Authentic Community & Culture

The Journey Toward Authentic Communities and Cultures

Communities and cultures can be looked at as to how authentic or inauthentic they are. Generally, we look at how authentic a community or culture is by examining how closely they actually follow their stated values and beliefs. An inauthentic community or culture has a stated set of values or beliefs, but actually, they do or say something entirely different. For example, if a community states that they honor diversity and then has policies that discriminate against minorities in a number of ways. Below we use our developmental model to determine how authentic a community or culture actually is plus what lowers their authenticity.

There are many kinds of cultures within a community, state, or region, including religious, ethnic, political, economic, social, academic, athletic, and environmental cultures, as well as groups with special needs or interests involving sexual preferences, disabilities such as deafness or blindness, athletic teams, and academic specialties. People belong to numerous communities and cultures, the memberships of which, when combined, give them a unique identity, such as: A Caucasian male with a Midwestern farm background, who graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in chemical engineering, who is a member of the Methodist Church and a fan of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears, and who now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Each aspect of this man is linked to a base of information, values and beliefs, and behaviors that allow him to participate in specific activities within his community or culture. When the Cubs won the World Series, Cubs fans  screamed, "We're number one!" Fans who identified with the Cub’s victory felt more important or special.

The evolution of communities and cultures as they become more authentic, follows a developmental sequence similar to that occurring in individuals, couples, families, and organizations. You can identify the same four stages of development: codependent, counter-dependent, independent, and interdependent. Each stage has essential developmental processes that need to be completed in order for communities and cultures to become more authentic and evolve to the next stage. Any collective essential developmental processes that are not completed in one stage of development are carried along to the next one. This “excess baggage” makes it even more difficult for communities and cultures to complete the essential developmental processes of the next stage. This slows down the evolution of all human systems and can cause them to remain rather inauthentic in their human interactions.

 

The Cultural Divide In the U. S.

People typically think of this country as one of 50 “united states.” However, from a cultural perspective, it is a country that is divided into a number of cultural regions. It is the cultural differences that create the divide we read about in this country. The main contrast has been between the cultures of the North and the South. The Mason-Dixon Line divided this country during the Civil War between the states that did and did not allow slavery. That is a line of cultural demarcation. This line of cultural demarcation still remains linguistically because the two groups speak slightly different dialects of American English. Culture-wise, there are many differences that still remain between the cultures of the North and the South.

The South traditionally has had a more cohesive culture based even today on what is sometimes called, “the Southern White Plantation Culture.” Having lived in the South, I would say this culture and its set of cultural beliefs is alive and well in many parts of the South, particularly in rural areas. For example, many Southerners say they believe strongly in protecting their “liberty” and “freedom.” However, these concepts mean something entirely different from how many people living in Northern states see them. To many Southerners, these terms mean the “liberty” and “freedom” to whatever I damn well please, without the interference of the government (Robinson, 2012).

 

The Eleven Cultural Regions of This Country

Actually, we are more culturally divided as a country than just between the North and the South, and here lies the real problem. Interestingly, it has very little to do with immigration, legal or illegal.  Recently, in an article describing Colin Woodward’s fourth book, "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America," Speiser quotes Woodward’s work on the 11 distinct cultures that have historically divided the U.S. (Speiser, 2015). Below, described briefly, are the eleven different cultures that Woodward describes in this country.

  • Yankeedom – The Northeast states plus Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Here there are strong values of education, intellectual development, and citizen participation in government as a shield against tyranny. These folks have no issue with government regulation and believe it is necessary to protect our way of life.

  • New Netherland – New York City and northern New Jersey. This is a highly materialistic, commercial culture where they are tolerant of inquiry and consciousness. They also value religious and cultural diversity and as a result they have the most cultural and religious diversity of any region.

  • The Midlands – Parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. These folks are the middle class that people talk about fondly. They hold moderate view on almost everything, but frown on government regulation.

  • Tidewater – Chesapeake Bay states plus eastern North Carolina. This area started as a feudal society that embraced slavery. The people living here place a high value on respect for authority and tradition.

