Thursday, February 14, 2008

Culture Future

We have a culture. It is unavoidable to have a culture. Culture, it seems, is something which simply happens. It develops, like an organism, over time. It (and I hope I'm not being too controversial) evolves, shedding antiquated layers and developing new strategies for survival. Cultures stack; the way that cells combine to form tissues and tissues for organs and so on, so too do local cultures combine with larger cultures. There is a global culture, Western and Eastern cultures, national cultures, state cultures, all the way down to neighborhood cultures.

Culture is often portrayed as something almost fate-like in origin. Unseen and unalterable rules govern its existence, forming its members the way that water forms mountains. Sometimes we excuse bad actions as being cultural in origins, sometimes we see events and call them inevitable because of their cultural origins. This is partly because culture is overwhelming: it encapsulates everything we do, all of the spheres of our thoughts and our public and private activities. To manage our image of culture, we imagine that only the best of culture is actually culture; Rembrant is called 'cultural' but Hannah Montana is not.

Unfortunately, culture is everything. And everything is overwhelming. It is easy to believe that we cannot change culture, because it is so large. So we throw our hands up and accept it as fate. But it doesn't have to be. In fact, it is because we treat culture's problems as large problems that we are helpless in the face of it. But culture does not need to be vast and monolithic. It may be greater than the sum of its parts, but it is still vulnerable to changes in any of its parts. By altering the parts of culture within our reach, we can slowly shift the seemingly massive edifice of culture, first on a local level, then on larger and larger levels.

And, of course, the more people you have working with you, the more change you can make. What we notice as 'history' are those moments when enough people, or a few people in just the right places, have the opportunity to shift the edifice of culture more than just a little bit. But those opportunities always exist, in greater and lesser degrees.

This blog is about the future of culture. It cannot be about the future of all culture, only the future of culture from one perspective. The things I am interested will influence what, in culture, I am focusing on: theater, politics, and satire are among the elements that awaken my own critical focus. Because the first step in changing culture is observing it, understanding it, and seeing how the cogs turn. Then the discussion begins as to whether the culture needs the change, and how to effect it. These changes should not have to be radical, but they can happen, and they can happen for good.

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