Culture is an inherent part of social life, as it defines the way in which people think, act and respond to situations. Material culture entails the physical objects that symbolize a people’s way of life. For instance, camels may signify a nomadic way of life, as portrayed in Exiled, Bjorn Episode 4. Nonmaterial culture, on the other hand, is the set of values and ideas that govern people’s social and private lives. They include the norms, beliefs, value systems, language, mores and folklores.
Different people have different cultures, most of which conflict in terms of their material and nonmaterial aspects. In the TV program “Exiled,” Bjorn, Full Episode 4, there is an apparent clash between the Western and Arabic cultures, as portrayed by the characters of Bjorn and Said respectively. As demonstrated in the following discussion, the former leans more towards materialism, while the latter tends to strike a balance between material and nonmaterial aspects of culture.
Bjorn is sent off by his parents to Morocco, a desert country in North Africa as a way of teaching him the importance of hard work and responsibility. Coming from the American upper class society, Bjorn is given to the easy life of affluence and luxury. Consequently, his world outlook is defined by materialistic culture he comes from. It is a world of opulence: mansions, luxury and air conditioned cars and rich foods. Upon his arrival in Morocco, he is appalled by what Said calls a home: a dilapidated building that, properly speaking, is more of a museum than a home. It has a shared bathroom and a stinking toilet, Said sleeps on a mat on the floor, and the family eats pigeons for beef, in addition to the fact that they cannot afford cooking gas, and instead uses camel dung. It is a big cry from the luxury back at home.
As noted before, symbols are part of the material objects that define a people’s way of life. In the TV program, sleeping on a mat is reflective of Said’s religion, Islam. The mat is an important object in the Islamic way of worship and praying. Likewise, camels represent the Arab world’s nomadic lifestyle and their adaptation to their desert environment. Of similar significance are the burbur clothes, sandals and scarf offered to Bjorn by his host. In stark contrast, Bjorn’s home and its luxuries; his bed, cars and flashy clothes mirror the western lifestyle that is captured in the American Dream. It portrays the western emphasis on material success, and the sense of security it offers.
Language provides a group’s medium of communication. However, language contains symbols that reveal the cultural background of the speakers. Bjorn’s reference to fast air- conditioned cars reflect a culture of affluence, laziness and impatience- the English expression “Time is money” comes to mind in explaining Bjorn’s shock at the ‘tiring,’ literally speaking, thought of riding a bicycle for three hours when a car can have the job done in fifteen minutes.
Values represent a society’s system of codes that govern private and social behavior. In Said’s culture, girl-boy relationships are restricted and marked with mutual respect. Bjorn is amazed that Said does not have a girlfriend. His understanding of leisure is limited to partying with friends and dating. In Said’s world, leisure is spent on dancing and singing, which emphasizes the high regard that the Moroccans’ have of their tradition. To Bjorn, nobody is concerned about traditions, for there is none in the first place.
Beliefs represent people’s convictions about the world and life in general. Bjorn believes that parents are the sole breadwinners. In fact, he bluntly told his parents that they work and therefore should just give him money- something he believes they naturally owe him. On the contrary, Said is convinced that one must work in order to eat, as well as provide for his kin. This aspect serves to further illustrate the individualistic nature of the Western world as compared to the communal approach taken by Said’s people. The organization of the American nuclear family stems from this tendency to narrow interests to the individual, as opposed to the extended family of Said. Actually, Bjorn stated it more clearly when he asked Said regarding clothes: “Can’t I dress in an individual way, just as I want?”
Norms are the set of rules and principles that dictate social life. In Said’s culture, male members have the responsibility of feeding their families, such as hen he collects camel dung for cooking, hunts pigeons for food and collects coal to earn money. Bjorn, on the other hand, waits for Dad and Mom to sweat it out for him.
Mores are codes for appropriate behavior towards other members of society. In Bjorn’s western culture, there is no respect for one’s parents, since he can argue with them over what he considers their duty to give him money. On the other hand, there is a strong sense of respect for the elderly is portrayed by Said when he introduces Bjorn to his family members. Not surprisingly, there were no incidences of arguments between Said and his parents or elder brother, as each member kept to within his bounds of duty.
Folkways represent a people’s way of passing the elements of culture from one generation to another. In Said’s culture, this is done through dancing and singing. In Bjorn’s culture, there is no definite medium of cultural transmission. However, dating and partying during leisure time can be said to represent the western world’s socializing arena in which social values are shared and learned.
Subculture is the set of values shared among a group within a larger group. For instance, Bjorn and his 16-yers friends have a common subculture, namely the belief that life is all about partying, hiking, gifts and dating, and that their parents should provide for the fulfillment of these needs.
This is the belief (also a theory) that stipulates that no culture is inferior in relation to another, and that every culture is important and useful as long as it serves the needs of the people who conform to that culture. This is one of the themes in the Exiled, Bjorn Episode 4, as both Said’s and Bjorn’s cultures reflect the lifestyles of the respective societies in which they belong.
This is the spreading of ideas across cultural boundaries, such that cultural values of one culture are absorbed into another through the socialization and interaction of members from both cultures. In the TV program under study, Bjorn’s adventure into Morocco shaped his attitude towards physical labor, something he initially resented. It also changed his regard for the value of money as he became more responsible in spending.
Ethnocentrism is a narrow view of other cultures, whereby individuals regard theirs as superior to others. Actually it is the opposite of cultural relativism due to the objectivity of the latter and subjectivity of the former. Bjorn exhibits an ethnocentric view of the Moroccan culture on his first days, because he compared its reflection of poverty and backwardness (like collecting camel dung with bare hands) to the flashy American lifestyle.
In conclusion, Bjorn presents a culture that is founded on the deceptive American Dream, which promises a life of ease and luxury. The fact that it is an illusionary culture is portrayed by the lack of satisfaction of its members: however rich, Bjorn’s family is not the ideal one envisioned in the American dream, since nobody is satisfied with the status quo of things. He is never satisfied with money, and his parents are tired with is demands. When Said caught a desert bug and told it was just that, he (Bjorn) said it can’t be true, that Said was kidding (joking). But who is joking, really? The biggest joker is he who fails to se reality: the real desert bug, the importance of hard work and the hollowness of materialism. On the contrary, Said is the image of reality, the reflection of society’s daily struggles for survival.
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