspects of time that one could consider, and, despite the millennia of investigation into this subject, many issues regarding time have yet to be resolved. One aspect of time that has been studied is the way this concept is perceived by different cultures, and how this affects them.

Linear Perception

Broadly speaking, perceptions of time may be divided between ‘linear’ and ‘cyclical’. The former is often associated with the West, whist the latter with the East. In general, the linear perception of time may be illustrated by an arrow. On one end is the past, and on the other is the future. The present lies somewhere in between. According to this view, time is a one-way street on which one can only move forward and never back. As for the cyclical perception of time, time may be said to be regarded as a repetition of events. Examples to illustrate this concept include the rising and setting of the sun each day and the changing of the seasons.

The sun rising over Stonehenge on the June solstice. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Whilst the conception of time may be divided into these two main groups, further differences within each group may be observed. For example, one type of linear perception of time is called ‘linear-active’. According to this view, time is precious, and once it is lost, it can never be regained. One feature that is born out of this perception of time is punctuality. As time is of the essence, schedules have to be kept, and everything ought to be done within a given time. This perception of time is said to be subscribed by, amongst others, the Germans, Swiss, British and Americans.

  • The Ancient Invention of the Water Clock
  • The Lost Cycle of Time - Part 1

Multi-active Time

The opposite of ‘linear-active’ is a view dubbed as ‘multi-active’. Unlike cultures that follow the ‘linear-active’ perception of time, this group places less value on time itself. Instead, what is done in that period of time, and the relationship between people is considered as more significant. Additionally, schedules and punctuality are not viewed as particularly important, and hence not always observed. Thus, the time of a meeting becomes irrelevant when one takes into consideration the importance of the business that is to be done, and the relationship between the two parties. Amongst others, this perception of time is adhered to by the Spanish, Italians and Arabs.

A 20th-century sundial in Seville, Andalusia, Spain.

Cyclical Perception

The cyclical perception of time in the East is much different from the Western linear perception of time. As an example, whilst the latter places an emphasis on action, the former values reflection, especially of things that have happened in the past. This is due to the belief that since time repeats itself, it is imperative that lessons of the past be taken into consideration when one makes decisions in the present. Whilst this is generally applies to all Asian cultures, it may be said that variations of this perception of time also exist amongst them.

Candle clocks were used in ancient Chinese and Japanese cultures, Kerzenuhr. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

In Japanese culture, for instance, it has been observed that everything has its right place and time. Thus, time is segmented, carefully regulated, and beginnings and endings are marked with certain gestures. This way of organizing of time can be seen, for example, in Japanese social functions, such as company picnics, retirement parties and weddings. In Chinese culture, as another example, time may be seen as precious, though their approach towards it is different from those ‘linear-active’ cultures. As the Chinese have a cyclical view of time, more time has to be spent on deliberation and the nurturing of relationships before a deal can be made.

  • Ancient Meaning of the Autumnal Equinox
  • The Ingenious Invention of the Tower of the Winds

The different ways in which each culture perceives time has an effect on their view of the world, and their interactions with others. Aspects that are influenced by a culture’s perception of time include the pace of life, the way business is done, and the most effective way when it comes to using one’s allotted time.

Featured image: The face of the Prague Astronomical Clock (1462)


    Traditional Culture and Modern Culture: Man's Fall from Grace

    In some ways, traditional culture and modern culture are alike. Any culture is a system of learned and shared meanings. People learn and share things over the course of generations, and so we say they are a culture. Traditional and modern culture function similarly because both are ways of thinking, ways of relating to people and to the universe.

    The beginning of culture was language. The first word was culture. Someone looked up from whatever else was going on and said something, and that first word was the building block of all human culture. You could pass it around. You could imitate it or change it. Its meaning could be shared among people.

    Maybe the word was "food" or "love" or "God." It doesn't matter what the word was, what language it began, or when or how. It just was. And the word constituted culture, because the word carried meaning.

    If there were only one concept to be considered in the discussion of culture, it is this: meaning. How do we know whether the group of letters a-p-p-l-e represents that sweet-tart yellow or red fruit, or a brand name of computer? How do we know whether the group of letters l-e-a-d represents that blue-gray metallic chemical element, or the verb that signifies "to show the way?" How do we know what a person's intentions are when they wave their hand at us from across the street? It is because we have learned to share the meanings of words.
    Of course meanings are not limited to written words but began with thought words and spoken words, signed words, gestured words, pictured words. All these kinds of words carry meaning. And it is in the meanings of things that culture resides, regardless of whether it is traditional or modern culture. So we can commence with the idea that our traditional ancestors, like their modern descendants, learned and shared meanings.

