So the free desktop dictionary I use to make sure the spelling and grammar in my posts are up to standard offers up several definitions of what culture is, one of which is: All the knowledge and values shared by a social group. I reckon this just about describes it the way it is in terms of what it means in a social context, but when we peel back the layers and start zoning in on the specifics of this shared knowledge and values, one starts to realise that it’s perhaps a lot more complicated than that.
For one, are all these values held by every single person who belongs to that identified social group whose culture they identify with? I certainly don’t think so.
I guess culture is subjective and the definition is perhaps a functional one, but one which needs to be deconstructed by those who harbour a desire to live their lives beyond the boundaries which are often set by society – society which nobody can really point to as a clearly identifiable group of people. “I don’t believe in this” or “in my culture, this is how we do it…” – all good and well, but the question is why?
Are you merely following the instructions set forth by a group of people who lived in times that were vastly different to how things are right now and if so, why? I mean it’s one thing if you can point to some or other doctrine as an adopted and accepted way of doing things if you can also point to the reason behind why it’s adopted, but something else altogether if you’re merely spewing mantras and perpetuating something you aren’t even in the slightest bit sure of its authenticity. I’m of African descent and Africa is a huge continent, but I so very often cringe at the sound of people referring to something they believe in or something they themselves do as being part of the “African culture.” The African culture is rather ambiguous to say the least, because one can very easily argue that everything and anything that anybody does, anywhere is part of their culture.
So I guess my view on the correct definition of what culture is, is that it is the individual’s (or perhaps even a group of individuals) interpretation and attitude towards cultural views associated with their particular social group, whichever barometer you choose to use to define this social group.
An individual, household, social group, etc, with which certain cultural beliefs are associated can only identify with that culture as far as they practice those cultural beliefs and that is how a culture becomes your culture.
With that, I strongly believe that everybody who chooses to join a certain group of people should do so with the intention of contributing to the creation of their own culture. Culture evolves and should continue to evolve, especially if you think about it from the point of view of its definition suggesting that knowledge of how and why certain things are done a certain way is shared and used for progression.