Pioneer Culture to the Rescue of Mankind
Pioneer Culture to the Rescue of Mankind
Allamah Muhammad Taqi Ja'fari
Culture has been defined in many different ways by cultural experts and scholars. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has so far 1 cited 164 various definitions of culture. By studying these definitions carefully, it may be concluded that some of them intend to identify certain cultural elements, e.g. scientific culture, artistic culture, literary culture and moral culture, all of which serve only to describe various aspects of the cultural phenomenon such as art. Some definitions refer to pursuant culture, and some others depict pioneer culture, although they do not directly do so. Let us consider a simple example to elaborate on the fact that all the existing definitions fail to put forth a thorough explanation of culture. Suppose a number of people are trying to find the centre of a circle by considering many points in it. Clearly, none of them would prove to be the real centre; thus, cultural scholars and sociologists have not taken into serious consideration the true identity of man, which lies in the boundary between nature and the supernatural.
“Truly, it was you who made the circle of the universe whole.” (Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestan)
Instead, they have merely studied some of the cultural elements, especially physical phenomena and cultural activities. Therefore, it is obvious that the number of physical outcomes could lead to countless definitions, much higher than 164. In proof of this, notice the neglect toward the innate virtues of culture, the aspect of virtual beauty to name one. On the contrary, culture consists of two parts: internally virtual and externally virtual. The most complete definition that can be derived from most of the present ones is: “Culture is the necessary or proper quality in man's physical mental activities, based on sound logic and emotions rising from sensible evolutionary lifestyles. 2
The elements and examples presented in the current encyclopaedias and lexicons refer to qualities of both necessity and appropriateness. In other words, they consist of proper facts and also necessities for human life. French Encyclopaedias state that: “Culture consists of all the knowledge acquired by man or society, such as a set of activities based on various socio-historical rules, or structures caused by changes in behaviour or deeds due to specific educational conditions”
The sentences above include both, the absolute vital and also the unnecessary but proper conditions of life. However, as we will see further on, the necessities and proper conditions do not totally exclude man’s personal needs. Some experts believe that culture consists not only of the essentials of life, such as natural sciences or humanities, but only the suitable aspects worthy of forming the basis of a culture. Here we must keep in mind two important principles. One: The more distance between culture and natural life and fatalistic facts, and also the more evolutionary virtual facts it includes, the more human it will be.
Two: The highly elevated spiritual value according to which man constantly wishes to fill every aspect and action of his life with excellent virtues. On the basis of these two rules, some idealistic and pioneering anthropologists believe that culture has always played a major role in the evolutionary progress of mankind.
Concern about the Future of Evolutionary Culture
If a day comes when humans begin to lose the desire to reach harmony in dignified freedom, unconscious fatalism will put them in a mechanical life ignorant of the truth, and call it human unity. If someday the plague of deculturization infiltrates humans so strongly that it even ruins the common virtues of evolutionary cultures in various nations, it would unquestionably reveal the shameful incompetence of their leaders. Despite centuries of evolutionary endeavour by holy prophets men of wisdom, moralists, and the sacrifices of those martyred for the sake of freedom and human dignity, social leaders today have not only proved themselves unable of uniting mankind in search of spiritual and behavioural harmony based on evolutionary cultural virtues, but have also lowered man to ignorant components of a machine. They have deprived man of the glorious life he deserves, and restricted him to only the physical desires of life, such as greed for power, dominance and selfishness. On that terrible day, which might not be so distant, history's sensitive conscience and God, who provided men with conscience to guide them through time, will take revenge on those who have demolished human dignity and values. All authentic human cultures, holy prophets, distinguished anthropologists, moralists and those who have contributed to the culture of man's history clearly show that the only way to establish harmony and dignity among mankind is definitely through elevated virtues and morals, not mechanical characteristics and qualities. The reason is that the more man deviates from highly moral virtues, the more influenced he will be by his natural animal self. Animals also possess this kind of self -although in a more limited form -whereas in humans it handles the essence of man, for human capacities are so many and mighty that they mutually infect the universe and their peers.
The natural self knows no sympathy, emotions or logic. It totally ignores conscience, evolution and culture. However, unless these great human virtues are achieved, human unity and brotherhood would be merely a dream, for selfishness and greed for personal desires are a natural part of the animal self, which has led to the countless wars and atrocities in the history of man. Islamic culture has thus shown great concern for the future of modern societies. Yet, some Western scholars have not only foreseen the demise of Western culture, but also believe it to be happening at the moment. Albert Schweitzer thus describes the critical state Western culture is in: “It is obvious to everyone that we are heading for cultural self-destruction. What is left for us today is by no means safe, for it has not come under destructive pressure yet, and is surely too frail to be able to resist it. Modern man has much less capacity for culture nowadays, because his environment has damagingly degraded his spirit.” 3
Schweitzer believes that industrialized man is devoid of freedom, unable to focus his thoughts, incomplete, and in danger of losing his human self. He further adds: “Society has developed so sophisticatedly that it can secretly control men, and has made him so dependent on his society that he gives up his entire aspect of thinking and reasoning... therefore, we have entered a new era of medieval times. Thought has deliberately been abandoned in the name of freedom and men are controlled by their societies. We have inevitably lost faith in the truth because we have sacrificed our mental independence. We have disturbed our own mental-emotional balance. Inadvertent attention in any aspect can lead to thoughtless establishment. 4 Schweitzer considers “inadvertent struggles” another characteristic of industrial societies. During the last few centuries, men have been working like machines, not human beings. The essence of humanity has been contaminated, and never generations lack the necessary factors for human evolution:
“Adults are drowned in work, increasingly submitting to superficial disturbance absolute passiveness; ignoring their own “ego” and deviation has become their physical need.” 5
In his conclusion, Schweitzer emphasizes that man should reduce the pressure of his worldly struggles and avoid frills Schweitzer; a Protestant, agreed with the Dominican Reverend Eckhart that “Man should not submit himself to the spiritual isolation considered 'selfishness; he should actively contribute to developing his society to the highest possible level of morals. If nowadays only few people still possess human emotions, it is because they tend to sacrifice their piety and moral values for their own native land –they never exchange cultural values with other societies that could guide them toward high spiritual development. 6Schweitzer then concludes that the current social and cultural foundations are leading us to a disaster that precedes a second Renaissance even greater than the original- unless we wish to self-destruct “During the second Renaissance, mentally originated activities will prove crucial; in fact, mental activities have been the only logical and practical principal man has come up with in his historical evolution ...I have no doubt that if we act thoughtfully, the revolution will take place. 7
However, the second revolution may be, its basis will definitely to moderate selfishness, greed for power and pleasure, for without religious influence, the revolution would be impossible. It is quite likely that it be a religious revolution, which Islam -especially the Shiites -have been a waiting, in order to form a divine global society. It is a certain fact claimed by scholars of the humanities and positive philosophies that in our era, crucial changes are on the horizon. Whatever kind of evolution if may be, it will certainly concern human beings. In assessment of the coming dramatic evolution, two major theories have arisen: The First Theory: pessimistically believes that human beings are heading for spiritual and moral breakdown. Even if humans are not totally demolished, they will become selfish, greedy living beings lacking logic and conscience, drowning in their desires, and have no choice but to fit in the machine like nuts and bolts.
