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Let’s Help Each Other Awaken From the Fog of Culture

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | 4 Comments | Published on June 6, 2016 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2016/06/06/its-time-to-awaken-from-the-fog-of-culture/
Thank you for sharing
person standing on road looking into fog
by Marsha Rakestraw

The other day my husband and I were discussing our frustration with the human race.

Nearly everywhere we looked (online and around our community), we saw cruelty, destruction, oppression, and casual indifference.

While our initial reactions were full of anger, despair, and frustration, we realized that it’s asking a lot of people to make more just, compassionate choices when they are asleep — steeped in what I call the fog of culture.

Often, whether the issue is political, personal, or global, we don’t even realize we’re asleep. We’ve been lulled into citizen somnolence.

We get so many messages when we’re growing up about how to be and dress and live and what to value, and we’re not taught to question any of it or to consider that there are other – and often better – ways of living.

Why do women wear high heels? It’s part of our culture.

Why do men wear ties? Why do we think it’s normal to sit in traffic for long periods of time?

Why do we think the way to peace is through violence? Why do we look to stuff to make us happy? Why do we love some animals and eat or wear or experiment on others?

Why are women sexualized to such a degree? Why do we put each other into categories and hate or love (or ignore) based on those artificial boundaries we’ve created?

We’re immersed as children in all these beliefs and messages and paradigms that most of us don’t consciously make a decision about — it’s what we’re raised to believe is “natural” and “normal.”

It’s not until we’ve awakened from this fog of what we’ve been taught is normal and natural that we can begin to ask questions and look for more meaningful and humane ways of living.

I am a poster child for the reality of the fog of culture.

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, where I was taught to obey, not to think or to question; and I certainly wasn’t encouraged to pay attention to the impact of my choices.

I grew up inculcated in a paradigm that condoned racism, that promoted the exploitation of animals and the earth, that sought happiness through materialism, and that nurtured a religious view that was quite narrow in many instances.

It wasn’t until I went to a large college and became exposed to different ways of thinking and living that I began to realize that I could make different choices for myself — that I actually had any power over my own life.

It has taken years of cultivating my awareness to brush away the fog of culture, so that I can continue to see more clearly and make choices that are aligned with my deepest values.

And there are many areas in which I’m still “asleep.” Awakening further from the fog is a lifelong journey.

We can help create a humane world by using the principles of humane education to awaken ourselves (and help awaken others) from the fog of culture that permeates our lives, and by striving to make all our choices be conscious ones that reflect our hope for a compassionate, just, sustainable world.


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About Marsha Rakestraw

Marsha is IHE's Director of E-learning, Education Resources, and Alumni Relations and part of the online course faculty. More

Contact Marsha View all articles by Marsha Rakestraw


Caryn says:

Great article, Marsha! We are all fogged in to varying degrees. I’m reading Peter Singer’s “The Life you Can Save.” While understanding the logic of giving more to fight world poverty, I’m fighting the fog of “but I still want to buy…” or “I ‘need’…” I will keep the fog in mind more explicitly as I read having seen this post.

IHE Staff says:

Thanks so much, Caryn! Glad it was helpful. I read Singer’s book a couple years ago, and it really made me think carefully about my donation practices.Peace,Marsha

Terri says:

This is so true… I also feel despair and frustration at how people are living their lives. Even with all the information that is available, they still think that as a vegetarian (my diet is about 85% vegan), I can’t possibly get enough protein in my diet without eating meat. I see the news articles about people leaving their pets in cars on hot days, or tied up outside without enough shade, thinking “Well, I gave it water, that should be enough…” and so on, and so on. I am frustrated at not knowing how to effectively educate folks like these on the alternatives and on humane ways to treat animals, etc. I know that yelling or being angry at them doesn’t work, so I try to lead by example. However, how do I know that example is really working? Am I just kidding myself?

I would like to use my blog as a platform but it doesn’t get a lot of readers, so I fear it won’t do much good. Thank you for this great post.

Terri, thank you for sharing your frustrations and hopes here.

I can assure you that modeling your message is a powerful influence. We hear from our students, grads, and other changemakers all the time about the truth of that.

It can feel really disheartening to make what feels to us like such slow and small progress when we’re swimming against such a huge tide of inculcated views and values. Seek out the positive stories and build a support system to help you remember that you are not alone and that good things are happening.

I am constantly reminded that something I think is “common knowledge,” because I’ve heard it repeatedly, is completely new information to so many others. One of our primary goals as humane educators is to expand the number of people who know (and then who care and act).

We’re here to help you however we can, Terri, with your changemaking efforts. Please feel free to email me to talk about how we can lend support to your efforts.