    Traditional and modern culture are alike in another way. Both developed to accommodate their surroundings. Both traditional and modern culture work for people because they are suited to local environmental conditions. A farming culture would not work as well in Antarctica. Inuit (Eskimo) culture would not survive as well in the Sahara. Bedouin culture would not function as well in Manhattan. Culture of any kind works best (and longest) if it is well adapted to local conditions.

    It should perhaps be noted that there is apparently nothing genetic about the presence or absence of traditional culture traditional culture is not the sole province of any one ethnic group. For example, in ancient Europe the Celts and Teutons lived traditional culture. In ancient North America the Anishinabe and Lakota lived traditional culture. In ancient Africa the Bantu and Yoruba lived traditional culture. At some point back in history all human beings -- regardless of what continent they occupied and which ethnic group they constituted -- all lived in a traditional tribal culture.

    Modern culture developed in some areas of the planet as human societies grew larger. Mass organization in some form -- first the development of large work forces and armies, and later the development of mechanized means of production -- was an important force in changing traditional culture into modern culture. The shift from rural life to urban life is at the core of the development of modern culture.

    While traditional and modern culture may be similar in some ways, in some very significant ways they are clearly different from each other. Traditional culture, such as our human ancestors enjoyed, is held together by relationships among people -- immediate family, extended family, clan and tribe. Everyone lives nearby. Everyone knows how he or she fits into the mix because relationships, and the behaviors that go along with them, are clearly defined. "Brother" is someone toward whom I must act like a brother. "Uncle" is someone from whom I expect a certain kind of behavior. If I violate what is expected, everyone will know. Perhaps there will be severe consequences.

    But this does not rob the humans who live traditional culture of their individuality. Some brothers act differently from other brothers. Some uncles take on different roles depending, for example, on whether they are mother's brother or father's brother, or whether they are particularly gregarious or more somber, and so on. But in general, well-defined family and clan relationships, and the kinship terms that signal them, make daily operations in traditional society take a workable course. If you have the proper relationship with someone, you can get just about anything accomplished. If, on the other hand, you don't have the proper relationship, you find it difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish anything. You learn that kinship terms are key phrases in getting along. In traditional culture, relationships and people seem to be what matters.

    In the modern culture of mainstream America, most people live in nuclear families: Mom and Dad and 2.5 kids. Many have only occasional contact with family members outside the immediate household. Young people quickly learn that their importance depends on how many and what kind of things they can control. Eventually they learn that power -- personal, economic, social, political, religious, whatever -- gets things done. Modern culture has a tendency to spread out, to build empires, to capitalize on as many resources as possible. Modern culture seems to be held together by power and things, not by people and relationships.

    In modern culture people learn that business life is separate from personal life, for example that church and state can be kept apart. We learn to compartmentalize our lives. During the week we can be shrewd business-makers in a competitive marketplace where there are happy winners and tragic losers. On the weekend we can go to church or temple and ask forgiveness for our transgressions, and then go back on Monday and start all over again. We learn (in some form) two key phrases: "It's nothing personal, but. " and "It's just business."

    But in traditional culture things are not that simple -- business life and personal life are often the same thing. Partners in trade and other economic activities are generally the same people as one's kin relations. Similarly, the principles and values that guide spiritual and ceremonial life are the same principles and values that guide political life. Thus in traditional culture, the compartmentalizing or separating of business and personal life, of religious and political life, would not work. You cannot separate how you treat your trade partners from how you treat your cousins if they are the same people. You cannot separate your spiritual values from your political values if they are the same values.

    Another way in which the two differ is that traditional culture tends to stay relatively the same for long periods of time. It is basically a conservative system. Does this mean that new ideas are not incorporated from time to time, that traditional culture is static? Certainly not. The traditional culture of our ancestors changed in response to the same kinds of forces that produce biological change.

    The invention of new things in traditional culture (for example, new technologies such as ceramics or the bow and arrow) work in the same way as genetic mutations: something unusual happens, and things after that are different. Preferences for especially useful things and ideas in traditional culture work in the same way as natural selection: something does a better job or is more desirable in some way, so it becomes more common thereafter. Ways of thinking and doing things in traditional cultures flow from one culture to another just like genes flow from one biological population to another: folks come into contact, something gets exchanged. Isolation of a small, unusual sample of people in a traditional culture causes whatever that thing is that makes them unusual to become more common in future generations (for example, if a small group of people sets off to start a new village, and they all just happen to like to wear their hair a certain way, then their offspring would tend to wear their hair that way too) -- in just the same way that genetic drift operates. Ancient traditional culture did change. But it was such a conservative system that it tended to resist change whenever it could.

    In contrast, modern culture thrives on change. It creates new goods and services, and teaches us to want them. It adds new technologies, things and ideas at an increasingly rapid rate, such that the amount of cultural change experienced in America between 1950 and 2000 is far greater than the amount of change experienced in the entire eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in America. Change in modern culture is propelled by all the same forces that cause change in traditional culture, only in modern culture the changes happen more quickly. Modern culture is a more mutable system that tends to change often.

