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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
 

Columns and Commentary


Off the Map: Cultural standards

Kate Edwards

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s focus on the commonly used definition of standard as being a collective set of agreed-upon rules and guidelines within a specific community of people, as codified in a document or in some other form of repository such as the ISO.
While the existence of internationally agreed-upon standards is a relatively new invention in the broad spectrum of human history, the reality is that human civilization has often been perpetuated due to the existence of various standards. If you take ancient Egypt as an example, one of the reasons that society flourished for a few millennia was due to a well-defined system of cultural operations and interrelationships. Admittedly, it didn’t hurt that the Pharaoh was a designated god-king with complete sovereignty over the people, but that’s a different discussion. The structure and cultural rules in that particular society enabled the civilization to persist, at least until a different society with different rules took over.
The role of faith has also been a substantial influence for establishing early cultural standards, whether it was forms of indigenous religion that formed in or around a specific culture, or whether it was codified in religious texts passed down through the ages. Objectively, these documents acted as a standard of behavior that either agreed with or transcended local values, and thus the various cultures either embraced or rejected them, according to their own inherent standard — a sometimes fierce dynamic that continues to this day. Shared religion was an early way of establishing a type of standard that bridged diverse cultures so that when encountering a group who shared a specific faith, one could expect certain behaviors and practices.
Usually the standards upon which cultures rely are not written down or codified in some way; rather, they’re an informal passing down of inherent behaviors and viewpoints from generation to generation. It’s one of the fundamental reasons for ongoing cultural differences that exist even today, usually assisted by geographic and linguistic isolation. . .

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Above excerpt taken from the April/May 2012 issue of MultiLingual published by MultiLingual Computing, Inc., 319 North First Avenue, Suite 2, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864-1495 USA, 208-263-8178, Fax: 208-263-6310. Subscribe

April/May, 2012