The Second Theory: an optimistic one, states, “The evolution will once again revive original values by considering man's intrinsic capacities for evolution, and thus regain him his true self.” Evidence shows the latter to be preferable, provided cooperation -and if necessary, even sacrifice on behalf of the leaders of the society alongside men of true wisdom and authentic scholars of culture and humanities. But if, Heaven forbid, the selfish and power-greedy keep on injuring humanity, and neglect the suicidal fall that awaits all of us, the underlying evolution will definitely follow the first, pessimistic theory -if, of course, it does not lead to the annihilation of the world and its dwellers. According to that theory, humans will be degraded as worthless as gears in a machine. Considering man's intrinsic need for seeking excellent values and his long-established passion for evolutionary culture, and having in mind God's unquestionably wise will, we support the second theory, and predict a prosperous and encouraging future after man undergoes a great deal of suffering. Among the primary reasons for our logical optimism is the fact that man possesses the virtual desire for excellent evolutionary culture, and is always eager to protect himself from various events that threaten mankind.
The Importance of Research on Definitions of Culture
In this section, after examining comprehensive definitions of culture in various peoples and nationalities, we will come to the undeniable conclusion that since mankind essentially desires culture; he will prevail amidst all forces, greed and sensuality. As the glorious Koran says: “God sends down out of heaven water, and the watercourses flow each in its measure, and the torrent carries a swelling scum; and out of that over which they kindle fire, being desirous of ornament or ware, out of that rises a scum like it. So God strikes both the true and the false. As for the scum, it vanishes as jetsam, and profits men abiding in the earth. Even so God strikes his examples. 8 Centuries passed; and came a new one; the moon is the same, but not the water.
Justice and greatness have not changed; however, this century and its people have. After all these centuries, O important one, none of these concepts have been affected The water in the stream has changed, but the reflection of the moon and the stars remain. So its base must be high in the sky, not in the water.” The main reason for studying the supplied definitions of culture in the best-known encyclopaedias and some lexical and sociological references is to prove whether all societies of mankind believe that the true meaning of culture includes the proper, deserving human evolution or not, and that even if the selfish, greedy or nihilists attempt to degrade it to a paradise of banal phenomena which they call culture, it would still be false and antihuman. It is the variety in scholars' points of view in interpreting culture that has brought about a myriad of definitions, whereas they are all in agreement about the main core of culture. As we will see later on, some of the current differences are due to time and some popular phenomena, and some others are caused by environmental features and various perceptions of ideologies. For example, farhang, the equivalent in Farsi for culture, means to pull 9; it also refers to a branch bent down and covered with soil to help it grow, and able to be planted elsewhere.
The Arabic equivalent for culture, al-thiqafa, means triumph, intelligence and skill, and also means talent for science, crafts and life nature. 10 In French, culture has derived from the Latin word cultura, which means cultivating the earth for agriculture; in also means planting. 11 In the German language, it conveys raising bacteria and other living matter on a background of prepared food; cultivating and protecting farms; and also a new group of organic living matter. 12 And finally, in Russian it means determining the extent of man's influence on nature and his achievements in doing so.
Interrelations among Definitions of Culture
Taking the various concepts of culture throughout history into consideration, we can form a comprehensive definition: a general concept conveying victory, cunning and understanding in Arabic; planting and farming in Persian; and cultivating the soil and agriculture in Latin. However, our studies do not intend to prove that culture shares the same etymology in all lexicons and encyclopaedias around the world. But we are confident that the word culture and its synonyms in the lexicons of nations of ancient civilizations, all generally convey planting, capability of agriculture and organic life heading toward all features of fine intelligent and artistic life. In Search of the Comprehensive Valuable Truth called Culture Let us presume the term conveying fine valuable culture in different ethnic groups and nations throughout history -that undergoes virtual changes and has recently found entirely new meanings -is culture, which in ancient Persian means laying down a branch in order to raise it as a shrub, and has gradually changed to convey wisdom, education, and great intelligence. Let us also presume that the word “culture” has been used in its filthiest ways. However, changes in a word's meaning cannot demolish the concrete truth in logical life. For example, consider the Persian word “qanoon”, which means a musical instrument. Years later it was used to convey the truth, or an important lifetime spent interpreting the truth. If we suppose that in some societies, tyrants use such words as they desire regardless of the true meanings they have, should we come to the conclusion that qanoon has lost its fixed meaning which refers to the relationship between man and his own self, God, the universe, or his fellow men? It would definitely be wrong, for the events depicting the relationship between man, God and other beings are unquestionably unchangeable, even if they are not termed qanoon.
