Mary Strachan Scriver
5 min readJun 2, 2021

Horizontal cultures are those that develop without particular reference to place or eco-geology that requires certain unities like what people eat or wear, so that they recognize each other and may even look like each other. I made this term up myself, but possibly so did others. You could google.

Horizontal cultures develop from special interests due to natural inclination, education, travel and other multi-place influences like fusion food or music, and electronic means like television, videos, and the internet. Arts can create horizontal cultures around classical skill-based phenomena like orchestras or ballet.

Social stigmas create horizontal cultures. Some begin to take PRIDE in their stigmas and define it as special, even elite, like being indigenous. Others form in people so young that they can’t quite grasp the definition, like those pertaining to sex. Then there’s always crime, different kinds and degrees of crime.

Horizontal cultures may not be tangible except for newsletters, meeting places, special clothing or objects or instruments, all of which enable or result from networks formed by friendships or shared goals.

A genetic family is a mixed culture since it is biologically continuous but may or may not be joined as a horizontal culture as is a generation. Those in a similar time or place may feel connected and even live close to each other, but events can separate them even over long distances or time. Horizontal family cultures and ties can include people who have no shared biology.

Horizontal cultures might be based on a concept that is seen as a “thing” but doesn’t really exist except as an idea. If the concept disappears, and if it was the basis for identity and prestige, the people who depended on it can be very distressed. To them it was absolutely real. A good example is my father’s side of my family who are convinced that being Scottish is something real, proud, and absolutely present at Highland Games events. They go to visit Strachan, even if they aren’t named Strachan anymore and bought their crest and tartan from a shop.

But more serious is the mafia network that supported Trump covertly and linked him to Putin because the horizontal culture of trans-national wealth stealing is stronger than any nation. We are lacking the planetary forces for justice that could address them, but we are NOT lacking the horizontal access of the Internet which now makes their money-moving obvious. One used to have to tote bars of gold or silver to move money. Now it only takes a keyboard and program. They didn’t figure that out in time to keep from being caught.

Another horizontal culture was formed when men declared they were gay and proud of it, though they didn’t look any different and weren’t physically different except perhaps at the molecular level. Then they shattered into more horizontal cultures, some because of surviving AIDS or trying to help those who didn’t because such intense shared experiences form a culture. Some responded to an elaborating definition of what “gay” could mean besides having sex with a person of the same sex, partly because of identifying “gay” people in history (some of them remarkably high status and competent), partly because of add-ons like age or artistic temperament or adventures, partly because of clothes or music or movies. The question arose of whether female people could be “gay,” since testosterone was involved. (Is “lesbian” really equivalent?)

The concept of the “Western” supposedly about cowboys started out to be something real, a matter of location, but then became a distinct culture as people were formed by it, and then de-evolved into a horizontal culture that detached into a marketing device for specialty clothes, art, music and the like.

I need to think more about what that meant in my life since I was part of it. The Sixties when I was with Bob was the period when Western art became a money-making culture and was reinforced by the creation of institutions like the Buffalo Bill Historical Complex, the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Glenbow Museum, and the Montana Historical Society, to name those we were involved with. It was a period when the capitalist resource developers, destructive empire builders, were anxious to re-define themselves as “Westerners”. Since many had sunk money into collections of gear and art, they were easy to tempt into building museums of a “proud heritage.”

Something similar happened to the indigenous tribes of the continent. They began to group politically and then winnow out concepts they thought were shared by all. This was not easy since Euro-English didn’t necessarily have words for the concepts. German worked better since they had never quite given up on nature even if it were called an “eco-system.” Like “naturliebhaber” — nature life haver. Germans love American indigenous tribes because they have never forgotten their own roots in tribes.

But Trump, who is mostly German, identifies with the Visigoths who destroyed the Greek democracy. Some, trying to discover first causes of human destructive behavior, hark back to the Eurasian Steppes approximately 3500 BCE when people first rode horses. Sitting up there so powerful and dominating is a strong posture still used by police. Trump has never sat on a horse, but Putin has. The idea, the sensation, the distinction may have led to a horizontal culture of domination, like cavalry or Janjaweed in Africa.

This superiority is mimicked by automobile culture which supports gangs and allows enormous mobility. As Vera Katz, mayor of Portland, once said, “A gang can kill in Portland and be with their mamas in LA by the next day.” Autos support the transportation of heavy weapons or bodies. But this is a horizontal culture, not attached to place or way of life except as parasites. It could be dispersed because it is only a concept that responds to circumstances.

There is so much about automobile culture that is part of our nationhood and defended by the idea of superiority due to ownership, that it won’t disperse anytime soon. It is related to the actual existence of cities and highways between them, which are vital to our corporation-based capitalism. These are what are attacked by war because their loss is crippling.

Horizontal orientation emphasizes equality.

Vertical orientation emphasizes hierarchy.

Individualism emphasizes independent self-construals, exchange relationships, attitudes, and personal goals.

Collectivism emphasizes interdependent self-construals, communal relationships, norms, and in-group goals.


“We argue for the importance of a relatively new cultural distinction in the horizontal (valuing equality) or vertical (emphasizing hierarchy) nature of cultures and cultural orientations. A review of the existing cross-cultural literature is presented suggesting that, although the contribution of the horizontal/vertical distinction is sometimes obscured by methods that conflate it with other dimensions, its impact is distinct from that associated with individualism– collectivism.”



Mary Strachan Scriver

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.