    Another way in which traditional culture and modern culture differ is in their relationship to environment. Traditional cultures lived in close contact with their local environment. This taught that nature must be respected, cooperated with, in certain ritualized ways. One did not make huge changes in the environment, beyond clearing fields for agriculture and villages. Society saw itself as part of nature its spiritual beliefs and values held humans as the kinsmen of plants and animals.

    In contrast, modern culture creates its own environment, exports that cultural environment to colonies in far away places. It builds cities and massive structures. It teaches that nature is meant to be manipulated, to be the source of jobs and wealth for its human masters. It sees itself as being above nature. Its religions commonly cast humans as the pinnacle of nature: at best its paternalistic supervisors, at worst its righteous conquerors.

    These differences in the way traditional and modern culture perceive and interact with the environment have various consequences for the humans in those cultures. Not the least of these is the difference in sustainability. A culture that lives in relative harmony with its environment has a greater likelihood of sustaining itself than does a culture that destroys its environment. The culture of our human ancestors existed for thousands of years without doing any substantive damage to the ecosystem. In a very few centuries modern culture has eliminated or endangered numerous plant and animal species, degraded many waterways and negatively impacted the health of many of its citizens: "better" living through chemistry!

    A closely related comparison between traditional and modern culture concerns ways of thinking. Modern culture is built upon knowledge. The more bits of knowledge one controls -- a larger database, a larger computer memory -- the more power one has. Modern culture produces new bits of knowledge so rapidly that sometimes our computers tell us "Memory is Full!" People in modern culture are more likely to feel that things are changing, that bits of knowledge are coming at them, so rapidly that they cannot absorb it all, cannot make sense of it all. Modern culture is long in knowledge.

    The traditional culture had a broad base of knowledge, as well. All plants and animals in the local environment were known by name and by their potential usefulness to humans. Weather, geology, astronomy, medicine, politics, history, language and so on were all parts of a complex integrated body of knowledge. But in traditional culture life went on beyond knowledge, to the level of wisdom -- seeing the patterns in the bits of knowledge -- and to the level of understanding -- realizing that there are more profound patterns made by the patterns of wisdom.

    Take medicine as an example. Traditional man had a pain in his stomach he found a plant in his local environment that had a certain medicinal property. These were bits of knowledge. If he prepared the plant's leaves a certain way, and drank the tea that resulted, it would make the pain in his stomach go away. This is a scientific method, a process that involves seeing the pattern in the bits of knowledge: x (the plant) goes with y (the preparation) to produce z (the treatment). This realizing of patterns is what I call wisdom. Both modern and traditional culture go this far, but here they often tend to diverge.

    Eventually this traditional ancestor realized that there were all kinds of plant treatments for all kinds of ills -- that for every ailment there was a treatment -- and that there was a balancing act that operated on a universal scale of which he was but a small part. There was a harmony that could become disturbed if he destroyed the forest in which the plants grew, or if he overestimated himself by taking for granted the wisdom he had gained about the plants -- and this harmony had to be maintained on all levels (physical, social, environmental, spiritual, etc.). This realization that the patterns of wisdom were themselves connected in higher order patterns was the beginning of what I call understanding. The traditional culture of our ancestors was long in understanding, whereas modern culture frequently seems to stop the thought process at the level of wisdom.

    In modern culture, the elders tend to think of traditional culture as "primitive," "backward," somehow "childlike." In traditional culture, on the other hand, the elders tend to think of modern culture as "hollow," "ignorant," somehow "childlike." But modern culture tends to take over traditional culture because modern culture is powerful: it is mechanized, it moves mountains, it digs canals and drains swamps, it overwhelms, and it is seductive -- it glitters, it tastes sweet, it goes fast. And it advertises.

    So why do so many people these days seem to be refugees from modern culture? Why are so many people who were raised in the ways of modern culture now so interested in traditional American Indian or Celtic culture? Why is there a constant stream of people searching for a "new age," for "medicine men" and powwows and traditional ceremonies and Highland games?
    I think it is because there is a hole in modern culture, where the truly important spiritual and humane parts of life used to be. Put another way, I think that inside modern man there is a traditional man somewhere -- who wants the security of feeling connected to an extended family and a clan of other humans -- who longs for the pleasure of hearing stories told around the hearth -- who resonates to the steady drum rhythm or the haunting bagpipe wail -- who plods through his anxious dreams grasping at bits of knowledge, thirsting, perhaps unknowingly, for the cool, delicious harmony of understanding. I believe the shift from traditional to modern culture was one of man's greatest falls from grace.


    Ancient Egypt (c. 1292 – 1069 B.C.)

