Culture 1

CULTURE

So ~ culture! Gosh yes! Important! We even have a Ministry of Culture. So ~ what is it? Well, it seems, according to the dictionaries, anyway, to have two meanings. One meaning is simply ‘the way we live’. I have made this point in the past ~ culture is the way we live ~ BUT IT IS THE WAY WE ACTUALLY LIVE.

IT IS THE LANGUAGE WE ACTUALLY SPEAK, THE FOOD WE ACTUALLY EAT, THE PLACES WE LIVE IN, THE WORK WE DO, THE GAMES WE PLAY, THE ENTERTAINMENTS WE ENJOY, THE CLOTHES WE WEAR ~ it is not just the fancy dress we put on for special days and special places, when we go to the marae or to the opera. That is part of our culture, certainly ~ we are all enriched by our ancestral inheritance, and it is a great pity that our tender concerns for Maori culture have as their concomitant the ignoring and disparaging of our own immeasurably superior ~ yes, that was the phrase I used ~ European culture. This is another point I have made before ~ that multiculturalism does not actually mean many cultures living together. In practice, all too often, what it means is the replacement of our longstanding culture by another.

BUT SINCE CULTURE IS HOW WE ACTUALLY LIVE, IT FOLLOWS THAT THERE SIMPLY CANNOT BE ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY CULTURES IN THIS COUNTRY. Indeed, I would stick my neck out and say that there are, arguably, not even two.

Here are two New Zealanders, one of British descent and the other of mixed Maori and British descent. They both speak the same language, English. (Indeed, if it is true, as alleged, that language is the vehicle of culture, then it simply must follow, surely, as night follows day, that a person of Maori descent who cannot speak Maori cannot inhabit the culture of the Maori….) They speak the same language. They wear the same ~ European ~ clothes. They live in similar houses, eat similar foods, watch similar television programmes, have similar jobs, play similar sports, have similar interests….how are these two people of different cultures?

Their culture is surely the same ~ THE NEW ZEALAND CULTURE WHICH WE SIMPLY DO NOT RECOGNISE BECAUSE IT IS LIKE THE AIR WE BREATHE OR THE WATER THAT FISH SWIM IN.

Certainly, they may have slightly different ancestral experiences and upbringings ~ but then, so do we all. My life, as a South Islander of long European descent, is different in some ways from that of one of Tame Iti’s simple Tuhoe tribesmen. But by the same token, my way of life is different from that of a high-flying Aucklander. Indeed, I imagine my own simple rustic lifestyle is probably closer to the Tuhoe than to the Aucklander.

Are the Aucklander and I of different cultures? Well, I suppose you could say that we are. But in that case, New Zealand does not just have two cultures, Maori and pakeha, but thousands. This is becoming absurd. IT WOULD SURELY BE MORE SENSIBLE AND MORE ACCURATE TO SAY THAT NEW ZEALAND HAS ONE CULTURE, WITH THE INEVITABLE VARIATIONS WE FIND WITHIN THAT ONE CULTURE.

THIS IS, INDEED, AN INEVITABLE CONCLUSION, BECAUSE CULTURES ARISE OUT OF THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES, OF TIME AND PLACE AND HISTORY. BECAUSE OUR LAND IS WHAT IT IS ~ ITS SOIL, ITS CLIMATE, ITS PLANTS AND ANIMALS ~ WE MUST INEVITABLE LIVE IN CERTAIN WAYS AND NOT IN OTHERS.

We have to grow sheep and potatoes, not bananas and water buffalo. We have to wear warm sensible clothes. Newcomers naturally want to hold on to something of the culture they came from. That is only natural. But those scraps of the way of life in their old home is not a ‘culture’ here; it is not a growing plant, only a hot-house cutting which may be kept alive for a while, but which simply will not take root and grow naturally in this new soil.

Nor, we must add, do most immigrants necessarily want to maintain their old culture here. If they wanted their own culture so much, they would probably not have left home. They came here because things are different here, and they want new different lives here. One part of them, doubtless, is homesick, and quite understandably wants to preserve some of the memories of the old homeland, and that is fine and inevitable, but that does not mean that their whole ‘culture’ is different here, or that it can survive here ~ and it most certainly does not mean that we should actively support the (impossible) maintenance of exclusivity and a refusal to integrate into the wider New Zealand culture.

CULTURES ARE THE WAY WE LIVE, AND ARISE OUT OF THE TIME AND PLACE WE INHABIT. It follows, therefore, that they cannot be consciously shaped by politicians or their appointed cultural commissars. It is much more the case that they should not be shaped by those people. Just at present there is much discussion over the proper role of local government ~ should ratepayers’ money be spent promoting all sorts of vague social objectives which are, many maintain, more properly the role of central government? By the same token, some things are not properly even the role of central government. We elect our politicians, and pay for the Public Service, so that we may have schools and hospitals and state highways and armed forces. GOVERNMENTS HAVE NO MANDATE TO IMPOSE THEIR OWN CULTURAL VISION ON US; and, indeed, looking at the calibre of our cultural bureaucrats, their own vision is the last thing that I would want.

That is one meaning of culture ~ the way we actually live ~ and by that measure, NEW ZEALAND IS PRETTY WELL NOT TWO CULTURES, NOT MANY CULTURES, BUT ONLY ONE, WITH THE NATURAL AND INEVITABLE VARIATIONS WE WOULD EXPECT IN ANY SOCIETY. That is the fact ~ and it is also the way it should be, for a society can only live by one culture, one agreed way of doing and thinking about things....

By David Round

David' full article can be read here >  http://www.nzcpr.com/the-myth-of-biculturalism/