When I was five years old, my mom used to drop me in my music class. This involved a 10-minute local train ride. My mom used to carry my bag, take care of the tickets, drop me off to the class and do the same thing while returning. For one half of the year, I did not even know we needed to take a ticket.
Eighteen years later, in Madrid, I used to take the metro every day to go to my university, and I used to see a 5-year-old kid going to school with his mother. This time, however, something was different. The kid was responsible for his Metro Pass and his stroller-school bag. Not only his own, but he would also take care of his younger sister. Sometimes, the kid would lose the metro card in the array of things in his school bag. Nonetheless, the mother watched with patience, even though she was late to work until the kid found his card.
But what’s culture to do with all this?
Culture, without a doubt, is a central concept in the study of human beings and is the expression of social learnings of a lifetime. Culture provides a guideline for existence in the society; guidance for clothing, language, behaviour or simply “being”. It shows us the way of life. At such an early age, these kids learn responsibility, something that many adults still struggle with. Responsible kids turn into a responsible adult, more responsible towards their families and their countries, one of the many things that separate the developed from the developing. Culture is the subconscious principle that drove that Spanish mother to teach the importance of responsibility to her child at such a young age.
The concept of culture rose from the ability of human beings to share experiences through symbols and art forms. Over 50,000 years, this unique ability of humans gave birth to various sort of expressions. However, another human instinct, the need for supremacy, ensured clash of cultures. Throughout centuries, we saw cultures clash, witnessed rise and fall of kingdoms, massacres, world wars and here we are, again trying to learn to co-exist. Accepting “monoculture” in the society possess a significant risk in the social structure of the human community; History has shown us this, time and again.
Human beings have come to the point of understanding that co-existence is the only way forward and have tried to come up with different ways to achieve this. From priests suggesting that all religions propagate the same message of peace and brotherhood, to philosophers separating human instincts from culture by calling psychology, and finally, founding democracy, human beings have indeed come a long way — democracy — A great tool to ensure the co-existence of cultures. Although exceptions like Papua New Guinea exist, which force us to retrospect, on the other hand, UAE, an Authoritarian Regime is an entirely secular country where all cultures co-exist.
From my experience in living abroad and observing things, I have come to realize that every culture has some aspect better than other cultures. The collective good for humankind can perhaps be ensured if we combine the best of all cultures and define a new way of living life. The Coronavirus pandemic that brought the world to its knees is witnessing the embrace of Eastern culture, the Indian way of greeting, and the Japanese way of hygiene. Taiwanese healthcare gets recognized, and South Korea is appreciated for its response. On the other hand, Spanish leisure has no substitute. The world needs to learn the importance of personal life and health from Spain and embrace the Italian family lifestyle. Even Asians, known for their traditions, do not have the family culture that the Italians have. While the US introduced the world to democracy, Nordics have shown the right way of democracy. The cultural difference in defining democracy is highlighted when a US citizen believes; he owns the government while a Danish citizen believes, he owes his government. A toddler in Bhutan is taught to grow with nature, unlike some other governments, who are willing to burn down forests in the name of development.
I cannot wonder but imagine what a beautiful world it would be if we inculcate the best of all cultures. The development would not be localized, and nature would not be side-lined. There would not be any incentive to cheat, and humankind would win.