The Value of Culture

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The Value of Culture

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:04 pm

Kirt asks:

I'm still asking what if anything beyond science, mathematics and engineering needs to be preserved in western culture. Is there a there there? Sally and username are discussing Marx from the starting point of Marx's criticism of capitalism.

Cultures arose historically mostly from little groups with mutual language comprehensibility or religious cohesion interacting. This is all embeded in a samsaric context and Tibetan culture is no different at lest on the secular level.

Why do we need to preserve cultures? The majority of cultures that have ever existed on the planet are gone as distinct, labelable entities. Cultures are identities that people attach to. Do cultures serve any real purpose for humans?


We need to preserve humans cultures in the same way we need to preserve biodiversity in general.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Sönam » Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:26 pm

Cultures are the pure result of human creativity ... it is what remains when all has disappeared.

They know what they do ... first they burn books, then they burn human beings
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Jikan » Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:53 pm

Buddhism is, among other things, a set of cultural traditions. Without culture (patterns in history such as language and other forms of interaction) there would be no Dharma, no practice, no coherence at all.

Culture is a form of memory. Masses of people can commit horrible atrocities. Culture is the body of accumulated knowledge that remembers it happened, remembers how it happened, and resolves not to let it happen again.

Culture is a means of survival. It is the coded patterns in the quilts used by "passengers" on the Underground Railroad to let them know where to go next... without a word having to be exchanged or a even a face-to-face interaction. Culture is how North Korean peasants know which roots to eat and which to avoid, and which wild mushrooms, in order to avoid starvation.

I could go on. The short version is that I'm with Malcolm on this one.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby dharmagoat » Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:07 am

I see little value in preserving elements of a culture that have become redundant, especially if these elements are at odds with other cultures.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Sönam » Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:22 am

dharmagoat wrote:I see little value in preserving elements of a culture that have become redundant, especially if these elements are at odds with other cultures.


can you be more precise ... giving exemples

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Virgo » Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:24 am

Kirt wrote:Why do we need to preserve cultures?


It doesn't matter what we think about the matter-- people are simply going to preserve their cultures. Why? Because they identify with their cultures, find a sense of belonging, a sense of community, a sense of their past, comfort and familiarity in culture. In short people are attached to their cultures (some more than others) and those who aren't "attached" per se, are still influenced by their culture.

Whether we should preserve them or not is a debate rooted too much in intellect and not enough in recognizing how people actually operate. People have always wished to preserve their cultures to some degree and always will; it's just natural.

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Josef » Mon Jun 04, 2012 1:05 am

dharmagoat wrote:I see little value in preserving elements of a culture that have become redundant, especially if these elements are at odds with other cultures.

I don't think a homogenized world would be very beneficial.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 04, 2012 1:55 am

dharmagoat wrote:I see little value in preserving elements of a culture that have become redundant, especially if these elements are at odds with other cultures.



Right,we should just have one color of corn. Who needs diverse corn to make high fructose corn syrup? After all who needs Glass Gem Corn:

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby plwk » Mon Jun 04, 2012 2:24 am

So is there such a thing as 'Buddhist culture' and how is it defined as? Along ethnic lines as what some have done?
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby safron » Mon Jun 04, 2012 3:17 am

I rather just go with human values.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Sönam » Mon Jun 04, 2012 7:00 am

safron wrote:I rather just go with human values.


human values is a part of the folder "Culture" ...

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby daelm » Mon Jun 04, 2012 7:30 am

Malcolm wrote:Kirt asks:

I'm still asking what if anything beyond science, mathematics and engineering needs to be preserved in western culture. Is there a there there? Sally and username are discussing Marx from the starting point of Marx's criticism of capitalism.

Cultures arose historically mostly from little groups with mutual language comprehensibility or religious cohesion interacting. This is all embeded in a samsaric context and Tibetan culture is no different at lest on the secular level.

Why do we need to preserve cultures? The majority of cultures that have ever existed on the planet are gone as distinct, labelable entities. Cultures are identities that people attach to. Do cultures serve any real purpose for humans?


We need to preserve humans cultures in the same way we need to preserve biodiversity in general.


there's a principle in ecology that states that the greater diversity in a community, the stronger that community is, and the harder it is for an invasive species to take root. it's the reason that people are concerned about monoculture agriculture. because ecology (at root) is pure systems dynamics, the same principle applies to other collective systems - other ecologies - and the collection of human societies (cultures) is one of those.

cultures create frameworks within which human beings are conditioned in various directions - ideological diversity. some of those directions are advantageous and some are disadvantageous, but the general principle remains: should there be a crisis of species-threatening proportions, it's self-evidently better or us to have 1000 different possible approaches and responses, than 1. not only are 1000 simply greater than 1, but there is also the possibility of interaction among them, that makes solutions a great deal more likely.