    In this era, the ideal woman is described as:

    In Ancient Egypt, women were encouraged in their independence and beauty. Ancient Egyptian society promoted a sex-positive environment where premarital sex was entirely acceptable and women could divorce their husbands without shame.


    Chávez Leads Fight for Farmworkers’ Rights

    UFW co-founders Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, 1968.

    Arthur Schatz/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

    César Chávez and Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers (UFW) in California to fight for improved social and economic conditions. Chavez, who was born into a Mexican-American migrant farmworker family, had experienced the grueling conditions of the farmworker first-hand. 

    In January 1968, Chávez lent his voice to a strike for grape workers, organized by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), a predominantly Filipino labor organization. With the help of Chávez’s advocacy and Huerta’s tough negotiating skills, as well as the persistent hard work ofਏilipino-American organizer, Larry Itliong, the union won several victories for workers when growers signed contracts with the union.

    “We are men and women who have suffered and endured much and not only because of our abject poverty but because we have been kept poor,” Chávez wrote in his 1969 “Letter from Delano.” “The color of our skins, the languages of our cultural and native origins, the lack of formal education, the exclusion from the democratic process, the numbers of our slain in recent wars𠅊ll these burdens generation after generation have sought to demoralize us, we are not agricultural implements or rented slaves, we are men.”


    The Changing American Family


    A
    s we head into the 21st century, changes within and among families in the U.S. are striking at the heart of our notions about life and the way it functions. Such things as longer life spans, the advent of safe and effective birth control, women’s increasing participation in the paid labor force, and a dramatic increase in divorce rates are reshaping family life in the late 20th century. The new realities of family life are in sharp contrast with idealized notions of the family that have developed over centuries. Conflicts in the way we perceive the family are creating profound contradictions in public policy. If the family is to be a healthy component in society, as it must be for society to survive, we need to understand anew what family is and what it is becoming.

    THE CHANGING FAMILY

    The range of variation in "families" throughout history and across cultures is enormous. Nevertheless, there are certain major themes within all this variation: Families are a set of primary relationships – biological, emotional, social, economic, and legal. Families are also a collection of individuals with differing needs and concerns living in complicated relationships with each other and with society. Families generally are expected to provide their members mutual economic, physical, and emotional support, meeting the human needs for food, shelter, and intimacy. Families also carry on tradition and culture and, in some instances, pass on property to the next generation.

    If our discussions of families began from this broad understanding, we would have a useful starting point. Unfortunately, many discussions about families, and much of our policy and literature, assume a much more narrow definition of a "normal" family: a caretaking mother, breadwinning father, and one or more minor children. Many of today’s senior citizens formed such families and many middle-aged adults grew up in them, but the composition and characteristics of families have changed considerably since World War II, especially in the last two decades. Although close to 75% of U.S. citizens still live in family-based households (see figure below):

    • Only 9% of U.S. households fit that old definition of the "normal" family.
    • A majority of families have no children under age 18.
    • More than 25% of all families with children are single parent families almost all of these have a female head of the household.
    • 72% of women in the child-bearing years are employed. By 1995, labor force statisticians predict the proportion will increase to 81%.
    • Out of wedlock births (often by older women) are now about 20% of all births and virtually all such children are kept by the mother rather than put up for adoption.
    • For the first time, the U.S. is generationally top-heavy: there are more grandparents than grandchildren.

    THE CHANGING WORKFORCE

    A major factor affecting all these statistics has been the steady shift of women into the paid labor force. This profound shift has happened within a single human lifespan, too fast for many of our institutions and attitudes to keep pace. A large number of today’s older senior citizen women have been dependent housewives for most of their adult lives. They were raised expecting to find a husband who could support them, and for a majority of this generation the breadwinning husband/caretaking wife model worked.

    Their daughters were often employed before their marriage and until they had children. After the children were in school, many reentered the workforce, demonstrating that their involvement in the workforce was not a temporary aberration. In 1965, 41.1% of women aged 35-44 were in the paid labor force. Twenty-one years later this same cohort of women (now 55-64 years old) were represented in almost the same proportion, 42.3%. (An interesting question is to what extent these were the same women being employed or whether individual women moved in and out of the labor force depending on family circumstances.)

    The younger sisters of this age cohort followed their elders’ example and added momentum to the trend. In 1965, 38.5% of women aged 25-34 were in the paid labor force. By 1986 this same group – then aged 45-55 – had a 66.3% rate. These women were obviously more dedicated to paid employment than is commonly believed, but society still maintained the fiction that women were caretakers and men were breadwinners.

    What’s interesting – but not often perceived or discussed – is that as women’s employment has increased, men’s employment has decreased. During the last 25 years women’s employment has increased by 30% or more in every age category up to age 55 while men’s employment has declined in every age group over age 25. This trend represents a profound shift in lifestyles and contradicts long-held cultural assumptions.

