Freedom and Culture

AutorLee, Dorothy
PealkiriFreedom and culture / Dorothy Lee
Ilmunud[Hemel Hempstead] : Prentice Hall, [1959]
ViideLee, Dorothy 1959. Freedom and culture. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall.

The common theme of the essays in this volume is that culture is a symbolic system which transforms the physical reality, what is there, into experienced reality. (Lee 1959: 1)
This sounds exactly like something written by Yuri Lotman.
In cultural behavior, I see a system whereby the self is related to the universe - the relevant universe in each case, whether society, nature, the known universe, or ultimate reality. The individual acts within each culturally structured situation would then be expressions of this relatedness. (Lee 1959: 1)
This, on the other hand, sounds like (universal?) hermeneutics. Human relatedness to society and nature are quite familiar (sociosemiotics, biosemiotics). Relatedness to the known unvierse raises questions: is culture as the whole of human knowledge, meant by this? By ultimate reality I take her to mean physical reality. The issues of reality (the word) are discussed elsewhere (Austin 1970: 62)
It is "fundamentally indecent" according to Clyde Kluckhohn, "for a single individual to presume to make decisions for the group," and therefore not even a leader will make decisions for others, or give orders to others. (Lee 1959: 13)
Noble sentiment, but more applicable to the Navaho than to, for example, Estonian territorial defense army (kaitsevägi). Source for the Kluckhohn quote: Kluckhohn, Clyde and Dorothea Leighton. The Navaho: Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1946.
And this is how I came to study the definition of the self among the Tikopia. It seemed to me that only on the basis of just such an assumption of continuity could their relations to man and nature and the divine, their words and phrasings and ceremonials be understood. I went back to Raymond Firth's books on the Tikopia, and read each detail without placing it automatically against my own conception of the self. And so I was able to see a conception of identity radically different from mine; I found a social definition of the self. I found that here I could not speak of man's relations with his universe, but rather of a universal interrelatedness, because man was not the focus from which relations flowed. I found a named and recognized medium of social continuity, implemented in social acts, not in words. And I found, for example, that an act of fondling or an embrace was not phrased as a "demonstration" or an "expression" of affection - that is, starting from the ego and defined in terms of the emotions of the ego, but rather as an act of moral support or of comforting or of sharing, as a social act. I found a system of childrearing which trained toward increasing interdependence and socialization, instead of toward personal self-reliance and individuation. And here I found work whose motivation lay in the situation itself, a situation which included the worker and his society, the activity and its end, and whose satisfaction lay in social value. (Lee 1959: 29)
Unbeknownst to Lee herself, she has induced the expression vs action dichotomy: fondling does not express affection, it is an act of affection. The border between these is still one in need of clarification, but it does seem pertinent for many authors.
Clothing, in fact, guards everyone against cutaneous contact with others, except perhaps, at the beach. We have divided our benches into individual units; our seats in school, on the train, on the bus. Even our solid sofas, planned for social groupings, have demarcating lines or separate pillows to help individuals keep apart. But the Tikopia help the self ot be continuous with its society through their physical arrangements. They find it good to sleep isde by side crowding each other, next to their children or their parents or their brothers and sisters, mixing sexes and generations; and if a widow finds herself alone in her one-room house, she may adopt a child or a brother to allay her intolerable privacy. (Lee 1959: 31)
Cutaneous contact is an odd but valid term. Separation of seats seems to depend on age and location. The old train station in my small hometown does have separations (quite uncomfortable at that), but benches in terminals in Tartu, for example, do not. Nevertheless it is a good example of how #avoidance is embodied in artifice.
Throughout the history of the Western world, inequality has given rise to the relationship of subordination-superordination, inferiority-superiority. It has made it possible for master to order servant, for ruler to coerce subject. We have upheld the principle of equality by way of correcting these evils. Yet elsewhere these evils have been absent even though the notion of equality was also absent. In the Burmese village of the past century, the great value set on personal autonomy and the respect for the autonomy of each and everyone, insured the absence of these relationships. Here a farmer reportedly could not hire labor, as no one could be subservient to another man. (Lee 1959: 43)
This passage should caution speaking of statuses and social hierarchy as if these were universal phenomena. Stress should be laid on the pairs of notions in the first sentences of this quote.
Everywhere, in every society, the culture offers its peculiar codifications of reality, its peculiar avenues of experience. Some societies may "impose," "act upon," "make" their members the persons they are. Others do not make; but help their members to be; they enable them to select, within the limits of the structure, the raw material they need for their own unique growth. In such societies, individuals set their conduct according to an internal standard, not according to external expectancies. I believe this is what is meant in the Bhagavad Gita: "The law of one's own nature, though devoid of merit is preferable to the Dharma of another man than victory in an alien movement. To follow the law of another nature is dangerous to the soul, contradictory as we may say to the natural way of his evolution, a thing mechanically impose dand therefore imported, artificial and sterilizing to one's own growth towards the true nature of the spirit." THe concept of equality is irrelevant to this view of man. Here we have instead the full valuing of man in his uniqueness, enabling him to actualize himself, to use opportunity fully, undeterred by the standards of an outside authority, not forced to deviate, to meet the expectancies of others. (Lee 1959: 46)
The Bhagavad Gita is a 700–verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata [wiki].
Here, again, any equivalence of reward to achievement is irrelevant; in fact, if it appeared, it would be grossly destructive, degrading a social relationship into commercialism. For the Lovedu, achievement must never be assessed, and people were not valued in terms of achievement. People were valued for what they were, for their personal qualities, such as maturity, experience, sagacity - not for the results of these qualities. It was not technical skill or perfection of performance which was admired, but rather the quality of industriousness, and the willingness to use one's possibly mediocre skill in helping. (Lee 1959: 51)
Sagacity is wisdom.
