The following response is a contribution from a student at Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
Although we may not realize it, humans are much more alike than they want to admit. At least the general population. We all need food, water, shelter, and human contact. Everything besides these basic four needs are, in my opinion, almost completely shaped by culture. How we dress, behave in public, the music we listen to, even the people we are attracted to can be completely driven by our culture.
An important part of every culture is the idea of morals—the difference between right and wrong. This definition varies depending on whom you are as well as where you live. For example, if I was in need of a car and I saw someone across the street from me with a perfectly nice car, I would not go up to them and take their car from them, because I consider taking something that isn’t yours, as wrong. But is this natural conscience or simply a moral manufactured by my culture?
The question I am pending is “What are the connections between culture and conscience?” To answer this question, we must first break down all aspects of culture, and all aspects of conscience. I am a biracial women. This means I am made of two different ethnicities. As I’ve gotten older I have slowly begun to see the immense differences between cultures.
My father is Caribbean and lives on a sunny island inside the British Virgin Islands. Over the years, the BVI has become a very popular destination for tourists. This has led to locals being slowly pushed out of their homes to make way for resorts and gift shops. Even basic necessities like water must be used scarcely. Although I have spent plenty of time there, many of the cultural norms never fail to shock me. For example, beating your child is an extremely normal thing to do, even in public. In America, this is usually seen as taboo and looked upon negatively. Another large cultural difference is relationships with animals. It is unlikely to see someone with a pet of any kind. Many people keep dogs, but these dogs are treated with abuse to toughen them, creating a guard dog.
Does this mean that the people of the BVI do not have a conscience? Or does it simply mean they do not possess the same amount of resources that we use abundantly in America? This is why I believe culture is heavily influenced by a lack or excess amount of resources. Our communities make a culture out of what we are given. Even when we are given nothing. I think that is beautiful. I can almost say the exact same thing regarding conscience. I do truly believe in my heart that humans are born with the intention and will to do good. But it is also important to remember that we are just animals. When you take away our four basic necessities, all conscience seems to evaporate from our minds, and the need to physically survive takes over.
To sum everything up, I would say that there are many connections between culture and conscience. There is definitely a direct influence from our culture to create the values we uphold. But I also believe humans need a community. We are pack animals. We long for human interaction and connection. That is why I believe humans are born with conscience. To create a healthy and stable community, you must have a conscience within every individual, as well as group consciousness.