Published:  12:55 AM, 06 November 2017

Perks of cultural exchange

Perks of cultural exchange

The first thing that comes to mind when one speaks of human race is its evolution. The second thing that comes to mind however, is the diversity of it. To be more specific, what comes to mind is the diversity of cultures of humans as social beings. Now, culture is a complicated concept and consists of a great deal like, religion, lifestyles, social behaviours, norms, rituals, traditions etc. And among the elements that influence and eventually lead to the formation and progression of cultures, geography is by far the most significant one.

Where in the world a society is situated, determines many things about that society including its culture. What kind of people it consists of, what kind of life they are going to lead, what kind of food they are going to eat, what kind of occupation they are going to have, what kind of beliefs they are going to hold, it's all determined by what environment and what ecological setting they are living in.

And ours is a planet blessed with natural diversity. From north to south and east to west, the nature changes its course of existence very frequently. With it, changes the facets and dynamics of culture of the people. Which is why, one finds thousands of different types of cultures throughout the world.

Ever since the popularisation of newspapers, mainstream media has been the means of cultural communication. Especially in the previous century, newspapers, books and televisions were unarguably the only sources of information for the general mass. In simpler words, in order to know and understand people of different cultures, they had to rely on newspapers, books and televisions, which undoubtedly were sources of limited knowledge.

They weren't accessible by all and when they were, their impacts and utilisations were somewhat of sedate pace. So the scope for cultural communication wasn't much; at least not enough to promote cultural exchange. But the revolutionary change occurred when people got their hands on the internet.

The general people first got access to internet in the early 1990s and the number of users has been growing ever since. Today, more than 49.7% of the world population has access to internet, which was less than 1% in 1995. The number of internet users reached one billion in 2005 and two billion around 2014. It is more than three and a half billion now, which is almost half of the entire world population.

And with internet, came the opportunity for vast communication. It provides thousands of sources that are alternative to newspapers, books and televisions all together and much more. Not only that, the simplicity, post-modernity, diversity, friendliness, mobility, and availability of those sources make them really appealing to the general people, especially to the newer generations. The accessibility of them is making cultural exchange possible on such a level that it could not have been foreseen even just about a decade ago.

Now all of this sounds very futuristic and promising until someone asks the question whether this train is set on the proper track or not. Freedom of knowledge and information, just like everything else, has its drawbacks too. It became a very significant issue that mainstream media was controlled by a small number of people, which gave them the opportunity to influence, manipulate and even decide what information was to be made public and what not.

That issue kept getting dimmer with the rise of the internet and people's accessibility to it. Now that people have an immeasurable amount of information, they have the freedom of choice when it comes to adopting new measures in individual, social and professional lives. And with this freedom of choice comes the lack of supervision of experts, may it be in one's personal life or matters of social norms.

Other than healthy communication, the purpose of cultural exchange is to adopt what's good in alien cultures, to imitate it, learn from everything that is good or bad about it, and respect its unadoptable norms and traditions. Now, the more educated and advanced a society or a nation is, the better it is at doing that job successfully. One very good example of it is the western world embracing yoga, a form of physical and mental exercise that is considered a significant part of the culture of India, a country far in south-east Asia.

They've somehow understood that the greater good comes from not replacing parts of own culture, rather merging new additions to their own and making amendments to the ones necessary. But it's not the case in the less advanced societies. Bangladesh sadly makes a good example of it.

Exposure to western social norms and orientations has lead people, mostly the younger generation to believe that western traditions are the proper ones, never understanding that righteousness is a matter of perspective. Instead of motivating them to realise this, most of the local media are trying to do pretty much the same things for obvious reasons. The average Bangladeshi has an IQ of 82, which is far less than the average human IQ.

This goes to prove that the average person in this country does not have that advanced enough philosophy to determine what is good for them in a broader picture when it comes to practicing culture. This of course, leads to some very practical troubles in both the family and the society.

It generates people of drastically more diverse views than sustainable for the given system, it creates discord amongst the people in family or in any kind of social gathering with an agenda. Diversity in ethical values creates chaos on such a scale that one has to witness it to realise the gravity of it. Conflict is a necessary element in human societies to help it grow, but chaos is not. It only causes damage.

It is true that the youth are the key to the future and which lock that key will fit into is up for them to decide. Their decisions are for them to make but that doesn't mean that they can't be influenced for a better outcome. Culture is that torch that's passed on from one hand to another. What happens to that torch depends on the one currently holding it. Culture is one of the major bricks used to lay the foundation of a society.

It is therefore, essential that it is a strong one. And the way to make that happen is for the people to improvise and adapt what's necessary. It's important that they realise that abandoning own traditions isn't an essential for advancement of the society, rather gradually subtracting the own outdated and incompatible ones and holding onto, even nourishing and reorienting the good ones may result in a better future with the addition of remarkable foreign ones.

The writer is a student of Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at Dhaka University

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