(First Draft Edition)
a free online textbook for Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
by Michael Wesch
A book in 10 Lessons.
People are different. These differences represent the vast range of human potential and possibility. Our assumptions, beliefs, values, ideas, ideals – even our abilities – are largely a product of our culture.
We can respond to such differences with hate or ignorance, or we can choose to open up to them and ask questions we have never considered before.
When we open up to such questions, we put ourselves in touch with our higher nature. It was asking questions, making connections, and trying new things that brought us down from the trees, and took us to the moon.
Our most basic assumptions are embedded in the basic elements of our everyday lives (e.g. language, routines, habits, technologies).
We create our tools and then our tools create us.
Most of what we take as “reality” is a cultural construction (“real”-ized through our unseen, unexamined assumptions of what is right, true, or possible.)
We fail to examine our assumptions not just because they are hard to see, but also because they are safe and comfortable. They allow us to live with the flattering illusion that “I am the center of the universe, and what matters are my immediate needs and desires.”
Our failure to move beyond such a view has led to the tragedy of our times: that we are more connected than ever, yet feel and act more disconnected.
Memorizing these ideas is easy. Living them takes a lifetime of practice. Fortunately the heroes of all time have walked before us. They show us the path.
They show us that collectively, we make the world. Understanding how we make the world – how it could be made or understood differently – is the road toward realizing our full human potential. It is the road to true freedom.