in fact, the test case is currently occurring: we actually HAVE a crisis of species threatening proportions in progress, through the wholesale destruction of non-human life and the rampant desertification of the planet. however, since in the last 150 years we've largely homogenised and become a globally mercantile community - for all our surface veneer of difference - with the vast majority of human communities having acceded to the idea that life has no meaning beyond making shoes to sell to other people who make shoes and sell to us, our pool of responses is alarmingly thin. we know there's a problem, but we're all committed to continuing working in the factory until the power goes off.

this article makes the same case, related to neurological diversity: http://www.economist.com/node/21556230? ... eofmisfits

for a better developed version of that case, see David Weeks' work, published as "Eccentrics". here's an article: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... _18356303/

basically, not only is mental and ideological non-conformity likely to be good for the species, it's also good for the individual. the more the merrier, in fact.


note: yes, i know that we're nominally working towards "the unconditioned" and yes, i know that i said (correctly) that "cultures create frameworks within which human beings are conditioned in various directions" and yes, i know that those seem to be contradictory. they're not. the discussion is about the worth of preserving culture. people who succeed in becoming "unconditioned" do so by traversing culture, not by abandoning it. the notion that you can simply abandon your conditioning by simple decision to do so is false. all that happens is that you become oblivious to it, and it carries on governing your experience unhindered. hence prajna. while you're working on becoming unconditioned, there is a skillful response to the reality of the conditioned. that's what we're talking about.


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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby daelm » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:11 am

also, kirt, my comment above should not be co-opted into supporting your notion that "western culture" should be abandoned.

the commodification of everything, and the globalization of that commodification is not the entirety of western culture, as many people have pointed out. it's just an historical conjunction of events - for example, the strain of Calvinism that reified mindless work into a virtue, the strain of Christian nihilism that encouraged people to abandon this world because there was a better after it, the vicious class and power struggles of feudal Europe that have spilled over into the world, and the technological growth spurt of the last 150 years all combined to homogenize a world-view, mostly at gun-point.

there's a much more to western culture than that and people who call for its end should spend some time discovering it first. an earlier commenter mentioned mozart, and that example goes a great deal further than just pretty music: mozart wrote a massive amount of chamber music, music intended for small groups to play. the audience for this was family groups and community ensembles. the reason this was possible was because some parts of western culture (once upon a time) believed that learning and playing an instrument well, irrespective of whether you could make money from it, was a worthwhile pursuit. members of that strain of western culture would be horrified at commercialization of the world, and would, in my example earlier, be capable of giving different, possibly better solutions in response to it. that notion, that things have value beyond the monetary, is as western as it is any other culture's.

we're just being eaten alive by a strain of rampant greed. by all means, work for the excision of that strain.


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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby dharmagoat » Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:08 am

Sönam wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:I see little value in preserving elements of a culture that have become redundant, especially if these elements are at odds with other cultures.

can you be more precise ... giving exemples

Sönam

I wrote this comment intending to add more but was called away. Unfortunately it shows.

Being a westerner, I find it is easier to think of elements of other cultures that I consider redundant and which I have found difficult to accommodate. Because I do not want to be drawn into the criticism of other cultures, I choose not to provide examples of this type. Instead I will provide an example from my own culture that I know people from other cultures can find awkward or threatening: the custom of shaking hands as a form of greeting. I have always found this a subtly aggressive act that made no sense.

Using the term "redundant", I am not referring to a judgement made from outside of a culture, but among individuals within that culture. What I am advocating in the statement above is a natural process that usually occurs in living cultures anyway. But this may be circumvented if attempts are made to preserve a culture by artificial means.

I agree that preserving cultural diversity is (almost) as important as preserving biodiversity. The bottom line is that no people are to have their culture restricted or taken away from them.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Sönam » Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:48 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Sönam wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:I see little value in preserving elements of a culture that have become redundant, especially if these elements are at odds with other cultures.

can you be more precise ... giving exemples

Sönam

I wrote this comment intending to add more but was called away. Unfortunately it shows.

Being a westerner, I find it is easier to think of elements of other cultures that I consider redundant and which I have found difficult to accommodate. Because I do not want to be drawn into the criticism of other cultures, I choose not to provide examples of this type. Instead I will provide an example from my own culture that I know people from other cultures can find awkward or threatening: the custom of shaking hands as a form of greeting. I have always found this a subtly aggressive act that made no sense.


Oh, shaking hand has a lot of sense ... first it proves than one has no weapon in the hand, then one can feel if the hand is damp or dry ... it gives a lot of informations on the mood of the person.

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By understanding that any and all mental activity is meditation, you are freed from arbitrary divisions between formal sessions and postmeditation activity.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby dharmagoat » Mon Jun 04, 2012 1:01 pm

Sönam wrote:Oh, shaking hand has a lot of sense ... first it proves than one has no weapon in the hand, then one can feel if the hand is damp or dry ... it gives a lot of informations on the mood of the person.

