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Why Alternative Culture? by Royce Carlson


There are a growing number of people who are coming to believe that the Western cultural model of behavior is not the optimal model for humanity and they are exploring options. What was mainstream in the last century may not be mainstream now. Conversely, current fringe ideas (to the Western mind) may become mainstream in the future. We, at Zenzibar, want to see what ideas are out there that might provide new ways of living that will be healthier and better for humanity. In addition, we love to see what limits and norms people are challenging and enjoy the immense creative activity of people exploring the edges of culture.

In the Zenzibar directory, we list alternatives to Western mainstream culture. The countries of the West, wherever they may be, share a common cultural ancestry. The culture in New Zealand has a lot more in common with the culture in the U.S.A. than it does with Indonesia for example. Although there are subtle differences between each of the so-called Western countries, the cultures are based on the same premises.

The word "culture" applies to much more than just the arts. "Alternative culture" applies to all behaviors and interests which are different than the prevailing, or mainstream, behaviors and interests within a given geographical area or a given shared ancestry. If you were to interview a representative sample of Americans, asking them questions about a particular interest, which sports they like, for example, and you were to graph their responses, you would probably get a bell shaped curve. The center of the bell would be the mainstream, consisting of the most popular American sports like baseball, and the edges would be unusual sports like curling.


Hereís a little chart showing examples of differences between mainstream and alternative:









Top 40





Selling products

Barter or sharing products



Call your doctor

Call a shaman



Nuclear family, in a house or apartment

10 women, 7 men, 8 kids, in a commune



Representational Democracy











If you live in a Western culture you will already know what the examples in the "Mainstream" column are and what they mean. You may not know what some of the items listed in the "Alternative" column refer to. Thatís because they are alternative!


In selecting sites to list in Zenzibar I have to make an arbitrary distinction sometimes whether a site is alternative or not. Some interests and behaviors are almost mainstream and these are the hardest ones to decide on. The ones that are way out there are easy. Also, some of the sites listed are mainstream somewhere, just not in the West. Thatís why there is a category on Buddhism, for example. Itís a major religion, but itís not major in the West.


In creating a directory of alternative culture web sites, we hope to make the alternative stuff more easily available to those who are wondering whatís out there on the edges of our culture. There is a lot of very interesting stuff. Why live the way everyone else lives? Why not try something different?

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