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1965 photo of Fred Astaire, age 66. from Life Goes to the Movies, c. 1975.


“It might be useful to conceive of enculturation as an internalization of culture and an organization of individual differences. Different personalities may adhere to cultural norms and play socially defined roles in a variety of ways but within acceptable limits. Their presentation of self may be quite similar, but not identical. Individuals internalize lessons of enculturation yet remain somewhat unique. Enculturation is not an all-powerful cloning process. Therefore, an effective culture is one that organizes these differences with reasonable success so that work gets done and the culture continues.”–Dewight R. Middleton Add a Tooltip Text

This excerpt is from a dirty anthropology book. The guy who wrote it is extremely interested in sex among “savages.” He starts there and covers topics in human sexuality that even students of Indiana Jones already understand: Thai prostitutes, The Joy of Sex, Kama Sutra, male and female circumcision/mutilation, Gauguin getting naked with teens in Tahiti, sexual positions (missionary is still number one), adultery, divorce. And he’s not saying anything new about his topics, or getting an angle on any of it. He’s just pulling each item out of the display case and propping it up with a notecard.

But isn’t it true that our culture’s main objective is to organize us, to limit us, so that we can survive the tumult of our emotions, hormones, social and sex relations, image despair? And so we can get our share of the work done and keep the big project moving forward.

If there are too many people lying around on couches wondering why they are here, this is a sign that our culture has failed. Thank god that’s not happening.