At the university, one has to choose a General Education Module, the so called GEM, which is supposed to make a student an all-rounder. Sadly we notice the removal of many GEM modules this year, notably Communication Skills, Physical Education, Methodologie de Ľécrit and amongst others. Students are required to choose GEM modules which are not being offered by their respective faculty. Well, as part of my GEM, I have chosen Understanding Society, which seems rather fascinating till yet. So why not a bit of review on the interesting topic on the Module which is: Culture.
When we are born, we have no language, no values, no morality, no ideas about religion, money, love and so on. However, not at this point of life, we have “orientation” over these issues. These “orientations” are identified as cultuer by sociologits. They are the lenses through which we perceive and evaluate what is going on in our social environment.
Photo Courtesy: Namaste in Indian, gassho in Japanese, heshi in Chinese, wai in Thai cultures
What is Culture?
Culture can be the dominant values that give direction for the day-to-day activities of people in society, comprising of the symbolic values and beliefs, intellectual and artistic achievements, traditions and rituals as well as the dominant patterns of living.
1. Culture is being seen as a state of mind – an individual who is cultured is someone who has some goals and ideas of perfection or aspirations to achieve. It is a quality that one comes to possess so as to gain some intellectual and learning capabilities. This perspective has an elitist view of humanity and sees individuals as superior than others.
2. Culture is related to the idea of civilisation – some socieities are seen as superior than other societies
3. Culture is the collective body of arts and intellectual work within any society (high culture): in this context culture is found in the highest level of human creativity and social life, i.e. in theatres, concert halls, art galleries and libraries. Some examples of high culture can be the musical composition of Mozart and Beethoven, the paintings of Picasso, the literatures of Shakespeare and Moliere.
4. Culture is a whole way of life: the collection of ideas and habits that are learnt, shared and transmitted from generation to generation. It means the patterns of normal behaviour that are expected from members of a particular society. We can also note that culture form our own personality by making us becoming social beings.
Assimilation is the process whereby distinct groups put aside their own culture and adopt that of a particular group. The following clip gives a good example of the concept.
The craze for eating fast foods – Pizza Hut, KFC, MCDonalds; Monks eating hamburgers and drinking coke
Availability of Cable TV
The clips shows a small sequence of Eskimos; According to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, Eskimo have different words for falling snow, snow on the ground, hard-packed snow etc.
Santa Claus and Africa; Coca-Cola
An interesting quote from the article by Louis de Lamare entitled: Cultural Globalisation what is it?
People watch American movies and soaps. The fast food chains are common even in traditional societies like india. We can cite many examples where the western life style, be it wearing levis jeans, using cellular phone, using the English language are becoming more and more popular in developed or newly developed world, as well as in the third world countries. We are all becoming the same and in so doing we are embracing a global culture.
It is a fact that the United States dominates the global traffic in information and ideas and as statistics show: 75% of the prepackaged Software, 60% of prerecorded music, 32% of books come from America not to say how American way of life is becoming the mode.
While it can be true, to some extent, that the American economic and cultural attraction has won over the hearts and minds of the majorities of the young people of the western world, it cannot be said with the same certainly that it is the case in the other parts of the world. We have to consider that today millions of Africans live in absolute poverty, that fundamentalism and extremism are on the rise, that most the Asian countries are still entrenched in their traditional culture, that most of the islands of the Indain Ocean, the Caribbean and the Pacific still have strong feeling about their heritage.