I’d like to tell you about a book that made a huge impression on me, and triggered a lot of “ah ha” moments. It really helped me to understand myself, and why I sometimes felt a bit out of step with the prevailing culture. Its called The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World, by sociologists Paul J Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson.The book is the result of a study of American culture which identified three large subcultures listed below.
Moderns, who are just under half the American population, value making or having a lot of money, climbing the ladder of success, looking good and being stylish, shopping, having lots of choices, being on top of the latest trends, styles and innovations, and supporting economic and technological progress. They also tend to think that its a waste of time to be concerned with your inner or spiritual life, and favour mechanistic explanations of how people and organisations work.
Traditionals who are about a quarter of the population, tend to be conservatives who value patriarchy, traditional roles for men and women, conservative religious traditions, maintaining customs and traditions, and the regulation of sex through strict moral codes.
Cultural Creatives were about a quarter of the American population at the time of the study. They are characterised by a love of nature and concern about its destruction, and strongly aware of the problems of the whole planet. They give a lot of importance to developing and maintaining relationships, helping other people, psychological and spiritual development, and equality. They tend to be open to people and places that are exotic and foreign. They are less concerned with “making it” and prefer not to overspend. Cultural Creatives are further subdivided into two groups, those who place a high value on personal growth and spirituality, and those who are less focussed on personal growth and whose main focus is on the environment, relationships and social issues.
When I read these descriptions, a whole lot of things fell into place. I recognised myself as a cultural creative who values personal growth and spirituality as high priorities. It was immediately obvious that I was part of a subgroup that probably constituted about 10% population (assuming a similar cultural profile in Australia). It explained why I felt uneasy with the dominant cultural values which define success in terms material acquisition.
Although I am wary of labelling people, and putting them boxes, these three simple categories were an enormous help to me, because they enabled me to see that it was OK to be different, and that there were a whole lot of other people who thought like me. It helped me understand why I seemed to be talking at cross purposes with people who had different value systems. I am always on the look out for fellow cultural creatives, and blogging seems like a good way to connect. I find it reassuring to read posts by people on a similar wavelength to myself, and hope that what I write might resonate with others who think outside the mainstream.