September 23, 2017
From the watches on our wrists or the coins that we deal to the airplanes that we board, alloys are the underlying constituents of most everyday objects. An alloy is a compound mixture or union of distinct parties that exchange characteristics to optimize a desired outcome. For example, iron is strong as a stand-alone metal, yet it can be quite brittle and will easily rust. However, when carbon is added to iron, steel is formed with much harder rustproof properties, enabling its use in various fields such as architecture and construction work.
Much like the aforementioned metal mixtures, communities are comprised of different alloys aiming to not only co-exist but also have a sense of mutuality. Such mutuality can be achieved in two manners. In the “Salad Bowl” theory, people keep their own basic beliefs and ways of life while adapting to the general characteristics of the culture. On the other hand, in the “Melting Pot” theory, individuals conform to the mainstream culture.
Both the “Salad Bowl” and “Melting Pot” theories could be considered as cultural alloys. Over the years, sociologists have been trying to determine which is the better approach.
Contrary to popular belief, alloys are not necessarily manufactured; some alloys occur naturally. Electrum is a natural alloy that consists of gold and silver. The individual elements are exposed to circumstances, triggering the formation of an alloy. Such can also occur on a personal level, where people face circumstances that dictate an alloy of morals, principles, and emotions. When you travel, you create your own alloy of memories. When you buy a new book you’ve wanted to read for a long time, you are about to create an alloy of knowledge.
Whenever alloys are made, impurities are undesirable and a lot of effort is exerted to keep them at a minimum.
In the figurative sense, how are we dealing with the alloys that exist within us?
“You who won’t allow one percent of impurity into an alloy of metal—what have you allowed into your moral code?”