You are on page 1of 8

Ryan Rush

Massey

Cultural Identity Paper

24 July 2014

Having an American national identity means that one believes in independence and equality,

enjoys individuality and privacy, is not afraid of change, is typically materialistic, and values self-

reliance. It also means that a large portion of the rest of the world does not care much for you. I was born

into a white family comprised of mostly Western European ancestry, the majority of that being French

and Irish. Taking on the role of a man in America means that you are to grow up and be a provider for

your family. It also means that you should be strong willed, and not show your emotions because showing

your emotions was looked at as a sign of weakness. Growing up as a male also meant mowing the lawn

and helping out with the more difficult chores, along with trying out for sports and finishing something

that you start & not being a quitter. As a member of the Millennials (Generation Y), one had a pretty

awesome childhood. Members of Gen Y got to grow up with video games and Nerf guns. They also got to

be the first generation to grow up with the internet. Unfortunately, Gen Y is also known for childhood

obesity, as well as experiencing the events and aftermath of 9/11 as young children or adolescents. We are

also known for teen pregnancies, the use of social networking sites and are generally labelled as

slackers. Being a member of the middle-class in America meant that I grew up comfortably with more

than the necessities. It meant having more than you needed but not everything you want and you had to

work for those things you wanted but did not have. Growing up in Yakima, Washington promoted

independence and taught one to be wary of their surroundings since there is a lot of gang activity.

The worldview which most members of my communal identity share is a religious one. The

purpose of life is to live it to the fullest and take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you, and to do

1
whatever you can to enjoy it, not regret it. The world is governed by law, but that God is the one in charge

of everything. The right way to live is to work hard, be honest, be respectful and courteous to those

around you and to the environment, as well as helping those who need it. It is believed that God created

the universe and life originated when God created man in his image. When we die, depending on the

quality of the life that we lived, our spirits continue to live in either heaven or hell, with a stop in

purgatory for a final judgment of the life we lived before the decision is made of our destination. The

sources of knowledge are found in school, and in other texts, including the Bible. Knowledge could also

be acquired through self-reflection and prayer. An example of something good would be going to church

and being active in the community, helping others as well as being trustworthy. Sin is an example of

something bad. Being honest and trusting of others are examples of doing right, such as turning in a lost

wallet without taking anything out of it, or not turning a blind eye when someone else is being mistreated.

Committing crimes such as rape, murder, and theft is wrong. So is worshiping any deity other than God.

Its hard to peg down a set of values for Americans due to our population of incredibly diverse

multiethnic ties, Professor Kohl came up with thirteen. Personal control over the environment shows up in

the form of building roadways and bridges. It shows up in the sense that we believe that we should have

control over our personal environment and everything around us. Change is a value that my communal

identity looks at as a good thing, even if the change is bad for the moment, such as losing a job, in the

long run, it will turn out for the better because the next job could be better. One phrase that sums up

change for us is when one door closes, another door opens. We look at time and its control as

something that should not be wasted. This is evident when you make an appointment at the doctor and

you do not show up, there is generally a fee that you have to pay for wasting the time that the doctor

could be checking someone else out. Equality is a big value for Americans within my communal identity.

We were taught to treat everyone the way we want to be treated, as equals. It extends out to the economic

world; with equal opportunity employers who are supposed to give everyone a fair chance. We value

individuality because it makes us unique and different from the group, as evidenced by the many ways in

2
which we express ourselves. Whether it is tattoos and piercings, or wearing strange clothing, we enjoy

that uniqueness. Privacy is another value that we cherish as we enjoy being able to get away and be alone

with our thoughts and there are some things that we like to withhold from people. It shows up in the form

of being able to go in your room and shut your door, or adjust the settings on Facebook to keep specific

people from seeing certain posts. We value self-help because we believe in getting things done on our

own, evidenced by the saying if you want something done right, you better do it yourself. We value

competition greatly, even though we value equality, we love being better than everyone else. This is

evident by our capitalist economy where those that are better than the others in certain fields hold the

highest wages.

I have already talked about seven of the thirteen American values from Professor Kohl, lets look

at the other six. Future orientation is a big value, most of us do not do things for the here and now, unless

we need immediate gratification. Almost everything we do is done with the thought of how it will affect

us in the long run. We are definitely an active and work oriented culture. Our parents always used to say

that if we wanted something, we had to work for it and earn it, it was not just going to be handed to us.

