That said, however, certain patterns of behavior associated with racial, gender, and employment relations, for instance, which have a universal dimension, affecting human activity well beyond our individual situations, obviously have strong influence over our own daily lives. Insofar as these human tendencies can be directed or “debugged”, in Steven Pinker’s word, by individuals and smaller groups, they deserve to be examined as they are manifested in particular contexts which we call CulturePlaces.
By culture we mean the normative order, grounded and manifested in specific places, explained by the behavioral sciences, and illuminated and animated by the arts, which allows us to comprehend ourselves, others, and the world around us, and through which we order our experience. We probe the Human Condition with an emphasis on societal trends and artistic expressions that manifest themselves in our own experience and provide texture and insight.
For places of culture to be more than divertissements, they must be pertinent to the formation of our values, what has come to be referred to among researchers as “social capital”. Observations that we accumulate not through “knowing more and more about less and less,” but just by living a cosmopolitan life in the Bay Area equip us to form opinions that deserve to be examined by others who share an interest in the deeper meaning of events and related information.
Rafting the Cultural Currents of the New Millennium
Clearly, one’s genes as well as class, gender, age, race, sexual orientation and the numerous other distinctions that seem so wrapped up in identity politics these days, educated adults want to grapple with the ideas that are shaped by these associations but are not bound by them. The CulturePlaces Salon provides more opportunities to compare opinions on the ramifications of the changing social landscape constrained or enhanced by biological influences. (Nurture/nature)
We believe that the meaning and implications of our experiences emerge through discourse not absorbing more information. All that is required is a curious and probing mind and the capacity for dialogue (attributes that are too often missing in conversations around the water cooler or at the dinner table). And while we may wrestle with weighty matters that can ignite strong emotions, we want to be able to treat them playfully and with a disinterested passion for clarity that avoids partisanship, ad hominem arguments, grandstanding, or axe grinding. Such a mental exercise produces pleasure and reduces the pain of confusion and discord that too many conversations can devolve into.
In most other get-togethers we utilize an author's talk, movie, play, article, podcast or video found on the Internet to spark our discussions. TED itself has finally launched TEDxSalons which allow attendees to discuss a TEDxTalk face to face.
The Threat and Promise of Diversity
We accept the "incorrect" finding that more diverse groups tend to reduce civic engagement. In more heterogeneous communities, people participate less as measured by how they allocate their time, their money, their voting, and their willingness to take risks to help others. Today, we notice how political differences have grown more acrimonious making good conversation even more elusive.
Ethnic and Social Heterogeneity
This controversial finding is difficult to interpret. After all, the bridging between groups that eventually reduces long-term conflict cannot easily occur if those groups are not in contact as America used to experience in previous generations of immigrants, though they were mostly of European and Asian origin. What really needs to be established is what factors facilitate the growth of social capital in contexts where the starting point is characterized by strong ethnic and social fissures but which hold out the possibility of an enriched community. In other words, how do we reduce "Trumpism".
An Example of one salon
Afterwards, we walked over to the Jupiter restaurant for THE MAIN EVENT--our discussion--accompanied by pizza (voted best in the East Bay) and a brewski. We broke into smaller groups so all could participate and hear each other. The ethnic and racial diversity were both irrelevant and advantageous for enhancing our discussion because of a diversity of experience.