Coercion and persuasion were not acceptable among the Dakota since no man could decide for another, nor was responsible for the behavior of another. Ideally, at any rate, orders were not given to anyone. Decisions were all autonomous, except during the buffalo hunt and warfare, when the group had to act in concert. In moving camp, every family had its place in the line, no one had the need to be ahead of the others, so that, though several hundred people might be moving, there was no confusion and no one directing operations. The council made no laws that were enforceable on others; it made decisions. So that, if it were decided to move camp, a family or two might elect to stay in the old site, without interference. (Lee 1959: 64)
Contrasting laws and decisions - a possible of avenue of continuation for the role-rule theory.
The Dakota had contempt for the White soldier, "who required another man to tell him to pick up his gun, to stand, run, halt, salute, and march into the foe." (Lee 1959: 65)
Chief Crazy Horse speaks a heavy truth.
The thesis of this essay is that the symbol is in fact a part of a whole, a component of a field which also contains the so-called thing, as well as the process of symbolizing, and the apprehending individual. In this view, the concept of the symbol is close to the original meaning of the word in Greek. The symbol, the broken off part of the coin given to the parting friend, is not a separate element, but carries with it wherever it goes the whole coin in which it has participated, as well as the situation of hospitality during which the coin was broken in half; and when it is finally matched with the remaining half, the whole has value because the symbol has conveyed - not created of applied or evoked - this value. According to the view presented here, symbols are a part of the process whereby the experienced world, the world of perception and concept, is created out of the world of physical reality, the so-called given, the undifferentiated mass, or energy or set of relations. (Lee 1959: 79)
Here her understanding of the symbol reminds rather the concept of metonym.
To the child who hears a word for the first time, the word contains the meaning of the situation in which he ears it, including the mother's tone of voice, her gestures and facial expression. To someone learning the use of a word from a dictionary or from a classroom definition, the word holds only whatever value is present in this situation; probably none. But one the individual uses the newly learned word, once a concrete situation is experienced through the agency of the word, the word contains the value of this symbolized situation. So the symbol, in this case the word, is a thing in process, containing and conveying the value which has become embodied it, and communicating it in so far as there is community of experience between speaker or hearer. (Lee 1959: 85)
That learning new words contains this bodily aspect, I have never met before. This is either un-studied, studied unbeknownst to me or a figment of Dorothy Lee's imagination (her opinion, so to say).
Again, in one of the myths is given a description of a shipwreck, a dreadful event since it plunges the sailors into witch-infested waters. The crew of the large cnoe drift ashore clinging to the outrigger, onto which they have jumped from their places in the canoe. As they reach shore, they are in great danger from the flying witches; in the face of it, they walk in exactly the order in which they have drifte ashore; when they sit waiting for the night to come and hide them from the witches, they maintain this order; in this order they finally march to their village where they are medicated magically to free them from danger. Now they are safe again, and the order need not be maintained. Again, it is impossible for people of our culture not to see here the order of linear relationship; but I do not think that it appears as relational to the Trobianders. (Lee 1959: 101)
This trobiander myth is a neat addition to discussion on the semiotics of magic.
Basic to my investigation of the codification of reality on these two societies, is the assumption that a member of a given society not only codifies experienced reality through the use of the specific language and other patterned behavior characteristic of his culture, but that he actually grasps reality only as it is presented to him in this code. The assumption is not that reality itself is relative; rather, that it is differently punctuated and categorized, or that different aspects of it are noticed by, or presented to the participants of different cultures. If reality itself were not absolute, then true communication of course would be impossible. My own position is that there is an absolute reality, and that communication is posible. If, then, that which the different codes refer to is ultimately the same, a careful study and analysis of a different code and of the culture to which it belongs, should lead us to concepts which are ultimately comprehensible, when translated into our own code. It may even, eventually, lead us to aspects of reality from which our own code excludes us. (Lee 1959: 105)
In this sense the code is a filter through which reality is mediated to the experiencing person. It should be kept in mind that kinesics is one of those other patterned behaviours.
In our academic work, we are constantly acting in terms of an implied line. When we speak of applying an attribute, for example, we visualize the process as lineal, coming from the outside. If I make a picture of an apple on the board, and want to show that one side is green and the other red I connect these attributes with the pictured apple by means of lines, I draw conclusions from them. I trace a relationship between my facts. I describe a pattern as a web of relationships. Look at a lecturer who makes use of gestures; he is constantly making lineal connections in the air. And a teacher with chalk in hand will be drawing lines on the board whether he be a psychologist, a historian, or a paleontologist. (Lee 1959: 110)
A lecturer will only be making lineal connections if his gestures have high codability (e.g. Argyle 1975: 259).
The organs of highest significance are the eyes. They are the seat of the person. With them, lovers and friends communicate, and they are the pre-eminent medium of enjoyment. Love comes through the eyes, and the eyes are mentioned the most frequently in the personal poems. "We have not seen you" means "We miss you." (Lee 1959: 145)
She is here talking of Greek culture, but aside from the last linguistic nuance, it seems universal (or poetic enough to be applicable more widely).
Villagers speak of hours and minutes, but these are merely references to the passing of time, rather than its measure. Visitors, asking how far it is to the next village, finds that "five minutes" may mean half an hour or two hours, but they find that the answer "A cigarette away" does provide a reasonably accurate measure. (Lee 1959: 152)
This I have thought myself: it is difficult to judge distances in time but quite easy to spot the place where the cigarette tends to run out.
  • Linton, R. The Study of Man. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., 1936.
  • Linton, R. The Cultural Basis of Personality. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., 1945.
  • Wissler, C. Introduction to Social Anthropology. New York: H. Holt & Company, 1929.


Post a Comment