In the next chapters, we will strive to find the fixed comprehensive truth which, whatever called, never loses its crucial role to man -unless man gives up his identity in his world of machines to such an extent that his life, soul and true self are totally demolished; or as Tyler has said, “evolve into an intelligent ape 13 and eventually become a part in the machinery.
It is obviously impossible to compile and study all of the current definitions of culture in one single volume. However, we can refer to distinguished dictionaries and encyclopaedias and explore the main ones given by established scholars around the world.
Culture Described in Persian Reference Books
“Farhang (derived from farhandge), (the Farsi equivalent for culture) refers to knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, accountability, a Persian lexicon, Keikavus’ mother, and a branch put in soil to be planted elsewhere. It also means a water drain.” 14 Hossein ibn Fakhruddin Hassan Anjui Shirazi believes “farhang to have six various meanings:
“Your value has greatly elevated the heavens, and intelligence has gained much culture from your ideas.” (Kamal Ismail)
“If man acquires culture alongside his art, will be able to manage any severity” (Sanai)
“One who raises war at peace-time, knows no knowledge or culture.” (Nezami)
Fourth, a book containing Persian words and their meanings “Fate has written his name in its own desire on the pages of culture.” (Souzani) Fifth, it is Keikavus’ mother's name
Sixth, a branch buried in soil so that it would become a shrub and be planted somewhere else.” 15 Explaining the entry “farhang” in his Persian encyclopaedia, the late Dehkhoda has cited many verses by distinguished literary figures in Persian in order to further illustrate the vast range and depth of culture in Persian literature. The Persian Encyclopaedia reads: “Culture shows a peoples' life style and traditions in anthropology. Its English equivalent was first used academically in the nineteenth century by Sir E.B. Tyler. The concept of culture has proved so useful that it is now also used in other fields of sociology, literature and biology. Culture has been the distinctive point between mankind and animals ever since the rising of man.
The traditions, ideas and conditions of a group are passed on through its generations mostly by education, not genetically. Following customs is enforced in each culture through its own special system of rewarding and punishment. Language and other symbolic tools do play an important role in the transfer of culture between generations, but some kinds of behaviour can be achieved solely by experience. Every society possesses its own specific “cultural basics” which include all organizations necessary to man, e.g. social organizations, religion, political organizations, economic organizations, and material culture (tools, devices, weapons, clothing, etc.). Sophisticated societies are distinguished from “primitive” ones in the complexity of their cultural bases. However, these two terms must always be considered relatively.
Basically, each human community has a definite culture, but in complex societies, secondary cultures can also branch out of its national, social and religious conditions. On the other hand, peaceful or even hostile cultural contact can lead to common cultures acceptable by various nations -based on the fact that co-culturalism can exist and each side may adopt the other's traditions. The characteristics of a culture may be spread directly or indirectly among its groups. Such a process is called diffusion. A cultural area is a land where some features of a culture are visible. Various schools of thought have emerged in anthropology attempting to account for how cultures work, develop and spread, but all agree on a vast evolutionary process throughout the history of man, especially in technical and economic domains. However, the evolution has not taken place at the same rate for all nations, and is still incomplete in many of them, although at times co-culturalism can integrate several steps into one.
In the first phase, food-hunting, small groups of nomadic hunters, fishermen and fruit pickers move from one place to another in search of food. They live temporarily in caves or other shelters, as in the lower and middle Stone Age. The next phase is producing food, in which man has learned how to tame animals and use plants. He lives in small settlements, like the upper Stone Age.
After that, civil life began, evidence of which can be found in great ancient civilizations. Categorizing a contemporary culture should not be done solely on the basis of its technical or industrial progress. For example, today's food-hunters, e.g. native Australians are not comparable with lower Stone Age hunters 25,000 years ago, because ancient systems of relationships and religion must have been different.” 16
We may now come to consider these points:
1. No dictionary or encyclopaedia has provided a clear-cut, specific definition of culture. The reason is not negligence on behalf of scholars in identifying culture, but due to the great diversity in cultural elements and phenomena, which prevent a fixed comprehensive definition. Neglect in achieving a complete definition could also be due to some cultural researchers ignoring its spiritual and supernatural meanings -an ignorance which has unfortunately infected some people.
2. “Culture has been the point of distinction between man and other animal species.” 17
If we are to take into account meritorious deeds and phenomena in our definition of culture, we would have to search for the distinctions between man and animals before the existence of culture in man’s fatalistic life, for some scholars consider meritorious phenomena and deeds prior to his compulsory affairs in life, e.g. thinking about preparing a settlement, developing legal relationships among a society, social management, etc.
3. “In all, all anthropologists approve of a step-by-step evolutionary process in the history of mankind, particularly in technical and economic areas.” 18
A few points must be considered concerning the above statement:
a. Since freedom of will is equal to authority in the definition of evolution -particularly value evolution -the technical and economic aspect brought up by compulsory life affairs therefore cannot be included in the concept of culture, as forced efforts to provide a home cannot be thought of as culture.
b. “The evolutionary process throughout the history of mankind has not taken place at the same rate all over the world, and some cultures have not completed it.” 19
This is an absolutely correct fact, also applicable to scientific and technological progress made by civilizations; in other words, no theory or school of thought is able to prove these events advancing in a direct, orderly fashion. Anyone aware of the development of science and civilizations admits that the factors causing their existence have not only been irregular, but totally unpredictable.
c. “Sometimes co-culturalism can integrate a few of the phases in the process. In the first step, food seeking, small groups of nomadic hunters, fishermen and fruit pickers move form one place to another in search of food.” 20
Here we can see phenomena concerning culture and its mutation -which, however, due to their fatalistic nature - cannot be included in the evolutionary concept of culture.
