Cultured is a term I’m becoming increasingly annoyed with. It seems to have become (or perhaps it always was) another weapon in the ever growing arsenal we use against each other. Somewhere along the way an appreciation for things that are aesthetically pleasing has become a yardstick by which me measure another person’s value. Lack of appreciation for things that have the cultured stamp of approval seems to be grounds for dismissing the opinions, desires, needs and rights of others.
Any number of things can earn one the brand uncultured:
- Listening to the wrong type of music
- Enjoying the wrong types of food
- Wearing the wrong clothes
- Watching the wrong movies/TV shows (or, in some circles, watching TV at all)
- Reading the wrong books (or again, not reading at all)
- Liking the wrong kinds of art
- Living in the wrong place
- Speaking with the wrong accent/dialect
I could go on but you get the idea. There are entire websites, reality shows and so much more that exist solely to make fun of those deemed “uncultured”. And the most glaringly obvious way, when observing these various forms of media, to earn the brand uncultured is to be poor. Or socially powerless. Or both.
But this word, uncultured, makes little sense. We moved a lot when I was young. I have a HUGE family (literally hundreds of cousins, 2nd cousins, etc.) so we are an extremely diverse group. I married into a family that’s also pretty diverse. I’ve worked in the public sector. I’ve moved among various social circles within the same community. And with all of my experiences with people I’ve never met a person with no culture. Rednecks, hippies, geeks and jocks, they all have their own culture. It may not always be “refined” culture, but it’s still culture. One with values, traditions and personal style.
It took me a long time to appreciate this. When I was still figuring out how to accept myself and my personal history I was judgmental of cultures outside the mainstream. I was a harsh critic of my own culture because I so desperately wanted to be “normal”. But as I’ve come to value myself I’ve also come to value the culture I grew up in. It is not perfect, far from it. But parts of it are. Jut like most of us. Just like me.