Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MYSTERY OF CULTURAL BELT : (Chapter 2: "What is Culture?")

Let us begin from beginning. We in this way or that keep on mentioning culture from different point of views to explain or deliberate values or virtues of the individuals or group of people or society as a whole. Culture is a way society or individual expresses its inner form. For any nation or to us or to any society culture is a soul that drives the mankind ahead and governs the psyche of the people living in the society. When we say culture that begins with beliefs, faiths in general we mean to say that those are generally accepted principles of ethics that are followed by the society as a whole or individual that lives in the concerned society. Also the art, literature, architecture or performing arts that demonstrate peculiar way of thinking of the society form the part of the culture. Political system and the way it is implemented too form a part of culture. That may include en numbers of points that makes the culture, and we always find that culture varies with geographical location to location in distinct manner. When we say culture varies that does mean that there are significant differences in beliefs, ways of life, customs and art that drives the particular society located in certain geography.
The question always has been discussed in the principles of ethics as to how to judge an individual or society is cultured or uncultured. It is a question that runs parallel with concepts of good and bad that vehemently are being discussed in the philosophy since wake of civilizations. To determine barbarians were bad culture and Greek was great can not be concluded for it is human trait that drives as to in what form it is going to choose to express its inner form. Egyptians loved to build huge structures and formed their religion and political system of their own whereas Greeks never established any religion but devoted themselves to discuss fundamental questions in systematic manner while building miraculous structures that even today inspire our world. Mongolians loved to conquer lands and wipe out whatever came in their way in violent manner. They didn’t establish empires or political system or permanent settlements or monuments those could remind centuries to come what was their way of thinking was. Though they ruled China too for some time marks of their footprint are rare. Indians preferred to build a civilization that ran parallel with spiritual thinking as well as materialistic approach towards life. They had mastered art of architecture, had developed their script and various religions/sects to suite different segments of the society. How are we going to determine what made one civilizations better over other for there can’t be certain parameters to decide on. The question will always arise whose criterion has to be taken as ultimate measure. What matters is, whether good or bad, cultures did flourish in this particular belt in question that have either way left the influential marks for us to notice, analyze and understand. Creation and destruction goes hand in hand, if Indians were creative Mongols were destructive. If creation is part of culture destruction too is. And to my surprise both cultures flourished in same belt if we look carefully in history.
Culture bears hundreds of aspects and is a most vibrant thing that thrives in the societies to make them ride on the waves of progress. Culture rises and declines; may be at the attack of vandals to give way to new way of life or collapses when internal pressures become unbearable. Culture flourishes through the art…may it be drama, sculpture, paintings, structures, dances, music or any branch of the art that helps one to express his inner self. Culture means the army, protective strategies and offence against other society. Principles of ethics don’t ascribe the good and bad of any society because it always is difficult to determine who is best and who is not for there can not be a concrete judgement from any impartial individual or society.
Culture evolves through science, trade, commerce, industry and loyalty to the professions one adopts because it is not only art that expresses inner self of individual. Aztecs, Arabs, Indians, Phoenicians etc. were great traders those dared vast oceans to trade various kind of merchandise with far away continents.
Culture too includes probing community, inquisitive community, questioning community though the numbers on inquisitors may be small or larger. This has made former civilizations superior over rest of the world. Greeks probed in the matter of fundamental sciences, Indians probed in to origin of universe and science that governed the life. Egyptians, Mayans and Aztecs and Greeks developed their own calendar. Indians knew 1400 years ago that earth was spherical and circled around the sun, knew close value of the pi and discovered zero. They probed in matter of life and death while developing principles of life that could make a better society.
Culture too mean the way people in general look at the life. The way community thinks in general results in its consolidated expression through their physical work. The expression results in creativity or destruction; may be through the art, religion or science or industry. It all depends on inevitable driving force that thrives in a society or civilization. Individuals driving force may vary but entire societies driving force and its outcome in toto reflects what the society is and what kind of values are at display.
Whenever we form an opinion about any culture we derive it from total impression we get from written or monumental proofs.
But what we mean exactly by the word “Culture”?
We simply mean (I am not defining here but going in general sense.) the culture is overall expression of the society in its acceptable or unacceptable norms and forms of life. The standards to rate the culture may differ from person to person or society to society. Every society, many a times tries to look contemptuously upon other society. Many a times they don’t want to know/understand other cultures for they think the culture they live in is superior over others. The cultural egos, thinking that they are only superior, have resulted in many vindictive wars to overpower other culture they hate. Crusades between Christians and Muslims are not only an example but also Muslim v/s Hindu, Hindu’s v/s Buddhists, Christian’s v/s Jews too form a part of superiority complex/ egoism to lead a vindictive terrorism even in our modern times.
There have been plenty of wars in the past that was not only fought for land or woman or expanding empires but to mitigate other cultures. In very recent times Europeans not only occupied vast lands of America but also destroyed the local culture. Intolerance is not a new thing in our human history. Hence, as I have said earlier, creation and destruction both form a part of culture or civilization in question. There simply are no grounds to determine what is good and what is bad for principles of ethics too is creation of egotism.