For us, being formal was based on the context. We respected parents and elders, and people in authority,

dressed up for church, weddings and funerals. Being open, direct, and honest are important to us because

when we ask someone what they think of something, we want to know what they really think so that

anything that needs fixing can be fixed. We will tell you whether or not we like someone or something

because if we do not like it, we do not want to have to deal with it. Practicality and efficiency can be

looked at by the saying if it aint broke, dont fix it, it is unrealistic to fix something that works well.

We are very materialistic as we love to have the newest items and devices. We are always trading things

in for new models; cars, computers, video games, household appliances and so forth. We do this because

we value obtaining the best quality piece of equipment that is available, and when we get these new items,

we spend most of our time learning how to use them.

3
Values are only one cultural pattern, Hofstede looked at other patterns which we refer to as

Hofstedes Indices, which include individualism/collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and

masculinity/femininity. With individualism being one of the main American values, it is readily apparent

by the fact that we would rather do what we can to better ourselves than the whole group. For example, if

there is a competition for a chance to get a better job position, we may throw people under the bus to get

what we think is best for us. Uncertainty avoidance is the amount of fear a cultures members feel about

the unknown. We would fit into the lower uncertainty avoidance because we are always trying to figure

out the unknown, we are more likely to pick up and move to a different, unknown part of the country or to

a different country altogether simply because we want something new. Power distance is based on the

belief of power being distributed equally or unequally. We represent the lower end of the scale, this is

apparent by the fact that we have somewhat personal relationships with our bosses and teachers, and can

talk to them as we would anyone else, with the given level of respect of course. Masculine cultures are

those based on successes and clearly defined gender roles, where feminine cultures are those where by the

fact that we are more concerned with how much money we can make rather than how well we live our

lives.

We have gone over the communal identity, now lets take a look at my social/relational identity.

My family was small. It was my parents and an older sister. My dad was the disciplinarian, which usually

involved getting bent over his knee and spanked, which was never fun; I always tried to avoid it, but for

some reason I just could not, it was practically inevitable. My mom was always easier for me to talk to

about anything, so I think I have a feminine communication style because of that. I grew up going to

Catholic Church and Sunday School every week. Going to church and Sunday School every week taught

me ritualized behavior, same time, same day every week. It affected my communication by teaching me

symbols that were important to my faith along with the type of language to use and not use.

When talking about school, most people will have gone all private school, or all public school, I

was lucky enough to attend both. The first couple of years I learned what was okay to do and what was

4
not okay to do because I got in trouble a lot. First day of school in kindergarten I erased the chalkboard

and quickly learned that it was not an okay behavior. Being in public school affected my communication

by teaching me to raise my hand and wait my turn because everyone will have a chance to speak. Once

into middle school I ended up getting picked on a lot which made me act out angrily and made my

communication style pretty defensive, which it still can be today. I transitioned into a small private high

school, which took me a couple of years to adjust. I got suspended a couple of times which made me have

to change my behavior or get expelled. It helped me figure out the groups I wanted to belong to and the

people I wanted to associate with.

The different jobs that I have had have all had a different effect on my behavior and

communication. My first job was McDonalds, where I learned that my attitude quickly led to less hours,

and the communication was terrible because the boss would never listen to anything anyone said and just

yell at people for doing something wrong instead of correcting it. The next job I got was probably my

favorite job. I was a reading tutor for two years at an elementary school. This job forced me to behave in a

way that was acceptable for being around young children in a learning environment. It also really taught

me code shifting since I really needed to watch not only the language I used, but also the way I talked

with the kids. After those two years were up I moved to Cheney and landed a job at Pizza Hut. Working

at Pizza Hut was sink or swim for me; I learned that in order to keep the job so that I could continue to

pay my rent and bills, I had to do a lot of things that I did not want to do. My boss was easy to

communicate with which made it easier for me to approach other figures of authority. While working at

Pizza Hut I got a job working at a foster home for at risk youth. This job also affected my communication

with more code shifting, this time to language and behavior appropriate for at risk teenage boys. This time

it was not just to be professional on the job, but it was also to help show the boys what kind of language

and behavior are appropriate.

Growing up I had a few interests that had an influence on me. Out of all of them though, Id say

that video games have had the biggest impact. Video games always got me in trouble because I always

5
put off everything I was supposed to be doing like chores and homework to play them. I would say I had

behavior issues due to playing games a lot which did not make me an easy person to communicate with.