Culture in Arabic Reference Books
The Arabic equivalent for culture is the word al-thiqafa which means “victory, intelligence and skill, and also talent for science, crafts and literature.” 21 “Its root, thaqaf, means skilful, clever, brilliant and victorious.” 22
To find a definition of culture and the topics concerning it, it is best to look up al-thiqafa and al-adab. 23 Al-Monjad thus defines al-adab: “An adib is a person familiar with literature. Its plural form is oda'ba. An adib is well-trained in lexical and literary subjects, and possesses great culture. Adab means science and knowledge as a whole or a particular field. It also means what a person or object morally deserves, e.g. how one should behave in a classroom, or as a judge, etc. 24 In the following verses also, adab refers to culture, and conveys knowledge and demonstration of fine morals according to appropriate principles achieved through conditions in one's lifetime.
“Acquire knowledge and culture, no matter what family you may have been raised.. Culture will make you independent of any relation. Truly, a free man is one who can claim, “This is who I am, not am so and so’s son. 25
Culture in French Reference Books Deriving from the Latin word cultura, it means fertilizing (soil), production, or planting. Culture also has several figurative meanings:
1. Enhancing mental strength, e.g. mental culture.
2. One's whole acquired knowledge, for example general culture, literary culture, philosophical culture, classic culture and massed culture 26 which spread by means of mass media.
3. A series of activities based on various socio-historical guidelines, and also structures pertaining to a specific behaviour or performance caused by the education of a particular social group; for instance, a special culture in the society that relates that to Western culture.
4. Culture in French has also been referred to the physique; for example, in ancient texts, culture physique means physical education and culturalism refers to gymnastics. 27
Another reference book reads, “In the fifteenth century, culture derived from the Latin word cultura, which means fertilizing; likewise, cultiver, meaning planting and cultivating was used in the twelfth century.” 28
The Rober Encyclopedia has thus defined culture:
“All of the knowledge that provides mankind with the power to criticize and the taste for judgment.” It then asks the reader to refer to words such as knowledge, education, training, and science, adding that. “Culture is what remains in man's mind when all else is forgotten. Adjectives like vast, strong and high hove been used to describe it.” Two points should be considered about the definition of culture in French reference books. 1. A careful study of the above definitions shows that the majority of the meanings provided are based on virtual facts which remain unchanged even if the objects or persons applicable to them do, unless the whole nature of mankind undergoes complete metamorphosis and becomes a helpless thing like animals or objects or parts of machinery. However, literary and philosophical culture will be unaffected, for their bases are truly unchangeable.
It is impossible to change the truly original facts shown to the French by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables Even Sartre and his like, with all their novel phrases and terms tending to influence the simple-minded, failed to eliminate Victor Hugo's Les Miserables from the culture of mankind. Likewise, the dogmatic writers of our own era could not eliminate the role of Mowlavi's Mathnavi in great human culture; all they achieved was brainwashing the simple-minded with their contradicting jargon.
They felt that they were fulfilling their own selfishness, which was a grave mistake itself; selfishness is an insatiable flame that only quenches when it has burned itself out, no matter how many others it also victimizes in the process. 2. Categorizing the meaning of culture into the real and the figurative leads to three possibilities: first, some meanings may be archaic, e.g. agriculture and cultivation of the soil, which is the Latin meaning for culture. Some other meanings are frequently used regardless of their older ones. The second possibility is that culture initially meant agriculture, but through gradual use in texts of high moral values, was transformed to a new meaning. Third, the old meaning of culture, i.e. cultivating and using a potential, is an unchangeably comprehensive reality applicable to various things, e.g. the soil, trees, animals and human beings. Therefore, metaphor interpretations in this case cannot have a definite, evidential reason. We also must keep in mind that if a word changes in meaning, its original meaning, conveying definite true fact(s) is not necessarily omitted.
The Duden Dictionary thus defines culture:
All of the aspects of mental or artistic life; The fine aspect of life; Raising bacteria and other living matter on a platform made of food; Cultivating agricultural soil; A new species of organic life.
Another reference, defining culture as all aspects of a nation's lifestyle, lists them as:
a) Human activities in order to fulfil man -and his society's basic requirements, such as food, clothing, shelter, health care and environmental protection. b) Providing the means needed for all human activities such as science, industry, construction, organizations, etc c) Efforts have been made ever since mankind inhabited the earth and culture arose with them towards providing human character with originality, finesse and form, limiting inferior human desires and transforming them into highly elevated needs.
The first significant point about the above definition is that such encyclopaedias, having mentioned the highest facts of value defining culture -such as giving form, originality and delicacy to man's character and transforming his mediocre desires into high moral needs -state that “culture began when mankind arose on earth.” In other words, the facts described as meaning(s) of culture are unchangeable, and cannot be contaminated by the new worthless meanings added to culture nowadays, considering “what man's talents show” and “what his values represent.”
Culture in the Encyclopaedia Americana
“Culture, a vast concept, has been used by sociological and anthropological experts. Its other meanings refer to educated persons, i.e. those who are well-composed and are familiar with culture and the fine arts of life. Specialized discussions on culture arose in anthropological texts of the mid-nineteenth century. Sir Edward Burnett Tyler, the English anthropologist, used the term “culture” to represent a developed series of ideas and what arises out of historical experiences. In 1910, American anthropologists used culture to show the specific characteristics of peoples in societies. In the 1930s, Ruth Benedict described culture as those patterns of thought and action that makes one distinct among others.
The word “culture” is of much significance to sociological experts, for it provides the simplest concept for expressing the behaviour and history of mankind. For instance, compared to the term “society” -which, by definition, refers to an organized group dependent upon each, other who coexists inside a system in order to continue their production and life -culture has vaster applications. Culture shows the behavioural content of the society. The point here is: Why has culture found so many various definitions? The reason is that culture does not consist of a single, homogeneous topic or refer to an individual. It covers many elements, including ideas, emotions, values, ends, behaviours, tendencies and experiences.”
The Evolution of Culture
Studying the process of evolution in the history of culture, we come to three significant points: first, culture can form the distinction between human characteristics and animal norms. Secondly, the observed behavioural pattern is due to the outcomes of man's cause-and-effect physical development. Thirdly, population growth and the cultivation of man's surroundings have led to cultural manners focusing on symbols and language, in turn resulting in a vast treasure of thoughts and ideas throughout history. Considering it through a vaster point of view, we may realize that culture is not the fulfilment of one of man's needs, but a manner-based phenomenon aiming to provide magnificent virtues of life to creatures potentially possessing it.
