miércoles, 28 de marzo de 2007

What is culture?

When the Berlin wall fell down America was the first one out the gate to jump on the globalization train. Some countries are right behind America and others still haven’t left the starting line. Why was America first? Because right off the bat America was the most prepared, with a democratic government and free market capitalistic system already in place, which is essential to be successful in the new fast paced global world. So when it came time for America to do business with other countries they were never on even playing fields. America is much more advanced and experienced with capitalism and business than other countries. So when America puts a Wal-Mart in Mexico all the other similar Mexican businesses go belly up because they can’t compete with the advanced American businesses model. It’s survival of the fittest and only the strong survive in this new world. This may look like America is taking over and ruining cultures, but really it is the more advanced American businesses that are out performing the weaker foreign businesses.
What is culture anyway? Wikipedia defines it as the patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance. Most general, the term culture denotes whole product of an individual, group or society of intelligent beings. It includes technology, art, science, as well as moral systems and characteristic behaviors and habits of the selected intelligent entities. In particular, it has specific more detailed meanings in different domains of human activities.
Understanding and recognizing your own culture is difficult because you live in it everyday. Its like how the last discovery fish ever made was water. It’s only after you go to a different country that you recognize how your country does things differently.
I think too often what people call culture may just be traditions caused by a lower standard of living or their type of government. Maybe this explains why it is so hard for me to define American culture. When I’m asked what a common dish in America is I have a hard time finding an answer. It has to do in part with the fact that America is made up of a country of immigrants, so it’s a big mix of everything, but maybe it’s because we don’t have as many eccentric habits caused by poverty or deep rooted attitudes that are caused from oppressive governments.
Globalization threatens the distinctiveness and cultures that locate and anchor people in the world. But what is the different between culture and living standards? In Mexico you can buy drinks in a plastic bag instead of a cup; is that culture, or is it their lack of money? Surely they would serve drinks in cups if everyone could afford it. Are the public busses that are falling apart part of the culture, or is it because they can’t afford new ones? If the standard of living rose 100% in Mexico, what so called cultural things would disappear? People would still eat tacos but instead they would eat them in nicer restaurants instead of in the street. You wouldn’t be able to buy pirated stuff all over the place because with more money Mexico would have stricter piracy laws. What really defines culture? Where is the line between culture and the amount of money you make?
What is the difference between government and culture? Many cultures are based off of communism or socialism and they say they are losing their culture but maybe what they are really losing is they perceived right to have generous welfare from the government. Are they losing their culture or do they not want to adapt to a world where they have to go to work 40 hours a week like those capitalistic Americans? If the socialist governments switched to democracies, what so called cultural traditions would be lost?
In the Mexican culture they are very close to their families. They also believe that in the American culture families are not as close as theirs. They think this because in America when you turn 18 it isn’t unusual for the 18 year old to move away from home to go to college or go to work. If someone is 25 years old and still lives at home with Mom and Dad that person is considered to be a loser or a nerd. But it is not uncommon for Mexicans to live at home well into their twenties, usually not moving out until they are married, and even then they may still live with their parents after marriage. When you tell a Mexican that in America you move out at age 18 they think Americans aren’t very close to their families and that Americans are just workaholic capitalists that can’t wait to forget about family to start making money. But do Mexicans live at home for so long because they are close to their family’s, or is it because it makes more sense economically? As more young Mexicans start to adapt to the capitalistic economy I bet that they will move out of home at an earlier age.
When you take away the traditions that are caused from a lowered living standard and a socialistic government what’s left? Losing differences in cultures if sad but it almost seems inevitable. Its bad not just because foreign vacationers will feel like they can never get away from home, but because those things that we associate with home that anchor us in the world will be lost and therefore we will feel lost as well.

1 comentario:

Marc Jorgensen dijo...

Zach, this is a pretty interesting blog- I have no fancy response right now, but what about the culture of music or art, or the style of conversation? you should check out the European Awakening Entry on Paul Allen's Blog.