whateverish

“Culture is a closed system of thinking and values, of the sort I am denouncing; and the greatest barrier to your enlightenment, your education, and your decency, is your culture. And I realize that here I skirt the bounds of political correctness, because everyone is running around saying “Recapture your roots, get in touch with your Swedishness, your Irishness, your whateverishness”… and that’s all very fine, but I think it’s your humanness that may have eluded you in all this ethnocentric breastfeeding.

Well, why should culture imprison us, and somehow place a barrier between ourselves and our true humanness? Well, I think I said at the beginning of this thing, culture and ideology are not your friends. They are not your friends. This is a hard thing to come to terms with, because a certain kind of alienation lies at the end of this thought process. On the other hand, you can’t live in the cradle for ever; you can’t be clueless for ever. So somebody might as well just lay it out for you, and say: Culture is for the convenience of culture, not you. How many times have your sexual desires, career aspirations, financial dealings and aesthetic inclinations been squashed, twisted, rejected, and minimised by cultural values? And if you don’t think culture is your enemy, ask the 18-year-old kid who is given a rifle and sent to the other side of the world to murder strangers if culture is his friend.

These extreme examples should bring it home to us that it’s a kind of a con game. It is in fact, strangely enough, a kind of virtual reality. We have been led to think of virtual realities as something on the screen of a computer, or presented through a headset, but that’s an electronic virtual reality. The primary technology for the building of virtual realities is language. Once you start talking about race pride, loyalty, our destiny, our God, our mission, it’s like building virtual realities; and people begin to treat these things as though they had the substantiality of real objects, and to build their lives as though these things are real. And what is this? It’s a diminution of humanness. You’re choosing to limit yourself to a cultural reality; whether it’s the reality of being Huitoto or Orthodox Jewish, or whatever it is, it’s a smaller world than the simple hardware you were born into this universe with.”

— Terrence McKenna