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Caribbean Journal of Education

Confronting the Culture of Cruelty Creating the Future through Our Schools

133 - 152
Publication Date: 
September 2001

Do we have a culture of cruelty? To answer that question, one of the first things we would need to know is what we mean by a culture. I use the word culture as some anthropologists have used it, to mean a system of meaning. It is a system whereby we give meaning to our daily lives and we express that meaning symbolically. Let me give you an example. There is nothing particular about eating. Described as a physi­cal act, eating is simply masticating-you put food in your mouth, you masticate, you swallow, and that is eating. But when the act of eating is enclosed in how you eat, when you eat, with whom you eat, and what you eat and do not eat, then you speak of culture. Thus, there are some taboos about eating; eating types of meats, for example-some cultures have taboos about pork, some about beef. It is that aspect of eating which we consider cultural. It is not the act of eating as such, but what we bring to eating, whom we eat with.

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