In probably one of the greatest poems ever written ‘If’, Rudyard Kipling writes about the value of being able to talk with Kings without losing the common touch. I take this to mean people of all social standings, economic levels, cultures, genders, sexual preferences, classes, intellect, education, preference of beverage, girth, shampoo choice etc. And recently I’ve been made aware of the value in this.
Whilst living overseas I was able to meet people of all types – from people who had a white grand piano in their two story apartment to people who lived meal to meal. My latest move to Melbourne has been an extension of this exploration and I’ve shared valuable time with a range of people. In doing this I try to adapt and forge myself to fit their mould somewhat, which despite sounding soulless is a necessity to a degree. In different social networks people operate under different norms, codes and rules. Doing one thing in one sub-culture can be interpreted completely different in another. For example gently nudging someone towards a pile of horse manure on the footpath could be seen as a cheeky joyful blag in one culture but a bit on the nose in another.
Yet by quoting another awesome chap from history, I’d like to point out to myself if no one else that it is important not to forget who you actually are. Ghandi said something along the lines of ‘I will open my doors and windows to the winds of all cultures but I won’t let any blow me off my feet’. Recently I have been having trouble with some of the social mores of a certain social group and I was trying harder and harder to fit myself right – struggling with the realisation that I wasn’t quite getting it. I then had a skype chat with one of my mates whose now living in France and the differences between him and my pals here was dramatic. It got me realising that it is important to understand the rules and expectations of a cultural group, but you don’t have to let them own you. It is handy to have enough social capital to engage with people from different groups, but you don’t have to emulate it to learn from it.
If social groups, cultures, sub-cultures and societies were a smorgasbord of food it would be a shame to gorge yourself only at the one plate – that’s a Justin special.