Man, having the capability to build tools and use them for various purposes, can obviously think of different subjects, interrelate and organize his thoughts and develop a new idea. It is also possible to pass on the findings of one generation to the next through transcription and records. No other living creature has such abilities. Culture found its true identity through the development of such commitments.
Culture: A Lifestyle
Cultural variables are based upon man's creativity and talent for imagination. Human beings are able to conceive any manner of behaviour or meaning of human life. However, there are limits to practical and economic life that restrict the process of developing and establishing variable forms of concepts and social life. The economic and materialistic aspects of man's life have, in various stages, become his ability to transform his natural surroundings into higher comfort and more property. Although the artistic, research and philosophical aspects of culture have also developed, we are not sure if they have done so in certain stages. All in all, absolute diversity in cultures on earth seems to be fading away. The increase in Western, industrialized lifestyles spreading around the world has influenced many unique distinctions at the cost of replacing them with industrial civil patterns. Historians and anthropologists believe that cultural diversity must have reached its peak during the 14th and 15th centuries; i.e. before Europeans began to infiltrate into the lifestyles of other nations.
Analyzing cultures requires certain concepts. First, we can categorize cultural elements according to quantity and basic principles. However, using specific terms will lead to the same series and usages. Apart from classifying the constituents of culture, other concepts are also necessary for research and utilization of culture. Here, we are faced with two significant ideas: concepts and actions. Each cultural element (showing ideas on behavioural patterns, or objectives) includes all interpretations or symbols of the mental reactions of those facing the element.
The usage of a cultural element is determined by its researcher, not an individual caused by the culture. Sociologists have also categorized culture into two schools of thought which are to fulfil man's mental needs.
Pattern-based manners can also be defined in culture using a specific method; in other words, culture can be used to define the way to do certain things in society. Therefore, “cultural subgroups” convey certain methods for some of the actions in specific parts of the society. Thus, Afro-Americans in the United States have lifestyles very different from others, although the all live in one country. Culture used in behavioural manners is mostly applied to solve problems.
There are several points to consider here:
1. “Its (culture's) secondary concepts symbolizes educated, well-cultured people.” It is incorrect to call this a secondary concept, for any individual who possesses the virtual characteristics called culture can be considered a cultural person, as we would regard anyone that has the qualities and manners of civilization civilized. The concept and term “civilization” is not a sideline concept for civilized man, and so neither is culture.
2. The text, unfortunately, does not mention the time-honoured originality of cultural phenomena such as science, education, moral virtues, and art.
3. “All in all, anthropologists agree on the fact that culture, unlike instinctive or hereditary patterns, consists of behavioural learning methods and ways to adopt them.”
Since cultural elements and activities concern the appropriate values of man’s life, we must point out that the intrinsic culture-seeking potentials in humans are virtual, and activating them calls for need and conscious effort. For example, the potential need for acquiring science, art and moral virtues exists in humans regardless of time or geographical issues, but using it in reality requires education and practical admittance.
4. A considerable point in the Encyclopaedia Americana is, “The term 'culture' is of high importance to sociologists, for it provides the simplest concepts needed to express human behaviour and history. For instance, compared to the term “society” -which, by definition, refers to an organized group dependant upon each other coexisting inside a system in order to continue their production in life -culture has vaster applications. Culture shows the behavioural content of the society.”
It is true that culture is highly important, but we must note that its importance is not due to the fact that it provides the simplest concept expressing the history and behaviour of mankind, for the simplicity of a mass abstract noun, such as law, pleasure, sorrow, generosity or reality cannot possibly lead to its comprehensive explanation. Therefore, encyclopaedias and dictionaries have begun research to find the complete truth about culture -and have so far led to around 164 definitions of it-likewise; much effect has been put into research on the concept of law. 29 This is the best reason for the complexity in the definitions of culture. The fact stated by the encyclopaedia, “Why has culture found some many various definitions? The reason is that culture is a homogeneous topic and does not pertain to one individual alone; it covers a great many elements of high diversity, such as ideas, emotions, values, intentions, actions, tendencies and experiences,” needs more accurate consideration, for it is true that the various definitions of culture are not homogeneous. This best proves that finding a comprehensive commonality among the existing 164 definition has not been what all the dictionaries and encyclopaedias have been struggling for. Considering the diversity among human souls, it would be extremely hard to do so, even in case of the examples we have mentioned (emotions, values, goals, actions, tendencies and experiences).
5. The theory that “Culture shows the behavioural content of the society,” depicts the resulting outcome, of culture, not the facts facing it.
In other words, the theory believes that the culture of a society lies in the behavioural aspects of its inhabitants; however. it does not mention the intrinsic factors of culture, i.e. moral virtues and aesthetic values Considering the principle that “no effect can totally reveal its cause,” our objection is quite justified. For instance, much effort is made nowadays to advertise a culture like goods all over the world. Is the reason behind the aesthetic efforts truly serving mankind, or to increase consumer demands? Those who regard culture a purely behavioural subject should have a convincing explanation ready for such problems.
6. The Encyclopaedia Americana states three points about the evolution of culture:
First: “Culture is exclusive to humans, not all living beings.”
This point, as far as our knowledge of biology is concerned, seems to be totally accurate. Second: “Such behaviour is a result of cause and Effect outcomes in human; physical development.” This point calls for a more scientific analysis; if “human physical development” means that a significant extent of cultural effects appear as intrinsic outcomes in the body and its development (such as mental, emotional, etc effects), it is quite reasonable; however, if this means limiting cultural effects in the physique, it would not be acceptable, since human spiritual evolution by means of internal factors such as religion, accountability, morals, love and humanitarianism proves highly more fruitful than depicting physically human cultural development.
