Culture is an agreement. An agreement on what we deem to be valuable, what we agree is art, where our values lie in the murky sea of possibilities.
We grow up into a pre-established system of ideologies and beliefs that we can either take as our own, or reject. As a belief is held and passed down through history it becomes a sort of truth. And we see this with the most cultured people, they lose a natural ability to think for themselves, they have bought into a guideline of what it means to be French or American or Chinese. They embody their culture, they bleed it in whatever they do. The culture grows stronger the more people consume it.
Culture is reinforced through media and stories and music and television, and we think this is what everyone else believes because it is what is fed. But it is untrue because it is all orchestrated, not from the masses experiencing it but from a few people behind the scenes who make you believe this is what life is. This is what it means to be an American. This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to be successful.
The culture feeds you ideas not based on what is actually going on in the country, but what they want you to think you need. In this way, you become a commodity to be used and abused. When the same message is being fed to you over and over and over it becomes a mantra, it becomes so repetitious you take it as truth. We then confuse our own desires with what we have been told is desirable.
The culture feeds us social myths about success. In America and most western countries, it is the mantra of more is better. Buy more, eat more, own more. More always comes back to the material because of dominant consumer culture.
And the more you own the more it owns you. The more you have the less free you are to move, the more you are deep within the system. You have a mortgage, a house, multiple bank accounts. You are locked into the matrix.
We often complain about society but we as a collective are building it, and yes it is lead by the invisible forces of the rich & elite, but we have a choice whether to buy into it or not.
When we think about culture, we must think about what motivates people, because this is what culture feeds off of. For most cultures, it is sex, power, or meaning. Many times it is a combination of all three. Over time the culture’s motivators can shift with new generations entering the culture. The culture shifts as the new people who enter it bring in a new way of life.
This happened in the sixties with the hippie movement in the United States, a counterculture about universal love and psychedelic exploration grew large enough to take a stance in the mainstream. To say ‘fuck you’ to the Vietnam War, to wake the masses from their deep collective sleep. People dropped out of the culture they were born into and created their own.
Where I currently live, we have created a subculture of our own away from mainstream culture. In this way subcultures are born, to openly detest the mainstream values and create something within a smaller collective. Here, on this small island of Koh Phangan, we spend our time working on the motivator of meaning. Instead of focusing on producing money, we focus on our inner landscapes.
Koh Phangan began as a small community of people focused on yoga. People were exploring what it means to have a body but live in accordance with spirit. People lived simply on the beach, there were no coffee shops or large scale developments.
As more and more people entered this subculture, it shifted and became more about a different motivator, sex. Our mainstream culture is trained about sex in a disharmonious way. This island is a subculture sexually, sex here is not about reaching orgasm or fixed on the male’s pleasure. The tantrikas entered, bringing sacred sex into the island’s electromagnetic field. More and more people flocked to the island because sex sells.
Thus, the flavor of the island changed, it became more about accessing pleasure, and hedonism than just consciousness through yoga. The pre yogi island has become a pleasure island. Tantra workshops, ecstatic dances, kinky play parties, fancy vegan restaurants, and large beach parties had taken over. The culture has its same essence of evolving in consciousness, but has shifted into different methods of entering into that consciousness.
Now during Corona, all the seekers, the full-time transient travelers that hop from country to country are stuck here. For half a year we were unable to leave and what it created was a new community. Many of us transient nomads have now set up a home base here. The culture is shifting yet again, and we feel we have a responsibility to the island.
And for us that is what culture is, the way you give back to the community, it is a shared sense of responsibility to the place you are in. On Koh Phangan, we will continue to create a culture of exploring consciousness and practicing kindness in a world that needs as much of it as it can get. Though the methods to do so differ, the essential goals are the same.