Culture is shorthand for trust.
It allows individuals within a group to relax around one another because there’s a common understanding and embodiment of what it means to be in this group.
No need for explanations. No need for translations.
In its best form, it is a low-cortisol, nurturing environment.
Part of culture is acceptance and rejection
This is what creates the veil of safety.
A lot of culture is not explicit (i.e. written in a rulebook) and is hard to acquire on your own without a willing guide from that culture.
A group should be able to define who is and who isn’t part of the group (e.g. threats) quickly as it could be a matter of survival. This creates a boundary, and it can be more or less permeable depending on how inclusive it chooses to be.
Flexible culture creates a sense of belonging through a chosen group
Some cultures are more rigid, and believe that people with X type of traits are automatically part of the membership (even against the individual’s own will). Others are more flexible, and based on self-selection.
Self-selecting groups like marrying for love, or finding a community around a hobby, generate a great sense of belonging, and the internet has super-charged this feature by virtually connecting the world of individuals like never before.
The strength of all cultures come through resonance
The strongest cultural embodiments will be part of an individual’s identity.
These individuals, with no external assistance, will vibrate that frequency 24/7 like a radio station.
Consequently, the weakest implementations of culture are imposed. They have no power within the individual and are abandoned at first chance. Most relationships defined by power hierarchies are brittle that way.
Resonance is the coordination of values
Be it a residents association that rallies all neighbours around a community cause (no matter what demographic), or if it is TikTok users rallying around grand political pranks, the coordination of values is the most useful feature of culture that translates into action.
In closing: Culture is the glue of civilization
Whatever form it is taking, we should care enough to be discerning with how cultures are made or erased. It is what holds us together and what allows us to reduce the friction of coordination.
Without culture, humans would just be another animal in the animal kingdom.