Tuesday, September 12, 2006


A few years ago, I wrote something called One Kind of American about my culture. This was inspired by two things:
  1. Some international students saying I don't seem like an American. My conclusion regarding this is that I am part of a particular American subculture. It's not that I'm not American, but that I don't necessarily fit the mainstream culture.
  2. An international student suggesting that it would be nice to put together a booklet about everyone's various cultures, including things like recipes and holiday traditions. I wrote the piece as my entry to the booklet, so I included a recipe and some holiday information. The booklet never materialized though.
I have been reminded lately of the distinctions between my culture and mainstream culture, and how much I like being within my own culture.
  • At work, we have these department lunches, where we either have food delivered from a place with no appealing food or go out to a different place with no appealing food. The other people in my department seem to think the food is very good. The problem for me is that the food fits mainstream culture, not my culture.
  • It was nice talking to Meisha and Jesse about mousetraps. They share my view that of course the only kind to talk about is the kind which will allow you to catch mice alive and take them out to the country to live. Mainstream people think otherwise.
  • In June, I went to the Clearwater festival. One of the things that struck me most was that it was nice being in my culture. The food served to the volunteers was tasty. They used sustainable energy to power the festival. The dresses for sale were beautiful. The people around made sense. I heard a mother telling a child regarding a spider, "We're the ones invading his home." Out in the mainstream world, it's not like that. The food that's served, the things for sale in stores, the conversations I overhear seem to tell me that I don't really fit in here.
  • Reading the Haverford magazine, I see articles about things like alumni in the Peace Corps and alumni lawyers fighting against the juvenile death penalty. That's the kind of school I should be associated with. The RPI alumni magazine shows such different values. RPI has flyovers by military planes at commencement. And what's more, people think it's cool. I think Haverford would share my sentiment of "Why would you want to celebrate commencement with an instrument of killing?"
  • There was an article about the largest passenger ship on the seas, as if that was an exciting thing to be on. Who would want that? That's even more unappealing than going to the mall, because for the mall, at least you only have to be there a few hours.
There's another culture I've always found myself in: the computer geek/science fiction/Monty Python/gaming culture. I've had relatives like that all my life, I work with such people, and I tend to find myself socializing with such people. I sat there last night listening to all that Monty Python flying around, and I wondered, "Why do I always end up in this type of crowd?" I tend to be drawn to people from that culture more than I'm drawn to people of my own culture, but I don't really fit in there.

I think I'd like for the people I'm surrounded by to include a significant number of both that geeky culture and my culture.

I think everyone is unique, and often just one subculture doesn't speak to all aspects of who a person is. That's why most people are a part of more than one group. So I probably would not want to be surrounded exclusively by people who fit into what I call my culture. But it would be better than being surrounded exclusively by people who don't fit my culture.

Everyone has a right to exist and every culture has its strong points, but sometimes one gets tired of feeling like a square peg in a round hole all the time. It's not good to completely cut yourself off from people who are different, but it's good to be able to be with your own kind once in a while. More than once in a while actually.

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