Essay on Culture and Mainstream Thinkers

The issue of culture is now used in the broad sense and involves a great number of aspects. Scholars regard it differently, as consideration of the views of the mainstream thinkers is really a complicated but captivating task. Their clearly-cut phrases present condensed wisdom and require deep consideration. Luckily, TED dedicated to “Ideas Worth Spreading” allows the thinkers to speak about the key issues, culture in particular, disturbing all layers of society. The most general idea is given by a renowned journalist and best-selling writer Malcolm T. Gladwell who accentuates that there are many ways to happiness, but not the only one. In his “Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce” the thinker analyses the research conducted by psychologist Howard Moskowitz. The latter discovered that people actually did not know what they loved about food and consequently one could never find a recipe of the “platonic dish” that was a universal recipe of a perfect one. Howard Moskowitz discovered that there was no use looking for the perfect Pepsi or pickle, because there was no prefect Pepsi. What they needed were perfect Pepsis and perfect pickles. Uncovering the variety as a key to success in food industry was one of the greatest breakthroughs. The science was just asking the wrong question all the time, and so it received the wrong answer. That is how forty-five varieties of spaghetti sauce displaced a “dead tomato society” and forever changed the spaghetti sauce business. The results of Howard Moskowitz’s experiment demonstrated that people fell into three main groups: those who liked their sauce spicy, plain and extra-chunky. His research assisted in understanding what our tongues and minds wanted and changed the stereotyped view often influenced by mass media on what food and drinks had to be. By democratizing the way we think about taste and enriching the culture of taste Howard moved the emphasis from universals to variability. Hence, he regarded human diversity and culture from another angle of study. Gladwell concluded that in embracing the diversity of human beings, we would find a true way to happiness.

Gladwell’s correlation of choice and happiness is somehow in tune with the ideas of Steven Pinker who talks about the changes that occur as the sciences of human nature evolve. The scholar claims that they “are going to, increasingly in the years to come, upset various dogmas, careers and deeply-held political belief systems. That presents us with a choice” (Pinker).  Pinker ponders over human nature and human mind being a blank slate. But generally his controversial book deals with various issues ranging from socialization and culture to parenting and experience where the structure of our mind comes from. He presents the opposite views refuting the statement that mind is a blank slate, calls them reasonable and quotes: “If we’re blank slates, we’re all equal.  But if something is written on the slate, some people could have more of it than others. That would justify discrimination and inequality” (Pinker). People are not clones, they are different, born with a moral sense and cognitive abilities that enable them to benefit from historical experience. Pinker’s research marked out the hot buttons, the strongest response was received on arts and parenting issues. The thinker speaks of arts as a unifying force that is present in all cultures, in every department of human activity. Sustaining high culture in modern society is increasingly problematical. So arts are not definitely in decline, they develop new forms and new media arises.

An American artist Chris Jordan asserts that modern cultural development causes concern. A cultural joy is nowhere to be seen and the nation is not feeling enough as a culture right now. He shows some of the vast statistics that we struggle to comprehend. The statistics characterizes our globalised culture, the “enormity of our culture”.  And what we do not like about our culture is that we have a choice, and that very choice and concern on how we change already defines us as individuals.

As Pinker says, art seems to gain popularity and contribute to culture development. Children are shaped by their country’s culture at large and the culture of their peer group in particular. Moreover, to a large extent, they are shaped by chance.

An American psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the moral roots of liberals and conservatives. Discussing morality and its cross-cultural foundations he disproves of the idea supported by Steven Pinker that our mind is a blank slate and gives arguments from developmental psychology that shows that we come into this world with knowledge, already programmed to learn things. Haidt’s talk concerns not merely political stereotypes, but also describes the variety and openness to experience inherent to liberals and the opposite concepts that characterize conservatives, such as safety and dependence. A business builder Alisa Miller in “The News about the News” speaks on the lack of global news coverage in America and hence, the distorted worldview that we can no longer afford.

As well as thousands of scientists Haidt attempts at solving the mystery of human behavior and pursues the goal of helping everyone join a global community welcoming people from every culture. Better and deeper understanding of the world, on the other hand, leads to “our general lack of moral diversity”, morals’ and values’ sharing and becoming a team. Paradoxically, “once you engage the psychology of teams, it shuts down open-minded thinking” (Haidt).  The scholar considers cooperation in groups and finds it an absolute miracle, far harder to explain than one of the greatest wonders in the world. On the one hand, the Haidt says that change versus stability contributes to balance, but, on the other hand, he calls “the struggle between for and against ”¦ the mind’s worst disease” (Haidt). As well as Gladwell, Haidt talks about change and our permanent wish to change other people. But if we want to do this, we should “first understand who we are”¦and then step out, even if it’s just for a moment” (Haidt). The thinker calls for using our passionate commitment to the truth to turn the world into a better place. The author of the book “Lie Spotting” and a fraud examiner Pamela Meyer in her “How to Spot a Liar” also reflects the idea of commitment to the truth and the destructive power of deceit. The expert agrees that modern world of blogs and social networks creates a new generation of people used to living in public and simultaneously creates circumstances where we run the danger of deceit. But, according to her, over-sharing does not necessarily mean honesty. Meyer believes that everything depends on what choices we make, but such things as maniac tweeting or texting blind people to the fact that what truly matters is character integrity.

The thinkers are concerned about how do we change as a culture and as Jordan says: “how do we each individually take responsibility for the one piece of the solution that we are in charge of”. What the thinkers teach us is that we should probably be able to make decisions the results of which will be inherited by billions of our successors. A prosperous American entrepreneur Steve Jobs tells us that we should never doubt before making life-changing decisions, stay hungry, never stop learning, replacing the heaviness of being successful by the lightness of being a beginner.

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