But still the remains of all the ancient cultures are so dominant that when we look at them we shouldn’t be prejudiced for it is a heritage that has made the world we live in today. Forget those vandals’ likes of Taliban’s that not only gunned down ancient heritage against global protests for again it is part of the culture that is being developed in this belt. If we look at dangerous territories those have threatened the global peace you will find all these tension zones are located in this very cultural belt, no mater whether it is Iran, Iraq, middle east or Pakistan or Afghanistan. These parts of world, no matter whether their vindictiveness can be justified or not, is driving modern times with a threat of destruction. And all modern superpowers that too are not lesser vindictive, are up to establish their unquestionable rule too hail from this very belt, no matter whether it is China, Iraq, or America. Ironically those are Gulf Countries who command modern economy for it is a region from where black gold is pumped out to help run your automobiles. And to think of it, it was the region where many ancient civilizations flourished against wrath of the nature. Three major religions that till date command the religious life of 2/3 global populace was gift of this very land. Should we begin to think that the creative land of past now has become a threat to our world. I think not. It is we who in the process of bringing new order have inevitably forgotten that suppressing a culture for political reasons yields nothing but disaster. Till the time local geography determines the voice of people, no superpower can rule permanently that region unless mass massacre is enforced. History is best proof to support this statement.
No matter even if Mongols changed course of history of many territories by atrocity could not leave permanent footprints of their own culture, though they had conquered half of the globe. Temporarily may it be so that few of the minorities ruled the vast lands and population, with shift of the time they had to meet the inevitable. This applies to vandals and barbarians in same breath. Conquering Iraq or finding Osama Bin Laden can not serve the purpose for very essential principle of any culture is too difficult to analyze on the grounds of superficial analysis that is going to deceive you in long course of time. The theory I am proposing is not for fun sake but I hope that some day it is realized that local geography matters, no matter how powerful you are. USA failed inevitably in Vietnam because it couldn’t understand the geographical limitations that made the civilization that is today. USA never could tame China, no matter how many sanctions it enforced on it. Saddam Hussein till this date couldn’t be dethroned even after many ploys were designed by CIA to assassinate him. He still rules his country in his arrogant manner to the pains of USA, no mater how they have tried to use money to bribe his close associates. (Saddam Hussein was alive when I had written this chapter. Rest of the history is known to each and one.)
To say the least, this belt in question still is alive with its every prospectus that makes today’s world as it is.

But the societies of the past in question should not be looked upon with prejudiced mindsets when history is repeating itself with opposite or semi opposite turns of events. Even if they no more co-exist now in its own form that used to be in their own times for our world can not neglect that it was the belt that survived to form this modern times. Those are the same people from this very same belt that rule our times, socio-politically as well as with science and literature and arts.


To say the least, when back to subject, what we have today to examine these cultures are the remains of their creative minds. The great structures, paintings or epics or philosophy or religious texts and history are the only mediums to make us realize what aspirations had made form the cultures that till today keep on influencing us, either way. Actually we are no better than they were. In fact we stand upon the foundation so strongly they have built for us.

(Next Chapter: “What is culture (B)

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