It’s fair to say that every living being reading this post and thinking about it has one thing in common: our shared genetic heritage. We are all human.
What makes us human?
When we get down to the nitty gritty, our species survival needs are the same in every corner of the world: food, water, shelter, and nurturing.
Nurturing is, on a very human level, the need to grieve loss, to love and be loved. These things are human nature. This is our common genetic heritage.
What makes us, us?
Our shared needs make us part of the human species, but what makes us our individual selves?
Out of 8 billion + people on this Earth in this moment, we are all unique, and this is due to our personalities and character traits. Personalities and character traits are partly genetic, party acquired.
And what are they acquired from?
Say it with me now: culture.
Of course, culture shouldn’t be given all the credit for our individual uniqueness, but it should most certainly be given some. What we grow up around and surround ourselves with can’t help but influence our frames of interpretation, our characters, and our outlooks on life.
This is a bit of a “what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg” scenario: Do we create our culture or does our culture create us?
As with most things, it’s a little bit of both.
Our cultures create us, and we create our culture. We propagate our traditions, our customs, our norms, and we also evolve them, sprouting new branches off our cultural tree.
Unlike our personalities and human nature, however, culture is purely acquired. It is learned; it’s not genetic.
Culture, therefore, serves as the layer between the individual and humanity. It’s the acquired human element, without any genetic input, that groups of individuals are bound by.
Learned behaviors, learned frameworks of interpretation, learned means of communication – these are the things that make social life possible. A common culture makes communication and understanding easier, not only through a shared language, but through the understanding of one’s shared culture.
Family structures, morals, values, fashion, language, behaviors: these are all learned. They are all cultural elements. And they’re what connect the dots between human nature and individual personality.
Next week, we’ll talk about how certain personalities thrive better in different cultures.