Comment: Culture for Dummies

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"Where do you find culture in a world lacking it," asks Mickey Charles president and CEO of The Sports Network (TSN)?

Culture as a term is over–used and often ill–defined. It is a veil worn by too many to tell the rest of us that we do not understand art, music, literature, fine dining, basic manners nor how to dress. In finite definition it is applicable to the tastes and manners favoured by any social group, large or small, that wishes to set themselves apart from others and, by so doing, suggest and insinuate that they are a step removed, a step up. But, it loses something in translation when carried to a higher level of polish, of perfection, flawless or impeccable quality beyond the reach of the masses. It also helps those professing same to tell you, without telling you, that you simply do not understand, that you cannot fathom why three basketballs floating in a rectangular receptacle otherwise reserved for tropical fish is art. Or why that balloon figure that anyone in a thousand parks around the world can fashion into a dog for the pleasure of the child waiting for it is considered priceless art when put on a pedestal and made one hundred times its size of that done in the park of your choice. Anyone who has ever felt drawn to the Beat Generation never fully comprehended its history and did not care. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg came along at the right time, when their generation was looking for something, for anything at all and bought into the ramblings of their lives, loves, and poetry, or so it was called. They dubbed it culture and that meant it did not require any explanation at all. You were either in or out and presumed out of it if you were not into it. Culture. It seems that anything you seemingly do not understand is reflective of a lack of culture on your part. If you do not agree that this or that is properly termed art, you have no sense of culture. If you do not attend the philharmonic, you are devoid of culture. If you have not travelled to certain parts of the world you have not gained the necessary cultural values to be considered cultured. In other words, you are not hip, you are not with it, you are out of touch, you are lacking. By whose authority and who sets the parameters, who establishes and raises the bar at will on these items, whatever they may be? Beats the hell out of me. Actually, it is self–determining, self–adulation and complete avoidance of the obvious–i. e. , not for me, I do not care for it, I do not understand it, Different strokes for different folks, that is why there is chocolate and vanilla. Culture. Greek culture. It simply means what they, the Greeks, brought to the table of the world – good, bad and indifferent. It evolved into the development and/or improvement of the mind by education or training. Again, by a standard established by someone(s) that never consulted us. It was deemed to be the quality of a person or society that is born of a concern for what is regarded, by the cultured, as excellent in arts, manners, scholarly pursuits or whatever else comes to mind in order to separate us, one from the other. Are you gagging yet? Artistic and social pursuits. That might take Mickey Mouse and rap concerts out of it but both could be deemed the culture of the comics and the culture of the teen generation. Expression, artistic or otherwise, that is neither coherent nor understandable but, yet, therein lies the ability to call it cultured–because the uncultured do not take to it as readily as all had hoped. Actually, by their not taking to it, whatever it might be, that gives rise to the opportunity to call it culture. Pretty confusing, right? How can anyone, although they do it without hesitation, state that that their particular tastes are valued by a society, more likely a class (their self proclaimed class), as better than–arts, manners, dress, expression, education, feelings, attitudes, values, behaviour that determines who is right and who is wrong when it comes to these matters? Yet, it is done all the time and I would wager that you have experienced it. Does that mean you are not cultured? You did not hear me say that. It is a term used by social scientists, if you will, to embrace a way of life–all the ideas, objects and ways of doing things created – the key word description – by the group. The learned ways of doing things, how to act, feel and think. Has anyone seen George Orwell lately? There are world festivals occurring in 2011 from Peru to Mexico, Argentina to China, India to Mongolia, Japan to South Africa, Philippines to Ethiopia, Turkey to Canada, Nigeria to Thailand, Egypt to Saudi Arabia and endlessly on. All with the intention of apprising you of the specific culture and heritage of each destination. Then there are cultural studies conferences on everything from Shakespeare to language, communication to minority identities, activism to sociality and economics, austerity to literature and–well, you get the idea. Culture is what you make of it, what you make of yourself. If you are civilized – and we wont entertain that definition, then you are cultured; refined and well bred – arent we all (? ), then you are, right, cultured; elegant, graceful and mannerly – and who is to define that, from the hood to Buckingham, then you are sophisticated, cosmopolitan and discerning–translation: cultured; studied, fashionable and literate, you are cultured. Anyone for a drink right about now? The way we live is a culture, you can study one under a microscope in a laboratory, society as a whole is segmented into cultures, people are separated by it within a nation, William and Kate are cultured versus commoners. And then we have those conferences everywhere to explain culture as they, the organisers, understand it only to have various speakers separate one from the other. How the heck did we ever get on to this topic other than my being asked to address it? A can of Campbells Soup on canvas by Andy Warhol is deemed art worth untold millions and you either understand that or you are not cultured. Metal trash is converted into an unseemly sculpture of sorts and is hailed by critics of art as fairly astounding and brilliant–garbage turned into hordes of money as you watch visitors to the museum sit on the bench in front of it to stare, analyse and find the hidden meaning of its creator. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. No doubt about that. It is incumbent upon me, upon all of us, to take certain grammatical liberties, to paraphrase, and state that so is culture. The iniquitous, sordid, ignoble, debased, unprincipled, nefarious, devilish can easily be identified as uncultured by any of us–other than those, of course, to whom they are applicable. That was easy. So, my cultured colleagues, go forth unto the world and enjoy, rejoice in your tastes, wear what you choose, listen to the music that pleases, adorn your walls with framed works of art that you wish to see all the time, read what you will and travel to destinations that have some meaning for you–any meaning at all. Spread the word, and the culture. ","142

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