May 20, 2010
Crossing Cultures: A Philosophical Reflection on Filipino Culture and Cultural Transition Experienced by Third Culture Kids
Oh it's a mystery to me.
We have a greed, with which we have agreed...
and you think you have to want more than you need...
until you have it all, you won't be free.
Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.
- Eddie Vedder (Society)
In a world that is becoming increasingly smaller as globalization takes its universal toll on countries and cultures, the sentiments expressed in the lyrics of this song often resonate with the individual trying to find a sense of identity through society and feeling overwhelmed by it. As we have learned in class, an individual tries to concretize him/herself by acting in the world as a “dynamic X.” This characteristic, as explained by Max Scheller, is a universal factor inherent in everyone that drives us as humans to try to find our identity in a world that is constantly changing around us.
Being a “Dynamic X” we ourselves are constantly changing, and we triangulate our sense of identity by comparing ourselves to the society around us to try and develop a sense of who we are through achievement, careers, personal preference of music, movies, literature and – most importantly – our name. It is through our name that we present ourselves and our capacity for historicity to the world. It is also through our name that we are known and recognized as part of a society. Considering the inherent characteristic of being a “Dynamic X” and how we use it to derive a sense of identity, the most influential factor which we use as a reference to triangulate our identity is culture.
Culture, as we have learned in class, tells us how to be a person amongst others. The culture to which we are born into is something that we are affected by without having a conscious choice in how it affects us. As we develop into adults, we imbibe the cultural values, customs and traits around us and form who we are through them. This process of imbibing a culture is forever ongoing, giving merit to the characteristic of being a “Dynamic X”.
In its most general definition, culture can be seen as a code of systems and meanings which are unique amongst different diversities of people. Generally, most people are born and raised in one dominant culture to which they identify with as their own. Reflecting on this definition of culture and how we go about imbibing it as we develop our sense of identity, the question that this paper will attempt to answer is “what happens if a person grows up in several different cultures and how does it affect their own sense of identity?”
Falling into this unique and growing demographic, I personally have experienced growing up in several different cultures around the world. Being the son of a missionary couple, I have lived in three drastically different countries and cultures throughout my life. Having spent my early childhood years living in Jos, Nigeria, I assimilated into my identity certain “African” characteristics that I still feel have a hold on who I am today. Spending the bulk of my educational and developmental years here in the Philippines, I have also categorized my identity as being half-Filipino, an epiphany of sorts that only took place in my life after having experienced life alone in Philadelphia, PA U.S.A.
All my life I have grown up with the mentality that the U.S is my “home.” Even though my mother is a full blooded Filipina, we were conditioned as children to believe that the U.S is where we would ultimately settle. This shaped my sense of identity significantly while growing up as I automatically assumed that because I was an American citizen at birth I was 100% American. All that changed, however, when I graduated high school here in the Philippines and started college in the U.S. I soon found myself to be far different from the...