Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cultural Demands

Some of our views about culture have been skewed. Culture isn't always a good thing, not old culture anyway, it is only a reflection of times that certain communities lived in. So if we're talking about promoting our culture and all that then we have to be very clear on what we're promoting and why we're promoting it.

The skewed view of culture is that we have to promote it and adhere to it and find ourselves in it. We have to fight the world we're living in that will take away our culture from us, but that's not true. I simply disagree with getting out of our way to live inside a dying culture. Remember it... certainly, but fight change and live it? That doesn't sound right. The problem is globalisation and we're not okay with mean beastly western countries infiltrating our lives, but I guess they already have, and they have integrated their new cultures with ours. You see it's new for them as well, but they're the ones that have created it and spread it, our resentment comes from the fact that we are unable to spread our culture in a manner that everyone adheres to.

So you say, that's the whole point, spreading our culture, and I'll repeat my definition, culture is but a reflection, and we have not had a great enough effect on the world for culture to reflect our contributions. We're like people who have had good memories in a certain place and revisit it to relive it. It fails because times are changing, and reality is what it is. We cannot reincarnate the mood we felt in a certain cafe down a certain street if that mood has changed, we can only remember it, describe it and love it.

We must remember that we are creating a culture that is shaped by our reactions to the world we live in. I don’t think that the world of today can live by yesterday’s culture, and whether we choose to admit it or not, our culture has changed, because our world has changed.

Now language is a very good example, and you cannot blame parents for wanting to give their children a real edge in this world rather than patriotically holding on to ways of old. I mean I don’t mind people knowing Arabic very well, but if you think about the world these days, more information is accessible via the English language. More people who contribute to the world use English as a means of communicating their contributions.

The primary aim of a language is communication with the other, right? Well it has several other functions, but what I mean to say is that sometimes better communication is desirable. We can see many English and foreign words making their way to Arabic, and the opposite is true, foreign words in English and Arabic words in English. Like the word “Malesh”, added as oxford's word of the day, it’s expressive.

I know that this may seem like an over simplification, but it’s not, it’s just a different perspective. Some people think of language as an identity. Well there are those who have not been raised in Egypt and speak Arabic as their second language. Is their identity lost due to their weak Arabic? I personally believe that searching for your identity within a set of predefined moulds is highly over-rated. People search for an identity for a whole lifetime and they try to find it in language, country or culture, and while all these are factors involved in an identity, they are all involved but they’re not defining, they all must revolve around one major element that harnesses their power… values.

An English speaking Egyptian with an Egyptian sense of humor, does it change his identity? That’s who he is. You define who you are, your circumstances, your values, your choices; I think that people way often search for what their identity should be like rather than find out what it is.

To make a long story longer, it’s good to be proud of our heritage, it’s good to be proud of our language, but let’s not lie about the influence of things in our life. Our culture is a reflection of how we handle things in today’s world, how we balance out our values. So when a child speaks in English, it’s not debasing our culture, he’s just responding to a cultural demand, if we really want our culture to be spread, it must be necessary and if we want it to be necessary we need to contribute more to the world.

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