Saturday, November 15, 2014

What matters?


Culture is what matters in the broader scheme of life, not politics or economics. Cultural needs are what we want politics and economics to address, but too often it gets lost in the mass forgetting that is modern life.

When we grapple with issues from immigration to drug laws, from care of the elderly to house prices, the things we want and need are cultural. What we usually get is a turgid mix of politics, economics and posturing - and narrative of course. Always narrative.

The trouble with cultures is that they change too slowly for the impatient rhetoric of social and political activists, too slowly for big business, too slowly for global bureaucrats. So culture comes in last as a political issue fit for the masses.

Take these two extracts from Wikipedia's view of culture. Firstly we have Cicero's cultivation of the soul.

Culture (/ˈkʌltʃər/, from Latin: cultura, lit. "cultivation") is a concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Romanorator Cicero: "cultura animi" (cultivation of the soul).

Next we have a more modern version where the soul has mysteriously disappeared. Not that I believe in the reality of my soul, but it's a pretty good metaphor for something within me that I feel entitled to value. I'm not too keen on its apparent disappearance.

In the 20th century, "culture" emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be directly attributed to genetic inheritance. Specifically, the term "culture" in American anthropology had two meanings:

  1. the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and
  2. the distinct ways that people, who live differently, classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.

I suppose that what I really want to do is to preserve whatever old goodnesses there may be in the world. I am not in the least ashamed of being old-fashioned. There’s nothing whatever that even you could say that will make me ashamed of being old-fashioned.
Ford Madox Ford - The New Humpty Dumpty (1912)

No doubt many of us agree with Ford in that we wish to preserve whatever old goodnesses there may be in the world, but possibly not at the expense of being thought old-fashioned. Unfortunately, any well-established and valued culture is bound to be old-fashioned. It’s in the nature of the thing.

So with a kind of furtive inevitability the modern state drives welfare wedges between generations, between young and old between parents and children. The state needs to wipe its citizens clean, create Locke's tabula rasa to be written on by the official needs of the moment.

The state, global bureaucracies and global business need each generation to forget what previous generations knew until we end up with a culturally cleansed generation fit for global citizenship. One which knows nothing of the past and even less of a world beyond the narratives. One with no culture.


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Sackerson said...

Family and history.

Nick Drew said...

I recall Parky asking Rowan Atkinson this once: he replied

well, music, of course - nothing else matters, does it?

James Higham said...

but possibly not at the expense of being thought old-fashioned

Not the slightest problem with being old-fashioned - badge of honour.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - yes, although families are smaller and more fragmented than they were.

Nick - music is fine as something to enjoy but pretty thin fare on an intellectual level.

James - I tend to agree, but badges are labels and labels are generally misused by others.

Wildgoose said...

We used to evolve primarily genetically.

With the development of language we could pass ideas, experience, philosophy, rules and so on orally. With this we have the beginnings of different cultures and way of acting and interacting with the world. Societies can form consisting of more than around 150 individuals which was the previous limit for a human grouping.

Writing is a technological singularity. Suddenly it is possible for a conversation to be had that is not in real time and which can be recorded permanently. Writing enables conversation across huge distances of both space and time. History begins.

Instead of individual bands (< 150 people) we now have individual cultures held together by a language and a way of viewing the world and acting. These societies compete and evolve.

Like any multi-celled organism, the organism can be killed by cancer from within.

That's what our culture and way of life is facing right now. The pernicious evils that are "multi-culturalism", (our society is no better), "moral relativism" (it is their culture to oppress their women, e.g. niqab, burka, FGM, who are we to object), and direct attacks (such as "Political Correctness") on the aspects that made our societies successful in the first place (such as Free Speech).

They are not even subtle about it - they openly disparage English culture (the most successful in these islands) in particular. Sneering at anything that celebrates being English from the Cross of St George upwards. Which is why we have to make a stand. Because if not, their poison wins by default.