There are some aspects of culture that shouldn’t be discarded in a rush to blame, judge and punish.  Cultural values like due process, fairness and the presumption of innocence are far to valuable to jettison just because someone is accused of doing a very bad thing.   Morally – following up one wrong with another never corrects an injustice.  As a society we have to be careful not to give in to our culturally deep wired behaviour of shunning the ‘bad one’.  Too much is lost and very little if anything is gained from it!

We must hang on to the best of our culture, and examine the parts of our social mindset that contribute to toxic behaviour.

What is the relationship between ‘culture’ and  ‘people’ who live in it?  Margaret Wente seems to equate ‘general culture’ with ‘half the population’ (male).   She states;

“To blame the general culture is to blame half the population, and that is a tremendous slur against men. The truth is that some men have been pigs, and some men always will be. These men should be outed, shamed and ostracized. Which is exactly what was done to Mr. Ghomeshi this week.”  (MARGARET WENTE, The distorted reality of ‘Big Ears Teddy’, The Globe and Mail Published Saturday, Nov. 01 2014)

She assures us that not all men are pigs just some.   And those men that are pigs should be ‘outed shamed and ostracized’.

Her claims bring up a lot of questions. How is it determined if a particular man is a ‘pig’?  Are females biologically incapable of being ‘pigs’?  Does the part of ‘general’ culture that is ‘blameworthy’ just infect half the population (men)?  Is there a better  ‘culture’ that some have and others don’t?   What is the proper response by society when it has been proven that a person’s behaviour is like a pig’s?  What does ‘outed, shamed and ostracized’ look like as a socially sanctioned ‘punishment’?

Contrary to Margaret Wente, culture does affect behaviour because culture affects our brain’s development.  David Vognar writing for the Huffington Post quotes neuroscientist  Merlin Donald  on this point:

However, symbolizing cultures own a direct path into our brains and affect the way major parts of the executive brain become wired up during development. This is the key idea behind the notion of deep enculturation… This process entails setting up the very complex hierarchies of cognitive demons (automatic programs) that ultimately establish the possibility of new forms of thought. Culture effectively wires up functional subsystems in the brain that would not otherwise exist.

How Important Is Culture in Shaping Our Behavior?   David Vognar, 08/01/2012)

Culture affects the behaviour of all people – male and female.  If you have a brain you are affected by culture.  When highly negative and morally repugnant behaviours occur in society it seems only prudent to examine any cultural influences that may be contributing to the behaviour rather than jumping immediately to ‘outing, shaming and ostracizing’ individuals.  We may as a society be able to prevent or mitigate negative behaviour by seriously examining our social environment for any toxic cultural influences that may be affecting the brains of both genders.

Cultural traits are powerful agents in transmitting behaviour:

Cultural traits have long been used in anthropology as units of transmission that ostensibly reflect behavioural characteristics of the individuals or groups exhibiting the traits. After they are transmitted, cultural traits serve as units of replication in that they can be modified as part of an individual’s cultural repertoire through processes such as recombination, loss or partial alteration within an individual’s mind. Cultural traits are analogous to genes in that organisms replicate them, but they are also replicators in their own right.

(Cultural traits as units of analysis, by Michael J. O’Brien, R. Lee Lyman, Alex Mesoudi, and Todd L. VanPool)

When someone does a very bad thing or is accused of doing a very bad thing,  it is important to hold to our cultural values of  fair treatment, due process and the presumption of innocence before rushing to ‘out’ the individual from the human race because of  gender.  There is also a great deal of value in reflecting on how our cultural and social environment may have contributed to the event.  Such an approach will contribute to the  prevention of  future instances of abuse.  It works a lot better than the hasty punishment of individuals who have had allegations directed at them.

The path of least resistance – ‘a bad bad man did this’ is always available and sadly too often used to placate and cover up deeper systemic problems.

Just saying . . .

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