I / We / Everything - What Different Cultures Care About

Different cultures, religions and world-views see the world very differently. This is not, as many seculars like to ridicule, a distinction of arbitrary false non-existent deities, but a fundamental difference in what The Topic is. Which is to say: what are we talking about? What is our concern? What is the subject matter, what are we trying to achieve, why does anything matter, how do we make our decisions and judgements? What do we care about? All of this is reflected in the language, both in the words themselves, both more importantly in the sentences we choose to form, in the notions we choose to discuss, in the things about which we disagree, but that we have an opinion about in the first place.

Concretely, let us elaborate: In the Christian world there is a great focus on I, on the individual. The main religious discussion I might have is on whether I should repent before Christ in order for me to be saved, or whether I am an individual who can live my own life to the fullest without needing Jesus in whatever manner pleases me. In either case, the language is the language of “I”.

In the Jewish world, we speak much less the language of I; we speak the language of we. We discuss our culture and our community and what we should do. In Israel, the nation of the Jews, we are all very, very invested in what happens to it. Should we be more religious or more secular? What should we do with the Palestinians? And with the economy? Indeed, what should we do?

In Buddhism and Hinduism, it is not even “we”, it is more like “all of this”, for we are all interconnected and part of the same nature, of the same Universe, and we are one with each other and with everything. Or rather you might argue that none of us or this actually exists, and certainly what we call “I” and “we” do not really exist. So either we are all one or we are none, and we can disagree on which, but certainly there is nothing to worry about I or We.

And so the fundamental perspective that we have, the slant through which we are observing the world and where lie our interests in the sense of both curiousity and ideals - are based on the culture that surrounds us and that we are exposed to.

This a deeper difference between cultures. It’s not just your opinions on topics, but the topics you discuss in the first place.