TODAY -

"Cultural changes is one of man's greatest falls from grace"

Khams Zotal *



In our journey called Life, there is only one thing that give us a sense of belonging that is "our culture". Yes, the moral value of the people of a community also represent their culture. I'm scare we all missed the important of culture. Both traditional culture and modern culture are alike. Any culture is a system of learned and shared meanings. People learn and share things over the course of generations, and so we say they are a culture. Traditional and modern culture function similarly because both are ways of thinking, ways of relating to people and to the universe.

The beginning of culture was language. The first word was culture. Someone looked up from whatever else was going on and said something, and that first word was the building block of all human culture. Traditional and modern culture are alike in another way. Both developed to accommodate their surroundings. Both work for people because they are suited to local environmental conditions. A farming culture of Manipur would not work as well in Bihar. The lifestyle in metro cities like Bangalore or Delhi may not be possible in some rural areas.

But Culture of any kind works best (and longest) if it is well adapted to local conditions. The shift from rural life to urban life is at the core of the development of modern culture.

While traditional and modern culture may be similar in some ways, in some very significant ways they are clearly different from each other. Traditional culture, such as our human ancestors enjoyed, is held together by relationships among people -- immediate family, extended family, clan and tribe. Everyone lives nearby. Everyone knows how he or she fits into the mix because relationships, and the behaviors that go along with them, are clearly defined.

"Brother" is someone toward whom I must act like a brother. "Uncle" is someone from whom I expect a certain kind of behavior. If I violate what is expected, everyone will know. Perhaps there will be severe consequences.

In the modern culture, most people live in nuclear families. Many have only occasional contact with family members outside the immediate household. Young people quickly learn that their importance depends on how many and what kind of things they can control. Eventually they learn that power -- personal, economic, social, political, religious, whatever -- gets things done.

Modern culture has a tendency to spread out, to build empires, to capitalize on as many resources as possible. Modern culture seems to be held together by power and things, not by people and relationships. In modern culture people learn that business life is separate from personal life, but in traditional culture things are not that simple, the principles and values that guide spiritual and ceremonial life are the same principles and values that guide political life.

Thus in traditional culture, the compartmentalizing or separating of business and personal life, of religious and political life, would not work. You cannot separate how you treat your trade partners from how you treat your cousins if they are the same people. You cannot separate your spiritual values from your political values if they are the same values.

The modern culture thrives on change. It creates new goods and services, and teaches us to want them. It adds new technologies, things and ideas at an increasingly rapid rate, Change in modern culture is propelled by all the same forces that cause change in traditional culture, only in modern culture the changes happen more quickly. Modern culture is a more mutable system that tends to change often.

Another way in which traditional culture and modern culture differ is in their relationship to environment. Traditional cultures lived in close contact with their local environment. This taught that nature must be respected, cooperated with, in certain ritualized ways.

One did not make huge changes in the environment, beyond clearing fields for agriculture and villages. Society saw itself as part of nature; its spiritual beliefs and values held humans as the kinsmen of plants and animals. These differences in the way traditional and modern culture perceive and interact with the environment have various consequences for the humans in those cultures. Not the least of these is the difference in sustainability.

A culture that lives in relative harmony with its environment has a greater likelihood of sustaining itself than does a culture that destroys its environment. The culture of our human ancestors existed for thousands of years without doing any substantive damage to the ecosystem. In a very few centuries modern culture has eliminated or endangered numerous plant and animal species, degraded many waterways and negatively impacted the health of many of its citizens: "better" living.

Modern culture is built upon knowledge. The more bits of knowledge one controls -- a larger database, a larger computer memory -- the more power one has. Modern culture produces new bits of knowledge so rapidly that sometimes our computers tell us "Memory is Full!" People in modern culture are more likely to feel that things are changing, that bits of knowledge are coming at them, so rapidly that they cannot absorb it all, cannot make sense of it all. Modern culture is long in knowledge.

The traditional culture had a broad base of knowledge, as well. All plants and animals in the local environment were known by name and by their potential usefulness to humans. Weather, geology, astronomy, medicine, politics, history, language and so on were all parts of a complex integrated body of knowledge. But in traditional culture life went on beyond knowledge, to the level of wisdom -- seeing the patterns in the bits of knowledge -- and to the level of understanding -- realizing that there are more profound patterns made by the patterns of wisdom.

In modern culture, the elders tend to think of traditional culture as "primitive," "backward," somehow "childlike." In traditional culture, on the other hand, the elders tend to think of modern culture as "hollow," "ignorant," somehow "childlike." But modern culture tends to take over traditional culture because modern culture is powerful, it goes fast. And it advertises. And "the shift from traditional to modern culture was one of man's greatest falls from grace".


* Khams Zotal wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 30, 2015.


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