The Purpose of Culture
We hear a lot these days about "sustainable" (fill in the blank). I find this trend a matter of deep irony. You see, all the things we talk about sustaining are things like the environment, economic development, and any other such issue that is amenable to the centralized control of an elite few. In all the history of humankind no such enterprise has ever been sustainable for an extended period of time. The best and brightest among us are just too bloody corrupt to do good well.
This is the very essence of why we have culture. The dirty secret of culture is that it is not about what we are being told it is about. We are being sold a culture that is about entertaining adults and empowering elites. That is, by definition, an unsustainable development.
When we speak of "culture" in our society we are likely to think of a symphony orchestra or art museum. Such a conception is an error. Culture is really the accumulated stored wisdom of a society. I have described it as the program that runs on the human machine. That program, the product of vast human experience imparted to people over the course of an entire lifetime and (hopefully) expanded generation by generation, provides us with a vocabulary of behaviors and a capacity for apprehension of experience to make us better able to deal with the complexities of the world we must face.
The depth and reach of culture can be staggering. In virtually every culture in the northern hemisphere that feature of the sky we now call the Big Dipper was once known as the Great Bear. In nearly all of these cultures the three stars on the handle of the dipper were understood to be hunters pursuing the bear. This is a fact that simply can't be explained away as a bunch of separate people converging on the same idea. These conceptions of the Big Dipper, spread among cultures that had been separated from one another for more than 11,000 years, had been carried down by word of mouth through all those millennia and more. The same is true of the flood stories common to so many cultures, particularly in the Middle East. They were the cultural memory of real events that happened with the four hundred to six hundred-foot rise in sea levels at the end of the last ice age. Nowadays our elites look askance at this ancient programming, thinking it too archaic to be valid for the modern world, and they seek, blithely, to overthrow it.
The same is true of those forces who seek to flood the United States with a naive and ignorant workforce and then empower them politically. Through the 1960s a great effort was made to educate an electorate for the difficult and perilous process of self-government. For thirty years now that process has been reversed. Where my generation was once hailed as the most sophisticated in the history of the world hardly any fool would not be embarrassed to make such a claim today- even for young people born legitimately to the rights and privileges of American citizenship.
Even marriage is being presented to us in a way that is a bald obfuscation. The contention over so-called "same sex" marriage is an attempt to sell us civil unions as a sexual environment. That is simply not what marriage is for. Marriage is a union designed for protecting and nurturing children and sustaining generational ties for the nurture of successive generations. It has no other purpose.
The point of these illustrations? Any ten-year-old child brought up in a culture that needed to know the time to plant crops knew more about the sky, from a depth of experience stretching back farther than our most ancient written history, than our kids today. American kids were once raised steeped in the foundations of what makes us one nation, though we are from many lands. Knowledge like this tied generations together-even across cultural divides like race and geography. Now, though, all vestiges of "old" culture are seen with suspicion. Nothing is "venerable". Today's so-called culture is about distraction. It is dismissive of wisdom. It is intended to separate young from old.
In short its purpose is to disable us, to make us dependent.
Culture is an evolutionary environmental adaptation for raising successful human beings. In other words it is not 'for' adults. Culture is for children and for the support of people who raise kids and teach them. All our other appendages on culture are forms of corruption.
When culture becomes preoccupied with entertaining adults it starts to look at children as objects to be used for the entertainment of adults. It is no longer important to these people whether these children will be able to make their way in a difficult world. Society becomes inherently unsustainable.
That is the worst possible form of unsustainable development.