  • Greater Appalachia – Parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas. Settled by people from Northern Ireland, Northern England and the Scottish Lowlands, these people are often stereotyped as rednecks and hillbillies.  They value personal sovereignty and “liberty,” which means to them that they have a right to do whatever they damn-well please and fight against any government regulation that they see is there to take away their liberty. They are still suspicious of them “yankee carpetbaggers” from the North or the West.

  • Deep South – Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. Established by the slave owners from Barbados, they were styled as a West Indies slave society. The people typically hold rigid beliefs about your place in society and fight fiercely against any government interference of their individual “liberties.” The southern white plantation culture is alive and well in this region.

  • El Norte –These are the remnants of the Spanish-American empire composed of parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. This region is distinctly different from any other. The Latino culture dominates and the people value independence, self-sufficiency, family and hard work.

  • The Left Coast -Coastal California, Oregon and Washington. Originally settled by New Englanders and Midwesterners, this region is a hybrid of Yankee utopianism and Appalachian self-expression and exploration. San Francisco epitomizes the values of this region.

  • The Far West – States of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Washington, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. This is the conservative west. It was developed through large investments in industry, yet the residents tend to resent the Eastern interests who have poured big money investments into their region.

  • New France – Centered around New Orleans, Louisiana, here is a pocket of liberalism in the Deep South. The people are consensus driven, tolerant, and comfortable with government involvement in their lives. They are fun-loving, laid-back, and generous.

  • First Nation – The huge territory where the Native people live. This region is made of what is left of the Native American lands. They still enjoy some level of tribal sovereignty and have tried to hold on to their native traditions.

Woodard says that among these eleven diverse cultural regions of this country, the main cultural battle still remains between Yankeedom and the Deep South. These two cultures constantly compete with each other for the hearts and minds of the rest of the nation. They do not see eye to eye on anything and contribute greatly to the polarized political culture that we currently live with.

The deeply rooted aspects of human experience that form diverse communities and cultures make it very difficult to resolve conflicts between them. Conflicts of values and beliefs repeatedly ignite philosophical, ethical, religious, and value-based conflicts and wars in an effort to prove once and for all who is right and who is wrong, or to determine whose rules will ultimately prevail. The inability to resolve these cultural conflicts deepens the divisions between individuals and groups, reinforcing cultural biases, prejudices, projections, and hatred. We are supposed to be one nation, but with all these conflicting values and traditions, we operate more and more as eleven separate nations that are deeply divided culturally.

Pride Parade Overhead

Cultural Categories: Traditionalists, Moderns, and Cultural Creatives

There is another breakdown of the different cultural beliefs that exist in the U. S. Sociologist and lead researcher, Paul H. Ray, and his associates, gathered demographic data on the cultural values and beliefs from a sample of the U. S. adult population. In analyzing the data they collected, they were able to divide the adult population into three separate cultural groups they called the “Traditionalists,” the “Modernists” and the “Cultural Creatives.”

This research done in 1999, indicated that about 24% or about 48 million Americans at that time held a rather “traditional” worldview. About 50% or 93 million Americans held a “modern” worldview. The remaining 26% or 50 million Americans, they said is the fastest-growing group in the United States. They claimed this group held “post-modern” values and beliefs. They labeled this last group “Cultural Creatives.”

According to Ray, Cultural Creatives “...are forging a new sense of the sacred that incorporates personal growth psychology, the spiritual realm, and service to others.” In a book by Ray and Sherry Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, they identify the Cultural Creatives as the fastest-growing transformational force in America. As recently as the 1960s less than 5 percent of Americans could be labeled as Cultural Creatives and by 1999 it had ballooned to 26 percent. According to Ray’s research, the Cultural Creatives include two sub-groups.

The so-called Core Group of Cultural Creatives composes 24 million people and consists of published writers, artists, musicians, psychotherapists, feminists, alternative health care providers, addicts in recovery, those into new thought spirituality, homeschooling, and midwifery. This group is interested in inner growth and social justice.

The second group is known as the Green Cultural Creatives, has values and beliefs more centered on the environment and nature as sacred, but they are not as interested as the other group in spirituality or psychology. Take the Self-Quiz below that we created from reading Ray & Anderson’s book. It will help you determine which of these three cultural groups you identify with the most.