Thirdly: the fact that “Population growth and the consumption of natural resources, have caused cultural norms to result in a treasure of ideas and approaches throughout history, based on symbols and language,” can also be accepted, except a short point of interpretation that is necessary about “cultural norms.” Since there is no comprehensive definition of culture in such texts, “cultural norms” remain unexplained.
7. The text reads, “Considering the vastness of culture, it is not what primitive men invented owing to their needs; culture is a manner-based phenomenon tending to supply beings with the great moral life they potentially had.”
This theory calls for more careful attention, for mutual coexistence between men and the serious cooperation and harmony it demanded, was undoubtedly essential; in other words, the gradual necessity of force balance and sacrificing endless personal desires -which caused destructive disturbance -led man to accepting limited desires in order to make mutual coexistence feasible This was the beginning of co- existential culture, which was established by men in completely free will, not by force. The text then states, “Man, who is able to build tools, and use them in different jobs, can definitely also think of various ideas, interrelate them, and come up with new ones.” Obviously, as the need for physical tools existed, human spiritual life also needed the most basic cultural factors.
Let us consider the following statements in order to further elaborate on our point:
“Delicate philosophical ideas and elevated religious beliefs are generally intertwined in legends, like an ore containing both coal and gold. Unless mythological analyses separate myth from ideological units, it would be impossible to explore the treasures of human thought buried in legends. Regardless of the entertaining lullaby-like aspect of myths and legends, in fact, it is the existence of such highly original thought supplies unconsciously lying in various contexts that makes studying mythology inevitable for researchers of the history of the development of philosophical schools of thought, anthropologists, sociologists, theologists, idealists, scholars of humanities and literature, and those who aim for awaking the conscience of mankind.
One of the best ways to discover the basic origins of legends is definitely compiling an alphabetical glossary of the main terms and concepts, and foreign legends.” 30 Distinguished historians also agree on this:
“It is not logical that arts and supernatural facts such as man's desire for beauty, truth, the good- generally, the “ideal” -are totally separate from the physical needs he fulfils in order to stay alive. The reason is that we believe the best way to a successful life is to feel that human life is a meritorious truth. Some experts have come to believe that primitive men struggling with their surroundings, either found no chance to discover their spiritual truth, or felt no desire for the internal tendencies towards eternal facts and supernatural discoveries. However, scholars who know human nature correctly believe that primitive men were not obsessed with the practical aspects of life like their predecessors are nowadays, and even had spiritual affairs, and used their emotions to colour the objects around him, to look beyond their natural appearance and realize their supernatural meanings. Thus, the emotional values lying in objects became more significant than their natural features. If we consider carefully the life of ancient Australians in the vast plains -usually thought of as the poorest of people due to high violence and social maladjustment -we would discover from the mysteries in their lifestyle, that even every cane or stone they used contained historical or traditional characteristics. Therefore, canes and stones used in ancient eras were related to secrets in the human surroundings of that time that are not conceivable now. However, man did consider himself the happiest creature on earth.
In brief, since the earliest times, men have been both physical and spiritual; both realistic and idealistically perfectionist.” 31 8. The text says, “...culture is a part of human creativity and imagination as a manner of life -the basis for cultural variables. Man can conceive almost any behavioural state or interpretation of human life. There are, of course, some obstacles on the way to establish stable forms of social and life variables, due to biological and economic realities. The economic and materialistic aspects of human life have apparently in the course of time turned into the transform of his natural environment into greater wealth and luxury. Aspects of culture such as arts, research and philosophy have developed in some periods, but their continuity is doubted. All in alt, cultures of the world are losing their absolute diversity .As modern industrial lifestyles spread throughout the world; much rare cultural diversity have been sacrificed to make way for industrial civil life. Anthropologists and historians believe cultural variety to have been at its peak during the 14th and 15th centuries -shortly before European began to infiltrate the lifestyles of other countries.”
There some points in the above statements that require further study and criticism:
a) The statement, “Cultural variables are based on creativity and imagination” is generally correct and acceptable, but the point is that the cultural constants inside humans need to be discovered and distinguished from variable cultural examples; the above statement not only ignores this point, but even makes it more mysterious later on in the passage: “All in all, the cultures on earth are apparently losing their diversity.”
b) The text reads, “Man can conceive almost any behavioural state or interpretation of human life.”
The above sentence is somewhat ambiguous, for if the physical outcomes of human behaviour are meant, they are obviously noticeable through studying ideas and senses by means of behavioural research. And if the focus is upon the total identity and internal and external results and reasons for human behaviour -as most scholars around the world have admitted, the number of human faculties and capabilities that still remain unknown far exceed his known abilities; such a general statement would require revision. This is also applicable to the next phrase- “interpretation of human life,” for our knowledge of the true nature and factors of the existence of living beings is extremely meagre, so our interpretation of life would be highly limited and superficial. Let us consider the theory proposed by a distinguished Russian biologist: "Every object in the world can be thought of as both living and lifeless. Accepting such an approach makes such questions like "What is life? What objects can be considered alive, and which cannot? How did life arise?” meaningless. As we know, the definition of "life" is still struggling in dispute, and many scholars have failed to achieve it.” 32
After comprehensive research on life and its development, he adds:
“It is only by means of such an evolutionary approach that we can not only discover what goes on in the bodies of living beings, but also provide answers to the seven million “whys” we confront on our path to discovering the true essence of life” 33
However, since discovering why the phenomenon “life” has progressed so evolutionarily is as bard as the other discoveries about life, we must say that discovering the true essence of life in every object, makes us face seven million “whys” plus one.
c) It then comes to the conclusion that:
“However, the diversity among cultures on earth is apparently fading away with industrial Western lifestyles spreading out throughout the world; some rare diversities have disappeared to make way for industrial civil life.”
The encyclopaedia unfortunately refuses to mention any of the causes or positive negative outcomes of its predictions. We must first address the problem whether cultural diversity on earth is deteriorating by itself, or by fate, or powerful dictators striving to strip man of any freedom, dignity or the life he deserves?
