Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future. ~Albert Camus
I wrote this blog a few weeks ago but didn’t publish it for some reason I can’t even remember, the top of culture came up again as discussed the book “Radical Pedagogy” by Mark Bracher. Bracher skilfully explored identity in his text, but I realized that I had to also read the book within context, as some of his examples may only be applicable to the “western” school system.
I believe that many in our society recognizes, and sometimes would advocate for the preservation of ones’ “culture”, and from personal experience, these same folks would seldom feel comfortable sharing a brief history about their “culture”. It is argued that Culture is a defining feature of a person’s identity, contributing to how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify, yet it baffles me as to why people would be more apt to talk about their ethnicity rather than culture.
Quite often, Society – “groups of interacting organisms” and Ethnicity – “the identity of groups based on shared characteristics such as language, culture, history or geographic origin”, is used interchangeably for culture to address group/personality identity questions. There is no simple/defining answer to the question, “What is Culture?” in fact, I’m talking about culture from a “behavioral scientific perspective, which see culture has the full range of learned human behavior patterns.
What is quite common today in our society is a multi-ethnic culture that comprises varying numbers of subcultures; just take a look at the Canadian foreign affairs website, though its definition of culture is broad; it gives a great sense of being a part of something grander, what I consider to be the formation of culture/subculture.
Is culture important?
I sat in a presentation for the Support Group for students of African Descent at MSVU, last month, and realized that the classroom was indeed like a mini “UN meeting”, as it had representation from all around the world, yet we don’t see any evidence of these rich cultures on our campus, even during African Heritage Month. What was quite evident, to me, is a group of people who have given up their “ethnic culture” to either create a new culture or to adapt the identity of the dominant culture.
We discussed, in a previous class, that culture is a way of life and that it is important in that it ties people of a region or community together and it also acts as a system of social control, wherein people shape their standards and behaviour. It is also through cultural values that a community gets an identity of its own. So why does culture matter? It makes each of us unique yet on our own we can’t create culture. (Elder-vas, 2012, p.54) argued that culture is produced by norm circles, and that culture and normativity are one and the same.
Let’s put it into context
WHY? Because the dominant cultures are written about, researched, reported on, you got the idea, it is however important to note this is practice is common in most cultures. In identifying the importance of one’s culture I can hear the cries of many writers, like SARA, to be heard and not have to be put into context to accommodate the less dominant cultures/sub-cultures.
More often what happens is a “US vs. THEM” when it we have to put things into context, as it requires the other party to find a similar norm/s to gain a better perspective of the situation. Lewis, (p.19) argues that “our previous values and unshakeable core beliefs take a battering when we venture abroad”, Lewis, (p.22) and pointed out that “our perception of reality may be assisted if we can wear someone else’s shoes for a moment”.
Lewis, (p.53) points out that “The worldviews held by different cultures vary widely, as do a multiplicity of concepts that constitute and represent a variegated outlook of the nature of reality… he used as an e.g. Time, in the western Hemisphere, the US & Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples”.
“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” — Confucius
Most of us are aware that “times have changed,” especially when we compare our lives with those of our parents/children. Some changes I found to be most obvious, would be changes in women’s roles, globalization and changes in technology. But such culture change is not unusual.
An article by Pearson higher education pointed out that “When you examine the history of a society, it is obvious that its culture has changed over time. Some of the shared behaviors and ideas that were common at one time are modified or replaced at another time. That is why, in describing a culture, it is important to understand that a description pertains to a particular time period.
I believe that it is this change in culture, with its two-fold effect, has been effective in creating a new culture/subculture. On the positive side, as people move around the world they exchange/trade ideas, knowledge, customs, etc that should allow both parties to benefit, on the other hand the issues of Ethnocentrism, racism, etc develops.
Most researchers recognize the damaging effects that the issues of ethnocentrism, racism, etc can bring to a culture and would advocate for the preservation of that culture, for example, African Heritage Month. It was quite evident to me and many other MSVU Students of African Descent, that our understanding of African culture was not the same.
The article by Pearson higher education also pointed out that “Cognitive anthropologists are most likely to say that culture refers to rules and ideas behind behavior, and therefore that culture resides in people’s heads.” A statement I don’t entirely agree with and will explain why shortly, but instead would advocate somewhat for culture preservation.
I’ve had many personal conversations with international students, students of African descent and Native/First Nations here at MSVU and have heard this time and time again, and it matters not if the student was native to Nova Scotia or from a different country, they are expected to be ambassadors for their ethnic group and be ready and willing to answer when asked about things “Native” or “African”, you get the point.
My convection for the recognition of the changes in culture is personal, but I’m also reminded that no one culture is better than the other, but has the ability to, especially in education, transfer/share unique skills and knowledge that would benefit all.
Lewis, R. (2006). When Cultures Collide. LEADING ACROSS CULTURES , 18-54. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_change http://anthro.palomar.edu/change/change_2.htm http://www.micsem.org/pubs/counselor/frames/cult_lossfr.htm http://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/hip/us/hip_us_pearsonhighered/samplechapter/0205711200.pdf