    FORCES BEHIND THE CHANGE

    There are strong economic forces at work behind this shift. For a great majority of younger families, it is no longer practical to think in terms of a "family wage" – enough income from one wage earner to support a family, the children’s education and the couple’s retirement. Virtually every younger family (and many older ones) now assumes that the wife and mother can – and must – be an economic contributor to the family.

    Family income has dropped over the last decade and a half, unless there is a second earner. In February, 1988, the Congressional Budget Office released a report: "Trends in Family Income: 1970-1986." Staff of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families analyzed these findings and concluded that although "family income for the typical family rose during this period … income gains were not evenly distributed. Low income families with children, young families at all income levels and poor single mother families in 1986 were much worse off than their counterparts in 1970." The main reason family incomes rose was "the increased number of workers per family, not increased earnings by the typical worker. Many families with children have needed to have both parents work to avoid losing ground."

    By contrast, among "elderly unrelated individuals and elderly families without children, median family income rose 50%." Noting that "earnings failed to keep pace with inflation for many workers, especially those in the younger age groups," the analysts found that "adding a second earner to the workforce or increasing the second earner’s work hours was often necessary to keep family income from falling…. These altered work arrangements have resulted in parents (especially mothers) having less time with children, less leisure time, and possibly, fewer children." (italics added).

    Even if the family wage concept were an actuality, the incidence of divorce (and the record of support and maintenance awards and payments after divorce) indicate to women of all ages that there are no public or private guarantees of economic support in exchange for carrying out the caretaker role. Paid employment outside the home is now the accepted form of self-insurance for women as well as men. Fringe benefits such as health insurance and social security are an almost mandatory element of self-sufficiency when increasing life spans are taken into account.

    Yet while women have moved into the paid workforce in such numbers that employment is no longer gender-based, the care and maintenance of household and children generally has remained the province of women. The physical and emotional work of maintaining families, especially those with young children (who require years of almost constant supervision and nurture), is very demanding, but it is only just beginning to be appreciated by policy makers and society at large.

    The changing relationship to work is also changing the pattern of rights and expectations within marriage. Despite strong cultural traditions and the need of most humans for intimate relationships, it is increasingly clear that individuals who are required to be economically self-sufficient have less tolerance for unequal familial relationships than those who are economically dependent. As women’s attachment to the paid labor force grows stronger, they are asserting their rights to power and control in family decision-making more vigorously. When those rights are not respected, many women either do not enter into, or depart from, what they consider intolerable family relationships. Men do the same.

    The questions raised by these shifts are profound and disturbing. Can we still rely on families, as we have in the past, to produce healthy and effective workers and citizens when it often takes two earners to support a young family? Where will the time and effort for family life come from? Even more so for the 27% of U.S. families with children and only one adult, most often a mother: where does the time, energy and money come from to raise those children? According to 1987 Census reports, 20% of U.S. children lived in poverty in 1986 (up from 1978), with children under age six most at risk. A majority – 51.4% – of families below the poverty line were female-headed, illustrating the difficulties posed when women alone try to maintain families, assuming both the caretaking and breadwinning roles.

    In response to these shifts, will increasing numbers of young women reject marriage or motherhood, the creation of new families, because of their desire and ability to gain better security and status through paid employment? Will those who have little hope or expectation of paid employment be the major procreators? Or will standards and norms about work and family change? Will men share the caretaking and household maintenance functions as women share the breadwinning function? Will women give up control inside the household? Who will care for and nurture the young as both men and women work for pay? Will society, to preserve and regenerate itself, devise ways to help care for the vulnerable young as they have for the vulnerable old?

    THE CHALLENGE AHEAD

    As the 21st century approaches, the time and energy required for child bearing and rearing, the importance of intimate relationships, and the need for family policies that take into account the diversity and changing nature of American families will need to be increasingly understood and appreciated if our society is to survive. Caretaking for the next generation can no longer be assumed to be a "free good" with the costs borne almost solely by individual parents or families.

    Child bearing is now an option. That option must be made more attractive and less expensive to the individual and to families, or additional numbers of women and families will limit their child bearing. We must also face the reality that human young are vulnerable for years, and that effective child rearing is mandatory for a humane society. Lip service does not buy groceries or assure a child’s development into a competent and satisfied adult. A new social compact between men and women, between rich and poor, between generations, and between society and the family will need to be devised. The elements of that compact are still unclear what is clear is that women are in the paid labor force to stay, at least for a major portion of their adult lives.

    Some steps have already been taken or are being discussed for example, maternity and paternity leave, child care subsidies or tax credits, extra tax deductions for families with children, and the quality of education have been put on the public agenda. There are signs of a new generation of "working fathers" – men deeply involved with their children, caring for them as mothers have always done – and even "househusbands." Such men are still rare enough, however, to be remarkable and unfortunately they are often ostracized.

