Friday, September 4, 2009

Transcending culture

Yesterday I was having an interesting conversation over coffees. There is much to be said for our cultural heritage as it's got rich stories and flavours which makes us identify with where we're from. I mean that in a fun way, not something that should limit us. I wondered out loud whether the European nations are better off as one big melting pot (economically obviously yes) where not only borders have ceased having any meaning. Is it a good thing or bad to lose our individual culture as a nation, in the way of stories and traditions that will be lost more and more, or are all of us on this planet quite happy with becoming one culture as eventually all our unique aspects will dissolve naturally? My coffee companion was pointing out that favoring such a thing as 'cultural heritage' can in fact get us stuck in a time warp and create more headaches and problems that are good for us as human beings. My feeling was that he was also referring to dictatorships and harsh ruling in the name of good ol' tradition. Excellent point.

More and more we find that the world is becoming a smaller place in the way of communication and perception. At the same time the need for making connections in Real-time in Real-life are still valued. There are Twitter evenings where people who live in the same area meet up, the same goes for Flickr, Facebook groups and other online congregations. The need for seeing each other face to face remains evident.

So what will our own identity become once it becomes quite meaningless where we are from? I can see for myself that Nico and I have stopped using Dutch traditions already, probably to the bafflement of our dear family. We feel it doesn't feel right to keep up things from our past when we live in a different culture in the present. Only a few things we really like will remain, which are more habits then anything else.

Most likely all of us will start using different points of reference once previous 'anchor' points have gone. It probably doesn't matter except what it does to us, what meaning we need for ourselves. As humans we do have the need to bounce off other people to recognize and evaluate where we are in the world of today. As everything becomes more of the same, what will stand out? Will globalization mean that we are all just Earth folk or will the desire come to the forefront to create smaller communities again as, let's face it: it's hard to really get to know everyone we meet globally. We do like to go back to our essentials as more and more people stop watching the news on television and spend time with their loved ones instead.

The more able we are to adapt and integrate those cultural values we like, the easier it is to move around and talk to others in order to get to know them. Will we really need any place to hold on to as our identity and stories reside in ourselves? It most likely will make us flexible and more open to change.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! I write about transculture and I think it's important for people to live on the borders of one's "original" culture and explore deeply the cultures of others. By doing that it becomes clear that cultures are not fixed, but are fluid and organic and change over time. I think being a transculturalist opens the doors for global communication and is a good thing to embrace!