For ages, one of the most important questions has been what characterizes people’s lives as human beings. In this sense, the way how people think, believe and behave should be considered. In other words, individual values are crucial to shape people’s lives. However, it cannot be ignored that people live in societies which bring people together. Hence, it is almost impossible to think that individual values are not affected by societal norms. Since society creates its own moral, social, political, economic and traditional values, people individualize common values and apply them in their own lives.
Even though all individuals have personal beliefs and thoughts, they cannot ignore general norms in order to keep pace with communal life. Communal life makes people share common cultural aspects. When people experience similar values with each other, they enjoy coming together. Moreover, under particular conditions, values of individuals can change. However, unless they experience acceptance in the society, they usually give up their personal values to correspond with the cultural norms.
Therefore, it can be argued that because people live together, they reflect culture to their lifestyles, thus culture has an important role to hold a society together. To illustrate, in order to examine how people’s attitude changes from culture to culture, values related to cohabitation, homosexuality and morality will be analyzed thoroughly in this essay. The differences between personal values are because of the distinct between the social values. Values are created to show the characteristic of individuals or groups. Hence, they help to understand the differences between people and groups of people.
For example, one person can believe that marriage is an important criterion for living together. However, the other one can think that it is not necessary when they love each other. Hence, these two different people shape their lives differently according to their values and beliefs. When people who have the same point of view with the former person evade having a relationship with the second one, people who support the second idea have a relationship with people who share the same ideas. This shows that what brings people together is shared values.
From this example, it can be thought that cultural values are based on personal values, because personal ones are the first step for creating the general one. It can be right if there is any one else who look at things and events in the same perspective. At this point, Madison highlights that “Values may be held individually, socially, or both. However, in some cases, individual values may seem worthless without social understanding and acceptance” (2011, p. 1) It can be understood from his statement that when individual values are accepted by common society, they gain importance and validity.
In other words, social values are more effective than personal values. Even if personal ones change under particular situations, people shape their own values according to social values. Another reason why personal values are affected by social norms is the desire of acceptance in the society. People generally wanted to be accepted by society. Although every one tries to display their own identity, they cannot be independent from the society. When any struggle for new ideas are taken into consideration, it can be observed that opponents of these ideas try to be recognized by the society.
To exemplify, homosexuality is not still regarded as a normal behavior by some cultures. Sam, who is an Indian homosexual, says that “I wish homosexuality was recognized in India like other parts of the world. I too want to get married and adopt children. Those who say that gay men cannot have children are absolutely wrong. As a couple we can bring up our kids very well” (Arora, 2008, p. 2). This comes to mean that they want the society to accept their individual views. Why do people expect the society to do this?
The answer is that social values named culture is more important and effective than individual values. Hence, people like Sam, prefer to live in the cultures which accept homosexuality as normal, or they have to give up their own values for the sake of social order. Therefore, culture brings a society which shares the same opinions together. Another example can be given from Turkey. Turkish society generally does not approve living together without marriage. This does not mean that there is no couple who wants to live together without an official recognition.
This type of couple establishes a relationship with people who have similar approach to romantic relationship. Even, some of these couples marry urged by necessity due to the effect of the culture. As a result, changes in the values under particular conditions do not mean anything, because culture does not change according to personal values. Contrarily, individuals shape their lives with regard to social norms. The last reason why culture structures a person’s perception of the world and shapes his or her values is that culture determines what the general good action and thought is.
In other words, the description of morality in different cultures is important. “Values can be defined as broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes. As such, values reflect a person’s sense of right and wrong or what “ought” to be” (Wikipedia, 2009, p. 1). In other words, cultural values guide people how they should live in the sense of goodness. Therefore, “Members take part in a culture even if each member’s personal values do not entirely agree with some of the normative values sanctioned in the culture” (Wikipedia, 2009, p. ). This can be explained that people think and behave according to the culture of the society they live in to act in a good way. If any action of people is not marked as ‘good action’, people generally abandon their behavior. They try to adapt them to the society. People do not want to be isolated from the society. Hence, people can sometimes have to change their personal values according to the society they live in. This situation is the inevitable result of living together in the society. So, a common culture is created by individuals.
Since their lives are shaped by cultural values, their common culture identifies this society. Therefore, they become a whole, thus culture helps to hold them together. In conclusion, values are important to shape people’s thoughts and behaviors. There are both individual and cultural values in the societies. Although every individual has his/her own way of thinking, they have the common principles in the society. There are so many personalities in the societies, but as a society, they accept the same identity.
When the examples of homosexuality, cohabitation and morality are considered, it can be observed that people can leave their personal values. They do not want to be alien in the society. People desire to have relationship with other people, and to be a part of their society. They created a common culture and obey the rules of this culture. Hence, culture identifies the general characteristic of its members. Since people care the cultural values, they shape their lives according to these values, so they experience the world similarly. Therefore, culture has a great role on holding society together.