    What is also remarkable is the resistance among many women to giving up control of the caretaking role in families. Even though women’s work in the home has been demeaned, the home was still the "province of women" where they had a measure of power, some social value, and often a sense of satisfaction. An important question for the future is whether women will be willing to give up control in the home in order to gain greater power in the workplace and the public arena.

    In the next century the child-bearing and child-rearing years may well be considered as valued a time of life as the retirement years. It is possible that workers who are the parents of young children may be encouraged to take a kind of sabbatical, dividing their time between family care, part-time employment, and further education or training. Parents of young children may be allowed and encouraged to collect some of their social security during the regenerative years.

    The work week may be shortened and employment patterns over a lifetime may continue to change for both males and females to accommodate changes in family circumstances. Health care support for the young and their parents may become as accepted as Medicare and public education. As people live longer, patterns of living, working, and thinking about one’s lifetime will continue to change. More men may find diversity in work and family life as satisfying and challenging as have some of the current generation of mothers and grandmothers. Equality between men and women, once tasted and experimented with, may be appreciated and even savored.

    We may understand and acknowledge the fact that raising a child and participating in family life breeds wisdom and satisfaction. Caretaking also teaches skills like management, prioritizing, and negotiation that are transferable and might be rewarded in the future, or at least valued. As family life and children – the future incarnate – become more fully appreciated, new concepts of success may emerge that equate the successful raising of children with career achievement.

    People of all shades of the political and racial spectrum live in families. Let us hope that we can use this common ground on behalf of families and children as a basis for new social innovations in the 21st century comparable to the technological advances of the 20th century.

    Arvonne Fraser is a Senior Fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.


    Are Zombies in the Bible?

    The modern-day, carnivorous zombie isn’t in the Bible. But there are many references to bodies being reanimated or resurrected which may have inspired zombie myths throughout history.

    The book of Ezekiel describes a vision where Ezekiel is dropped in a boneyard and prophesies to the bones. The bones start to shake and become covered with muscle and flesh until they’re reanimated yet “there was no breath in them.”

    And the book of Isaiah states, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”

    Moreover, passages abound in the both the Old and New Testaments about the resurrection of saints and sinners in the end times. This may be one reason so many zombie stories are associated with an apocalypse.


    Nonmaterial Culture

    Non-material culture includes the behaviors, ideas, norms, values, and beliefs that contribute to a society’s overall culture.

    Learning Objectives

    Analyze the different ways norms, values and beliefs interact to form non-material culture

    Key Takeaways

    Key Points

    • In contrast to material culture, non-material culture does not include physical objects or artifacts.
    • It includes things that have no existence in the physical world but exist entirely in the symbolic realm.
    • Examples are concepts such as good and evil, mythical inventions such as gods and underworlds, and social constructs such as promises and football games.
    • The concept of symbolic culture draws from semiotics and emphasizes the way in which distinctively human culture is mediated through signs and concepts.
    • The symbolic aspect of distinctively human culture has been emphasized in anthropology by Emile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, and many others.
    • Semiotics emphasises the way in which distinctively human culture is mediated through signs and concepts.

    Key Terms

    • social construct: Social constructs are generally understood to be the by-products of countless human choices rather than laws resulting from divine will or nature.

    Culture as a general concept consists of both material and non-material culture. Material culture is a term developed in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. In contrast, non-material culture does not include physical objects or artifacts. Examples include any ideas, beliefs, values, or norms that shape a society.

    When sociologists talk about norms, they are talking about what’s considered normal, appropriate, or ordinary for a particular group of people. Social norms are group-held beliefs about how members should behave in a given context. Sociologists describe norms as laws that govern society’s behaviors. Values are related to the norms of a culture, but they are more global and abstract than norms. Norms are rules for behavior in specific situations, while values identify what should be judged as good or evil. Flying the national flag on a holiday is a norm, but it exhibits patriotism, which is a value. Wearing dark clothing and appearing solemn are normative behaviors at a funeral. In certain cultures they reflect the values of respect and support of friends and family. Different cultures honor different values. Finally, beliefs are the way people think the universe operates. Beliefs can be religious or secular, and they can refer to any aspect of life. For instance, many people in the U.S. believe that hard work is the key to success.

    Members take part in a culture even if each member’s personal values do not entirely agree with some of the normative values sanctioned in the culture. This reflects an individual’s ability to synthesize and extract aspects valuable to them from the multiple subcultures they belong to.

    Norms, values, and beliefs are all deeply interconnected. Together, they provide a way to understand culture.


    6 ways social media is changing the world

    Around the world, billions of us use social media every day, and that number just keeps growing. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2018, 2.44 billion people will be using social networks, up from 970,000 in 2010.

