When both sides of the political debate agree on something, it is often time to reconsider it with a contrarian spirit. Today everyone seem to agree that culture is good. Is it? It depends on what culture is. It is very easy to agree on something that can have lots of definitions.
The word `culture´stems from Latin cultura, meaning something that is cultivated. The farming-and-vegetables-sense can be unambigously expressed as `agriculture´, so that the culture without agri- could take a new meaning.
One reasonable definition is to say that the culture of a human society is that which humans within that society choose to do and produce spontaneously. This mirrors the agro- definition because, if you sow tomato seeds, add water and sunshine, you still don’t decide how that plant will look but the plant decides for it self based on its genes and what building blocks it finds in the soil.
People who don’t care to pick a definition tend to default to defining culture as that which government decides is culture. This is very much in contrast with the previous definition which required spontaneity on the part of individuals.
The figure below illustrates how two persons can misunderstand each other by using the two definitions above, respectively.
On the dictionary site Everything2.com, Tsarren tells us culture is a set of:
… that are shared (more or less) by a group of people. This too, is a reasonable definition.
Now if a group of people practise saying “Hi!” to each other when they meet, that is part of their culture, isn’t it? What if some persons in the government want them to quit greeting each other and release a compulsory movie where dweebs greet but all the smart, cool and beautiful people skips greeting. This would probably be enough to abolish the greeting-culture. Then, what is that movie?
We get an equation:
culture + that movie = 0 … solving for that movie
that movie = -culture
In other words, if a government produces something that contradict the culture of their people, it is not just meaningless but the opposite of culture. It is anticulture. And spending tax money on it is as constructive as, for example, spending tax money on tearing down fully functional bridges.
There seems to be no equivalents to our word `culture´ in classical Greek or Latin. In Greek παιδεἰα pēdīa comes somewhat close. It is related to pedagogics, the act of teaching children and to an extent influencing their beliefs, customs, practices and world-views. In many countries school is compulsory for many years and the government decides what teachers may teach and what material, such as books, they may use for the teaching. It wasn’t so a century ago. Witness the advent of anticulture!
Even worse, an old saying from Slätthög says:
If you have time, equipment and skill, you can do whatever you want.
However for the result to be culture, you have to know what you want to do. If you are influenced in this regard by someone who is not a part of your people, such as the government, you will find it difficult to do what you want and you will tend to do rather what you believe that others want you to do.
Some people argue that the European Song Contest is culture while Graffiti isn’t. They do have a point in that, in a country where people are unused to acting spontaneously, graffiti tends to consist of only gang tags, which isn’t creative and which expresses very little in terms of opinions, emotions, beliefs or world-views. So we have to adapt the saying to the anticulture of the country, and indeed continent, that Slätthög has been integrated to:
If you have time, equipment and skill, and if you know what you want to do, and you are allowed to do it and you have a habit of doing things your way, then you can do whatever you want. And you know what? That’s culture!