Defining culture is no easy task because it means many different things to many people who come from many different places. There are easily as many definitions of culture in the whole world!
But as an individual it’s important to identify one’s culture more especially in Africa which is the second largest continent in the world and has the most of the world culture heritage.
Some anthrolopologists [people who study human development and culture] consider culture to be social behaviour. Some consider things such as artefacts, dance music, theatre and fashion constitute to cultural heritage.
Others believe that no object can be culture which is philosophical depending upon ones thinking. Culture as defined by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] is ‘the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group and that it encompasses in addiction to art and literature, lifestyle, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs.
Cultural identity is the feeling of belonging to a certain group or society. Although for cultural groups to form its unity it has to pass though certain norms for members to share the same norms and values.
Although in some cases after some unpleasant events that the society has had to go thoughts difficult to continue implementing unity so that’s when culture comes in to unite the society.
Taking our beautiful motherland that experienced a crisis that no other nation should go though, as an example, in her healing from the past the culture of Gacaca was the healing pill that she had to use since it has always been part of the culture of peace and reconciliation that was used in the traditional courts.
So while other groups or society only know what unites them after contact with other cultures and the differences in occurrence is what shapes the cultural identity. So simply define what you are by what you are not.
Cultural diversity must be preserved and promoted, as the lack of knowledge, appreciation and understanding of other cultures often causes conflict and hate between people especially differences between people within any given nation or culture are much greater than differences between groups.
Education, social standing, religion, personality, belief structure, past experience, affection shown in the home and a myriad of other factors will affect human behaviour and culture.
One threat to cultural diversity is cultural imperialism which is a very common aspect in our world today, where one finds our various cultures are being diluted, in an era of globalization; where one dominant culture overpowers others and is seen as more advanced than others which could be positive and superior or negative and most times out weighs the positivity.
Many people believe that Western culture dominates all other cultures in the world today which is quite true. A perfect example of culture imperialism is how the United States is leading the way with McDonaldization and Disneyization of which personally I am a fun of.
But these terms not only describe the spread of American fast food restaurants and tourist attractions to the rest of the World, but also the spread of the principles of running McDonald’s and Disneyland to other industries and in different nations which is a first way of making money especially in developing countries. But this shouldn’t make us forget our cultural values.
Countries such as France and England are also spreading their culture to former colonies making them lose their natural identify which is very essential for the existence of any society. Another concern is regional cultural imperialism.
This is happening mostly in Asia, where the Koreans are concerned about the spread of Japanese culture, and people in Hong Kong are being influenced by both Korean and Japanese culture.
Many people are afraid that these trends will eventually lead to cultural homogenization and at this point there will be no more need for our different beautiful cultures which make us unique and influence in many different ways.
Sometimes when cultural groups feel threatened by cultural imperialism, they may use the defence of culture and tradition to validate practices that negatively privilege one group over another within a group.
For example, women who object to the unequal treatment that they are subjected to in their religious or ethnic groups are punished symbolically or with force for importing Western ideas. Which isn’t entirely their fault?
Paying attention to customs and cultural differences can give some one outside that culture a better chance of assimilation or acceptance well as ignoring these can get an unsuspecting person into trouble.
Much of the differences in culture have to do with food preparation, music and what each culture considers politeness.
West African countries really value their culture of food values I recently was chatting with a friend of mine from Nigeria and we were talking about what we had for lunch so I was busy saying I had chips, rice, sausage and he simply said that he had had yam porridge.
I was deeply impressed to the cultural identity. So as we go around interacting with others of different cultures, there is no specific good substitute for receptiveness to interpersonal feedback, good observation skills, effective questions and some horse sense that you do need.
There is always much to gain by observing how people of the same culture interact with each other because however much our cultures are different they always have one aspect that brings a unique and strong way.
So don’t be afraid to ask questions as most people respond very positively and with pride to inquiries about their culture. So go ahead ask a variety of people so that you can balance views.