Man and culture

There are so many things that can be used to define who a man is.  Man can be defined in terms of what he has, who he is in the society, what he is capable of, as a person: an individual substance of rational nature, according to Boethius.  However, the many definitions that can be coined will be wanting if at all they do not capture the aspect of man and culture.  This is the core of Human person.  Culture permeates all aspects of man be in socially, politically, economically and even spiritually. It affects both Psycho and soma. It bonds the two to make them a complete whole.  The psychosomatic nature of man is well intertwined and interwoven by the help of culture.

What is culture then?  Using the simplest form, culture can be summed up in the following phrase: culture is what man does, believes and lives.  Thus, it is appropriate to say that facere quae tu facis; Cultura actus homo est. As said earlier, man’s life is guided by culture.  All wealth that man can boast of can simply be reduced to culture.  That is why whenever an individual wants to express his or her individuality; he or she starts with an ‘I’. Therefore, statements like I believe, I think, I imagine, etc. Thinking, imagining, believing and even etc are products of culture.  The culture of believing, thinking, imagining and even of avoiding a long listing by hiding under the etc suffices.

Culture goes beyond individuals.  It is not personal or limited to a few.  The unique aspect about it is that, it acts as a uniting factor. It even binds the living, the living-dead and the unborn.  When there is embodiment or interment, the deceased is rested in different ways as pertains to different cultures.  There are customs which regulate the norms for the dead, living and the unborn.

Culture is both one and diverse. When one says that a certain person is not cultured, it amounts to an insult.  Not a single individual can be devoid of a culture. The biggest struggle which is eminent is trying to fit into the culture which socially, economically, politically one does not fit.  Suppose a middle class man yearns and pines to be in the class of affluent persons.  The most likely thing one can do is to embrace several cultures.  He might go for the culture of dishonesty, fraudulent activity or even the culture of mugging.

The primal culture suffices above all others. The first culture that one acquires will always dominate.  That is why the truth of the phrase ‘ You can remove a man from the village but you cannot remove the village out of him’ suffices. Cultures are not innate, rather they are learnt. Cultures are transmitted. It is possible to have several cultures depending on the end which is sought.  A good example is religion.  Can there be a religion without church? Can there be a church without religion?  Having come from diverse backgrounds and embracing different cultures, we meet at the church. We are united by the culture of the church; worship. The liturgy. In liturgy, we do, we express, we commemorate, and we define ourselves. At the moment, our cultures become inferior. The superior culture helps us seek a common goal, together as a united front. Therefore, it is worthwhile to note that, when a need arise and requires us to suppress our cultures for the common good, then we are obliged to do so.

There is no superior culture than the other.  All cultures are different but they are equal. The culture of cooking the same food is different but the sought end is the same: satiating our Hunger. The difference should never be a reason to down look a certain culture neither should inability to comprehend it be a factor to degrade it.  We should be ready to accommodate each other. We should always see ourselves as incomplete principles which rely on other for completion.  We should be ready to complement and not to supplement.  There should be various ways to solve conflict in our communities. In every cultural setting, there was mediation through which the sanity and harmony of the community was restored.

This thought should also extend to the political arenas. This area sees the aspect of intertwined and integrated cultures distorted and abused. It paves way to stereotyping and calling of names.  It shatters the very fiber which holds the society together. It makes others feel inferior and in the end, the contribution they had is suppressed, laughed off at or even not expressed at all.  Each culture has something unique and valuable to contribute.  The variety brought together brings out a mosaic which, when one looks at it as a whole, does not only see his or her contribution but appreciates the others.  How I wish there was a culture for being Human…

© James Kanogo Maina, 2016  


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