We then face the question whether industrial societies spreading throughout the world will destroy only the rare differences or influence all cultural distinctions and therefore also abolish the identity of culture itself? The first statement, “The diversity of cultures on earth will gradually fade away”, implies that an identity named culture will not be able to withstand Western industrial lifestyles, which is likelier than other possibilities. If so, there would be no creature called “man” on earth any longer, and no sign of his great potentials, abilities, ideals and beauty either. In other words, if Western industry dominates the world, we would face a clock work of machinery instead of man or humanity. If such a vision embraces reality, and man loses his life, culture, ideologies and ideals, the motive for living would either remain or be destroyed; if the latter proves true, the world would turn into a huge industrial factory, which may continue functioning until its resources run out, but will eventually destruct; that is, of course, if the greedy dictators allow life to last so long. On the other hand, if the motive for life survives, it will overflow time and time again, bring industry under man's control and prevent life from being sacrificed by ignorant dictators and anti-moralist gluttons for power. In other words, when culture vanishes from the earth -the background for the evolution of man's life -it would definitely mean the end of life.
9. The encyclopaedia does not go into explaining definitions, classifications, significance, changes or transfer in “cultural elements”, so we cannot make any comments on this matter.
10. The encyclopaedia presents a definition of culture in order to elaborate cultural styles, but does not explain the nature or fundamentals of culture. If what the author(s) have tried to convey is merely that “culture can by applied to certain social procedures”, their concept of culture is not at all clear.
After our study and criticism of the treatise on culture presented in the encyclopaedia, we may undoubtedly claim that since the main issue here is mankind, it is impossible to achieve any acceptably true facts about the highest of human concepts -such as culture, just to name one -which all nations, even the most industrially sophisticated, may agree upon unless we all come to an agreement on the identity and characteristics of man.
Culture Seen by the International Grolier Encyclopaedia
“In biology, culture refers to a group of living cells or organisms grown artificially, such as several kinds of micro organisms like bacteria, yeast and fungus growing and reproducing, in a medium. The word 'culture' has two main applications:
1. It refers to any product of a great civilization, such as art, literature or philosophy; therefore, it could colloquially refer to highly educated persons.
2. Anthropologists use the term 'culture' to distinguish man's history and life. For instance, the creation of ideas, thoughts, habits and objects leading to man's ever-complicating coexistence with his surroundings.
In this book, we shall deal with the second meaning of culture, which has academic and historical usages. The latter meaning of culture leads to three major domains:
a. culture as an evolutionary concept,
b. culture as a descriptive concept,
c. culture as a lifestyle or human behaviour .
The development of the concept of culture also depends on the above categorization. At first evolutional research (such as Darwin's studies on biological evolution) appears. Then we come to descriptive treatises on culture, coinciding with the early 20th century developments in research on peoples and cultures. Finally, various cultural forms and changes in human behaviour are to be studied. As an evolutionary concept, culture indicates those characteristics that distinguish man from other animals; characteristics that have evolved through million of years since life arose on earth. The fossils found from the Ice Age made by humans or humanlike creatures, each provide a history. Wherever there is a sign of thought or conscious human activity in order to control or respond to his surroundings, there is also culture. Such evidence, in the shape of stone tools at least 700,000 years old, alongside Autralopithecus fossils have been found in south Africa.” 34
“Culture is a term that sociologists apply to all patterns of life. Colloquially, culture means activities like arts, literature or music, but sociologists also include in it all thoughts, imaginations and all methods made by a group. Therefore, arts, beliefs, habits, innovations, inventions, language, technology and traditions are all part of culture. Civilization is a term similar to culture, except that civilization pertains to highly sophisticated patterns of life, whereas culture is a way of life; whether simple or consisting of detailed ideas, culture is made up of ways man has learned to behave, feel or think (and not his involuntary biological functions)
. Any human being works, understands and thinks in a manner that shows his culture. In other words, culture refers to functions man as learned to work, understand others or express his ideas more efficiently Some animals, guided by their genetic instincts, follow certain patterns of behaviour. Animals naturally inherit the methods of searching for such requirements as food or shelter. The distinctive point between man and animals in this case is that man is capable of experiencing alternative methods for providing his shelter and achieves better results through his own attempts. There is no end to man's struggle towards faster, easier and better achievements. Culture consists of a series of experiences acquired by every part of the human body. Sigmund Freud, the well-known Austrian psychologist, sees culture as an artificial instrument man uses in order to improve his physical faculties (like dentures or glasses). He believes culture, like any other man-made tool, enables him to do what his body could not manage. For instance, if man had arrows, he would not require forks or hooks; if he had tame horses, he would never have to run; and without culture, he would not be able to send astronauts to the moon and provide them with enough technology to survive.
The human body needs oxygen, a certain temperature and many other necessities in order to remain alive. Likewise, man-made instruments and other cultural facilities enable him to overcome the limitations of his unpleasant surroundings and survive.” Then the text goes on to define primitive culture as a simple survival tool, and quotes Sir Edward Burnett Tyler's definition of culture: “Tyler, the distinguished English anthropologist, defines culture as other scholars do nowadays. In his 1971 book on primitive culture, he defines culture as:
"A series of any beliefs or ideas (general or complicated) including science, ideologies, arts, morals, law, traditions and any other habit or capability man may have acquired as a member of his society.” The origin of human culture dates back to prehistoric times. Some milestones in its process can be named as:
1. The development of tools and instruments,
2. The rise of agriculture,
3. The growth of large cities,
4. The progress in scribing and calligraphy.” 35
The article continues with explanations on each of them. The World Book Encyclopedia presents five different viewpoints in defining culture:
1. Culture as all modes of life.
2. Culture meaning various activities, e.g. arts, literature and music.
3. Folk culture includes all thoughts, mental perceptions and methods for performing group actions. Therefore, culture consists of arts, beliefs, ideologies, traditions, inventions, innovations, languages, habits and technology.