Being a fan of rap and hip hop music influenced the language that I used and the way I behaved in my late

teenage years and early twenties depending on whether I was at work or with friends. Being a fan of

professional wrestling probably made me have a defensive behavior a lot of the time because people were

always talking down on it or on me for liking it. It was a source of a lot jokes from friends and family

alike. I used to play baseball growing up which showed me how to behave as a teammate and

communicate with others to accomplish a goal together. It also taught me to speak with the coach if I was

not happy about something or else nothing would change.

Now that we are finally on personal identity, I can talk about some of the experiences that have

really helped shape who I have become, as well as different character attributes and abilities that I have

had. Getting in trouble on my very first day of school will always serve as a reminder that I cannot always

do what I want. In first grade, a fellow student asked me to do something to their chair, as I was

working, I just held my pencil on the chair and she sat on it, next thing I knew, I was on my way to the

principals office every morning for the next couple weeks. This helps serve as a reminder to not do

stupid things when asked to or when pressured to. Getting hit by a pitch in Little League changed my

outlook on baseball forever, even though I continued to play through high school where I realized just

how much I actually disliked the sport. Graduating high school was a huge achievement for me, it was a

middle finger to everyone who doubted me, and there were a lot, including some of my teachers, and at

times my own parents did not think I would graduate. The biggest event in my life that has shaped my

current identity would by far be losing my mother to a battle with cancer in 2006 when I was nineteen.

Followed by my dad remarrying a year and a half later and relocating to Spokane which forced me to

move in with some friends in Cheney. As far as attributes are concerned, my biggest one would have to

be my memory, my friends hate how much I remember from most situations. I am also a loyal and

trusting person who trusts someone until I am given a reason to not trust them, at which point that trust

6
can be very difficult to earn back. When it comes to my abilities, I would say I have a knack for getting

things done by deadlines, whether I slowly work on it throughout a given time period, or whether I wait

until the last minute; I have an ability to meet deadlines. I also have what could be described as a

chameleon like ability where I am able to make friends in many diverse circles and know which style of

communication to use in each one.

The different experiences I have had have affected me in different ways. After getting hit by the

baseball, I continued to play even though I was afraid of it happening again because I wanted to be one of

the boys and did not want to quit. This has helped shape my personal belief that one should not quit

something they start and to stick it out until it is over. But it also helped me value doing what I like. As

the years went on, I began to dislike baseball more and more, until sophomore year when I decided not to

continue with baseball because I did not want to waste my time doing an extracurricular activity that I did

not enjoy. Graduating high school also helped shape my belief about finishing what you start because

even though I wanted to give up, and almost did, I pushed through and earned my diploma which was

very rewarding for me and showed me that hard work paid off. My mothers death has by far had the

largest impact on my personal beliefs and values. As stated earlier, I grew up going to a Catholic Church,

having been taught those teachings all my life, and then my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She went to

Seattle and had the cancer removed, only for it to come back and ultimately take her life. It was around

this time that I began to question everything I had been taught to believe in growing up. This event also

helped me value my family more and value time because I took for granted time that I could have spent

with her and did not realize it until I could not spend that time with her anymore.

My experiences and abilities have helped shape my norms and attitudes for the better. Making the

transition from living at home to living on my own originally changed my norms because I was able to

live one hundred percent my way; which also had an effect on my attitude since it caused me and my

roommates to get into arguments because I only wanted to do chores when I wanted to rather than when

they needed to be done. But this overall helped teach me to become a better roommate too. My norms

7
also changed because I had to work now, so there was no more sleeping all day and doing as I please. The

death of my mother brought about some negative attitude changes. I had just got into drinking when it

happened and I used it as an outlet, often times getting very upset and angry because I did not know how

to cope with it. But being on my own, I was slowly able to change my attitude because if I did not, I was

going to end up without a job or a place to stay. My view of life is that it is too short, and that every

opportunity one receives, they should take. I used to think of the universe as Gods creation, but now, I

look at it from a spiritual point of view. I believe that there is some kind of greater power, but I believe

that there is an explanation for everything.

The effects that my different experiences and abilities have on how I communicate largely helped

me to become the adult I am today. If it was not for the fact that I had to grow up quick from being a

young kid living at home to paying for everything on my own helped me to be more aware of my

surroundings and the type of language to use depending on the context. They have also helped me show

more empathy for people going through hard times, whether it is the death of a loved one, or loss of work.

They also effect who I am willing to communicate with. I have never been big on speaking with those in

positions of authority, but I have been forced to do so in order to advance in the work place and to not be

stuck in the same position in life as I was when I was twenty.