Posts Tagged ‘cultural heritage’

Notes On Multi-Cultural Experience: Music And Growing Up

March 5, 2009

For a long time, as a writer, I have resisted writing about multi-cultural issues, or from a multi-cultural perspective. I thought for all this while that the reason I did not want to write like this was because I was not drawn to multi-cultural topics, and there was also, for me, something naive and hackneyed about it. The greatest cliche of all was that of the stereotypical cross-cultural experience, usually involving gaffes at a party and tensions in a relationship. I felt that these ideas had already been written about so extensively that I could do no better than sound the same tired aphorisms and come to the same, well-trodden, conclusions.

More recently, I started considering the possibility that I didn’t have a reason for not writing about multi-cultural issues, merely a rationalization for it. This realization about myself was itself revelatory enough, that it has inspired me to shake off a long-held moratorium on writing about multi-culturalism and plunge headlong into the thick porridge of thoughts, experiences, ideas and ideologies that had been brewed over many decades by writers of this ilk.

What is this rationalization? I believe it’s simply that because I don’t really know what “culture” means, or haven’t cared to come to terms with what it means to me, I haven’t actually been in a position to write about multi-culturalism. I have been incompetent and the trick was to pretend I was indifferent. That was where the rationalization came from. Perhaps also I was avoiding the troubles that come with grappling with the role of “culture” or “my culture” in defining who I am. Intellectually speaking, I have been performing a difficult surgical procedure of separating from my identity the very notion of “cultural conditioning.” It’s like pretending your skin doesn’t exist really, but I didn’t think it was particularly naive to think of myself as purely what I make of myself, rather than what my cultural background has made of me.



Memories of Humankind

December 28, 2008

What memories of the human race need to be preserved? All of them?

There have been billions of humans on this planet, over tens of thousands of years. They have created hundreds of cultures, thousand of sub-cultures. Languages have come and gone; so have religions and cults and creeds. What must we remember from this welter of memories, and why?

What is the value of the act of preservation, when the artefacts being preserved are merely symbols, that have all been replaced by perfectly good alternatives? If no one remembers a rain god of an ancient Polynesian culture, but we all now worship our scientific understanding of why it rains, have we lost something of irreplaceable value?

The human race can only remember so many things. We generate new ideas and constructs every day, and every day there are more of us to do it. There are hundreds of millions of blogs on the Web today; hundreds of millions of us are pouring our thoughts and ideas into a massive, bubbling  stew of human knowledge and aspirations and passions. Something must give and must be lost so that these new ideas can take their place in our consciousness. The old ways of naming and calling must wither away, until all we have are some old jokes and hoary myths.

Thinking of this while listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees, wondering what fascination Native American, the Sioux tribe in particular, must have had for a British born punk artist.