    We use it for every part of our lives – in our personal relationships, for entertainment, at work and in our studies. To put it into some context, every minute we collectively send more than 30 million messages on Facebook and almost 350,000 tweets.

    Our growing love of social media is not just changing the way we communicate – it’s changing the way we do business, the way we are governed, and the way we live in society. And it’s doing so at breakneck speed. Here are six observations and predictions for the way social media is changing the world from experts from the Global Agenda Council.

    1. Across industries, social media is going from a “nice to have” to an essential component of any business strategy

    It started in the newsroom, as Claire Wardle of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism explains: “In just seven years, newsrooms have been completely disrupted by social media. Social media skills are no longer considered niche, and solely the responsibility of a small team in the newsroom. Instead social media affects the way the whole organization runs.”

    It’s a trend that is already spreading to businesses beyond the newsroom, whether it be because of digital marketing or new customer service communication channels. Other industries should look to the lessons learned – or not – by the newsroom and ensure that they’re one step ahead of this social media-enabled disruption.

    2. Social media platforms may be the banks of the future

    Imagine being able to pay your rent or make an investment through your favourite social network. That might not be too far off, says Richard Eldridge of Lenddo. “Social media is transforming banking relationships in very significant ways, from improving customer service to allowing users to send money to others via online platforms. New financial technology companies are using social media to help people simply open a bank account. Social media can even impact your ability to get a loan.”

    But it won’t be without its problems: “The biggest challenge is maintaining security standards and ensuring customers knowingly provide personal information. Banks will also have to implement sophisticated social media policies.”

    3. Social media is shaking up healthcare and public health

    The health industry is already using social media to change how it works, whether through public health campaigns or virtual doctor’s visits on Skype. It’s also helped groups of people, such as patients suffering from the same condition, stay in touch, say Shannon Dosemagen of Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science and Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media and its Social Media Health Network: “Social media has been responsible for relevant changes in both personal and community health, especially by making it easier for large numbers of people to rapidly share information.”

    That’s not always a good thing: while social media does help official agencies and experts share important information fast – such as during a disease outbreak – it has a downside. “Social media is a two-way street, and allows non-experts to share information just as rapidly as health agencies, if not more so.” It’s this future that the health industry will need to plan for: “Health agencies need to have plans in place ahead of time to be able to respond to and counter misinformation or support accurate information shared via social media.”

    Read Shannon and Lee’s full blog.

    4. Social media is changing how we govern and are governed

    Civic participation and engagement has been transformed with social media: “Social media allows citizens to be the source of ideas, plans and initiatives in an easier way than ever before” says Eileen Guo of Impassion Media. In the future, we can expect more and more leaders to embrace this type of transparent governance, as it becomes easier for them to interact with their constituents: “Whereas politicians and government officials once had to travel to interact with citizens, now online town halls strengthen the connections between them, while providing a platform for direct input on government initiatives.”

    Before the dawn of social media, governments, along with the traditional media, were the gatekeepers of information. This relationship has been turned on its head, says Taylor Owen of the University of British Columbia: “This largely symbiotic relationship has been radically disrupted by the concurrent rise of digital technology and the social media ecosystem that it enabled. Nowhere is this challenge more acute than in the world of international affairs and conflict, where the rise of digitally native international actors has challenged the state’s dominance.”

    Wikileaks and the rise of the social-media savvy terrorist organization ISIS are just two examples of this shift in power, which will call for a complete rethink of the concept of governance.

    5. Social media is helping us better respond to disasters

    From Facebook’s Safety Check – which allows users in disaster zones to mark themselves as safe – to the rise of the CrisisMappers Network, we’ve seen many examples of how social media and digital communications more broadly are helping respond to disasters.

    That looks set to continue, says Heather Leson of the Qatar Computing Research Institute. In fact, more and more of us will be using social media to contribute to disaster relief from wherever we are: “Digital responders can immediately log on when news breaks about a natural disaster or human-created catastrophe. Individuals and teams are activated based on skill sets of volunteer and technical communities. These digital responders use their time and technical skills, as well as their personal networks in an attempt to help mitigate information overload for formal humanitarian aid in the field.” These digital humanitarians will help close the gap in worldwide disaster response.

    6. Social media is helping us tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, from human rights violations to climate change

    The Arab Spring is perhaps one of the best-known examples of how social media can change the world. But it’s about more than just bringing together activists: it’s also about holding human rights violators to account. “Content shared on social media has increasing potential to be used as evidence of wartime atrocities and human rights violations, explain Esra’a Al Shafei of Mideast Youth and Melissa Tyas of Crowdvoice. “Following verification and forensic reconstruction by prosecutors and human rights advocates, these videos are potential evidence that may one day be brought before an international court.”

    Read Esra’a and Melissa’s full blog.

