These customs reveal certain underlying values in a society.
In an older post I discussed the cultural ethos of Formality vs. Casualness. Casualness -- in attire, in manner of speaking, in the way names are presented on paper -- maximizes commonality among people. Formality maximizes difference. A related dichotomy is Past vs. Future. Past emphasizes past accomplishments and titles, your family and cultural history, and gives great deference to elders. Future emphasizes what you are doing today and who you aspire to be tomorrow. Future-oriented cultures, for better or worse, favor the energy of youth over the wisdom of elders. America is a decidedly casual, future-oriented culture, and this is partly what makes it unique.
In any case, it's interesting that cultural values of this sort can appear so visibly in how events are staged and speakers introduced.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Casualness maximizes commonality among people. Formality maximizes difference.