4. Culture consists of the modes man acquires in his behaviour, emotions and thought (except his involuntarily biological functions).
5. Culture includes all experiences gained by various parts of the body.
The text finally introduces Freud, who considers culture equivalent to the most normal of tools and absolutely natural phenomena limited to the physical aspects of man's life. The most significant definition given in the text pertains to Tyler. Surprisingly, the fourth definition contradicts the fifth; the fourth definition separates man's “naturally biological” functions from culture, whereas the fifth -particularly Freud -says nothing about supernatural phenomena or facts.
How Does Culture Change?
All cultures are constantly changing. Changes may happen rapidly or slowly. Since culture consists of various factors, changes in one will also affect the others. Some sociologists believe much social maladjustment is due to unequal changes in different cultural components. When some parts tend to lag behind others, cultural retardation develops. Most of the cultural retardation observed in the history of the United States concerns ideas, traditions and mental matters. Science and technology advances so rapidly that it often overtakes culture and leaves it behind. Therefore, guiding the leaders of technology today -who lucratively provide themselves with power and authority -toward more consideration for human culture and moral virtues may prove in vain, or perhaps cause them to become even more resistant toward it, and strengthen the advance of technology. Therefore, it is best to address societies where the fundamentals of human culture still exist, and hope for a day when they lead a cultural renaissance. A point ought to be emphasized here, although we will address the issue when we explore disharmony in cultural elements. The point is that unfortunately, scholars currently presenting definitions and characteristics for culture do not distinguish the stable sections of culture from its variable parts. The unchangeable cultural elements depending on man's fixed needs should be distinguished from the change-prone elements; however, the two are usually integrated, which leads to errors in cultural activities and understanding. Let us now consider the general, unchangeable principles of culture which are not to be mistakenly mixed with its variable examples. For example:
1. Eagerly seeking greatness is an undefiable principle, despite the variety of its outcomes in different people.
2. Respect, which is reflected in human cultures in forms such as love and devotion for fellow beings.
3. Man's intense need for a meritorious life.
4. Adjusting and correcting the four relationships: man-himself, man-God, man-universe, man-fellow beings.
Culture Seen by Argentine References
“Etymologically, culture means cultivating the earth and reflects the relationship between men and the earth, although its meaning has undergone change through time. The simplest definition of culture describes it as a series of physical and spiritual advantages a human community acquires in order to establish harmonious coexistence in its national society.” Argentina's scholars, lexicographers, historians, philosophers and even revolutionary anti-imperialist sociologists have defined culture as mentioned above. As well as being a true fact existing outside man's physique, culture also has mental aspects. Most intellectuals have failed to understand the comprehensive quality of culture, for they are obsessed with individualistic civil culture (and also affected by Imperialistic culture infiltration), and therefore cannot realize how vast the concept of culture really is. It goes far beyond that, in fact. This is why we are addressing Chinese, Spanish, French and Latin American cultures.
Imperialism is constantly influencing the masses, “democratizing” cultures by imposing its own imperialistic culture, luring intellectuals towards its anti-revolutionary goals, spreading huge amounts of publications and movies. By presenting imaginary tales of big city life and imperialistic centre lifestyles, they create a mirage of a luxurious life. They have thus estranged millions of their own culture by spreading American patterns of life. Although America has presented the lifestyle, Americans themselves are devoid of historical or cultural background. In South America, native cultures were unable to resist imperialistic propaganda, so alien cultures succeeded in separating the middle and well-to-do classes from the country's national culture. As imperialism falls astray now, native and alien cultures, still in constant conflict, continue to divide the people. The first impact reflects in arts. It is not surprising that is South American folk art (in Brazil and Mexico, for instance) shows significantly political background. The reason is the endless folk culture and increasing revolutionary conscience of third-world South American artists.” 36
We now should point out a few things concerning the above text:
1. The briefest definition given here for culture is the same as the comprehensive one presented in other well-known encyclopaedias. Since we have already treated them, there is no need for further elaboration.
2. “As well as being a true fact existing outside man's physique, culture also has mental aspects.” This is absolutely correct, and we will address it later on in our discussion entitled: “Culture is a Bi-polar Truth.” 37
3. “Culture is also a historical reality.” Considering the definition of culture and its historical effects, it is obviously a reality arisen from man's original needs.
4. “Intellectuals are mostly unable to understand the comprehensive identity of culture.” The reason is the great diversity among cultural elements and outcomes which inhibit a comprehensively common concept. However, if we consider culture as a progressive reality, we may present a definition based on the one given during the first sections of this book, which can include all of the elements and outcomes of culture:
"Culture consists of the appropriate qualities or meritorious methods for man's spiritual and physical activities, based on logical thinking and emotions arisen from sensible evolution.”
5. The other reason mentioned why the comprehensive identity of culture has not been understood, lies in cultural invasion -and also due to Imperialistic cultural invasion. “We have already mentioned that the issue currently is not cultural invasion, but deculturization, for in order to generalize and globalize culture according to the definition above, obviously invasion and opposition are totally unnecessary, for all of mankind eagerly desires a culture so developed that it would guarantee their spiritual and physical evolution.
6. “By influencing the masses, 'democratizing' culture and imposing Imperialistic cultures, Imperialism is luring intellectuals towards its own anti- revolutionary goals.” “Democratizing culture” is equivalent to “pursuant culture”, which totally neglects the moral, political, literary, artistic or religious development of man, for the motto of pursuant culture can be defined as:
“What I want is certified, only because I want it”.
7. “By mass-producing publications and films, they are constantly deteriorating the minds of the masses. A mirage of a luxurious life is created through showing fairy tales of big city life in Imperialist centres. Millions have been infatuated by American lifestyle propaganda, and have become estranged with their own culture.”
Such statements need no further comment. However, those who lead the operations aimed to destroy other cultures should have in mind that all human societies resemble a swimming pool, if in which a small stone is thrown in its corner, waves large and small will diffuse in all parts of the pool. The adverse results of destructing cultures will definitely inf
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