    This capacity for social media to bring together disparate but like-minded people is also helping fight another enormous challenge: climate change. “Social media has become an important tool for providing a space and means for the public to participate in influencing or disallowing environmental decisions historically made by governments and corporations that affect us all. It has created a way for people to connect local environmental challenges and solutions to larger-scale narratives that will affect us as a global community,” says Shannon Dosemagen.

    Have you stopped to think how social media is impacting you, your business or your community?

    This blog series was edited by Shannon M. Dosemagen, Farida Vis and Claire Wardle, from the Global Agenda Council on Social Media. Read more about the ways social media is changing the world in The Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online white paper with main contributors Shannon M. Dosemagen, Farida Vis, Claire Wardle and Susan Etlinger and other members from the Global Agenda Council on Social Media.


    Beauty Ideals Are Flawed, And Here's Your Proof

    It's not a secret that society's ideal body type for women has changed often and drastically over time. BuzzFeed's "Ideal Body Types Throughout History" video timeline even takes us from 1096 BC right up to the modern day. While it's fascinating and fun to watch, there are a lot more points of interest than the chronicling of the changes themselves. For one, there are the reasons as to why these changes in beauty standards took place. Often, a shift seems to be a direct reaction to the standard that came before it.

    The transition from the androgynous flapper look in the roaring '20s to the "golden" age of Hollywood in the '30s, for instance, saw a '50s that championed Marilyn Monroe curves after decades of a svelte and boyish silhouette being coveted. From the "heroin chic" look of the '90s to the Victoria's Secret ideal of the early 2000s, shifts in desired body shapes are never-ending.

    As you watch BuzzFeed's timelapse video or read any of the many articles out there on the evolution of beauty standards, the contrasts between each era and decade (although still predominantly consisting of attractive, moderately thin, white, cis women) are more common than the similarities. There's almost an ebb and flow feel to the changing tide of trends, from curve-less to curvy and back again.

    Growing up in the late '90s / early '00s, the fashion trend I noticed of waifish figures only brushed the surface of what preteens and young teenagers expected of each other. Realistically, all anyone really cared about was breasts. Whether debating Rachel's constant nip-on in Friends or drooling over figures like Pamela Anderson or Anna Nicole Smith, full ta-tas were definitely part of the ideal beauty standard (despite how the history books show the '90s beauty standard as focusing on the fashion-forward Kate Moss look).

    Honestly, though, I never even thought about asses or hips, or the width (or non-width) of either, until the last few years. Of course, there was always the occasional fashion program on TV that discussed pear shapes alongside whatever-stupid-food-vaguely-resembles-your-body shapes, but there was no mainstream social or media focus on butts and what to do with them. This is arguably because, until really recently (more recently than most would like to admit), the ideal beauty standard for women has only ever focused on white women.

    Having been a teenager and 20-something in the past five years, I often wish that I could've done the whole growing up thing during the Pam Anderson phase of beauty standards, as opposed to the Kim K one in which we currently reside. A focus on having big breasts would be perfect for me, especially as my New Year's resolution was to flaunt my chest more. It would be even more perfect considering that regardless of how fat my frame is, my ass will always look flat in light of my top-heaviness.

    It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that although I have curves, they don't fall in line with the current female archetype of perfection. It also took me a long time to realize that because of their ever-changing nature, beauty standards prove themselves pretty arbitrary. If the "perfect" figure can so easily change, how was it ever "perfect" in the first place? Surely perfection should be an absolute — something that is unchangeable because it has reached the best level it could ever reach.

    The media and society often tell us what we should perceive as perfection, which we then perpetuate in the notions and ideals we carry. However, because the image of the ideal is overused and overthought, we seemingly become bored. This all means that the ideal has to change in order to keep everyone interested (and, of course, to keep businesses in business). Perhaps this is why the fashion and beauty industries so often feel born out of our insecurities — insecurities then used to market products and fashions. I never cared or considered my ass until 2012 when it became "a thing," but now it's one of my biggest self-image issues. As Dr. Gail Dines famously said, "If tomorrow women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business."

    Last year, I discovered that my insecurities were completely made up because of the amount of times they could change in one week. I thought for ages and ages that the issue with my face was that my lips were too small, until a friend told me that she was jealous of my pouty mouth. My insecurities suddenly switched, and I became obsessed with the idea that my eyes were too close together (until I asked another friend and they quickly dispelled my qualms).

    It's almost as though we're taught that we have to have insecurities, so we make up personal flaws to become depressed over. Beauty standards that are made up and changed every few years only help keep that self-hatred fresh. Through body positivity and a much more diverse attitude towards body representations in the media, however, the ideal body type may become a concept of the past. What would feel more radical still is if the next time we are presented with a repeated image of supposed perfection, we simply will reject it.


    Watch the video: The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy (May 2022).


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