I have heard that one of the purposes of hand-shaking is to indicate that no weapon is being held, in which case it does seem redundant. As to the second purpose you give, I have not heard of this before, and can see how this might still be important today, especially in business and diplomacy.
Last edited by dharmagoat on Mon Jun 04, 2012 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby zerwe » Mon Jun 04, 2012 1:18 pm

Culture is learned behavior. Nothing more nothing less. It is not static and it is not something

that can be preserved. Culture is change. The notion of preserving a "culture" may be in the best of intention, but

from the perspective of social sciences this is a form of isolationism and it is regarded as impossible.

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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Anders » Mon Jun 04, 2012 3:30 pm

Something that has been propping up in my mind about a lot of samsaric stuff is the appearance of 'play'.

I mean, stuff like humour, creativity, arts, doing stuff that expresses we are living beings making something out of the fact that we are alive - from a perspective of liberation it all seems extraneous and it's essentially a by-product of being born from ignorance. But, if you will permit a bit of hubris in making such a presumption, it strikes me as the sort of thing even Buddhas laugh along with and delight in. If we must have diversity, and we must since we are born in this world, I think we can appreciate and delight somewhat in all the colours and spontaneous celebratory acts of life that come with it as well. To get a bit wishy-washy, sometimes Buddhas-to-be can express their Buddha-nature in delightful and playful ways even through the sheens of the three poisons.

Ergo, an appreciation of culture and the diversity of culture, in the right perspective of it being a play of celebration and expression of life, can be a delightful thing.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:05 pm

Anders wrote:Ergo, an appreciation of culture and the diversity of culture, in the right perspective of it being a play of celebration and expression of life, can be a delightful thing.


Yes. Buddhists are too depressing and gloomy.
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Re: The Value of Culture

Postby kirtu » Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:09 pm

Summarizing your statements, we can model culture as a set of rules since pattern systems are rule systems. Then we can model outcomes using a rule based system.

Jikan wrote:Culture is a form of memory.

Exactly.

Jikan wrote:Masses of people can commit horrible atrocities. Culture is the body of accumulated knowledge that remembers it happened, remembers how it happened, and resolves not to let it happen again.


The resolve is lacking. Unfortunately I only know recent atrocities (Canaris's notes allegedly taken during a Hitler conference detail that Hitler asked when outlining what was to become the Holocaust, well before the Wansee Conference, "Who remembers the Armenian Genocide anymore?"): the Cambodian Killing fields, the Yugoslavian Genocide, gangs ruling countries (Somalia for example, or Columbia during the 90's, Mexican and Central American narcoterrorism), Rwanda, the civil wars in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, Darfur, now the concentration camps of North Korea. Some of these are too recent to have been reacted to. But that does not apply to older atrocities, none of which were stopped after people knew they were going on. So empirically culture has not stopped these major atrocities.

[quote="Jikan"Culture is a means of survival. [/quote]

It seems more like it's a means of reviving hatred and violent conflict at least in some cases. The Yugoslavian Wars began shortly after Tito's death with Milosevec, Tudgman and other state Ministerpresidents nationalist advocating, elements of the Yugoslavian army began to take action (it's still not clear why that happened) and ethnically based milita arose and began military action, ethnic cleansing (originally that meant mostly removing undesireable people from towns), unorganized atrocities and then organized atrocities. So the cultural aspect of this is: those people have been our enemies in the past, we have to protect ourselves. Tito had been able to keep all of this undercontrol with his nationalist communism and I am sure judicious disapperaing of individuals. Rawanda and other African societies have similar stories.

I taught hs in DC for three years 2006-2009. Unfortunately I am merely an computer programmer with an MS in computer science. I am not a professional teacher or psychologist. Daily the kids at my former hs acted out in many of my classes and essentially refused to take the subject matter seriously. Why was this? The reasons are layered. American hs students overwhemingly think they are wasting their time (this is part of what they mean when they say they are "bored"). They also expect to be entertained. Then in DC black nationalism and a belief that "white people" in general are trying to execute a plan to rest control of the city back into "white hands" is active. As a person perceived to be white, this was a problem. Then universally most of the kids found my classes to be "hard". Interestingly I was accused by the administrators to only lecture but the facts are that the students had to produce or revise software artifacts daily. The kids explicitly used their cultural inheritances from advancing as fast and as far as possible. They didn't organize meetings and work this out. They just acted in a way after a point that they had inherited culturally to keep classwork from advancing.

If you say "culture is a means of survival", I acknoweldge that that is true. But culture is also a means to death and atrocity and ignorance. Culture is an encoded means to acheiving a goal, not always positive.

Culture is how North Korean peasants know which roots to eat and which to avoid, and which wild mushrooms, in order to avoid starvation.


Culture in North Korea is also a means to keep terrorized and divided concentration camp inmates from rebelling and escaping.

I could go on.


Me too.

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