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GET REAL: Culture is always changing


GET REAL: Culture is always changing

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DO YOU CELEBRATE Old Year’s Night or New Year’s Eve? How you answer might show your age. Old Year’s Night is old-fashioned. New Year’s Eve is the more modern talk. If you talk about Old Year’s Night either you were born before 1980 or you grew up with your grandparents. If you prefer New Year’s Eve you are probably young, or maybe spend too much time watching TV. 

Apparently nobody in the world talks about Old Year’s night anymore except Caribbean people. Google Old Year’s Night and 99.954 per cent of what comes up is ads for parties in the West Indies. Old Year’s Night appears to be a regional thing.  Like many other regional things the term is an endangered cultural artefact. It will most likely go the way of oil lamps and khus-khus pillows. Enjoy it for as long as it lasts. In a few years when you are looking for a party to attend to ring out the old year, you may only find parties ringing in the new.

Culture changes. The only questions are, when, how, how hard, who decides, what will rise in its place and for whose benefit. In the case of Old Year’s Night it is a slow, leisurely dying out. The killer is that high-tech globalised cultural assassin, “The Media”. “The Media” is like the Terminator from the movies, only more subtle. It is programmed and sent to destroy cultures of resistance by way of programming. 

“The Media” may not be as violent as a humanoid cyborg, but much more efficient. It cuts deeper than your flesh. It cuts your psyche. With a long series of patient strokes, repetitive chops and dull garlic-tipped stabs, the old way of referring to the day before January first is being chopped off and a new way carved out.

In time to come, if you talk about Old Year’s Night people will respond the way they would if you call a toilet a loo, or a black man coloured. They will want to know wuh time machine you now drop outta. You will be talking as though you are wearing bell-bottoms or a Crimplene suit. 

References to Crimplene suits will also date you and possibly confuse anybody you are talking to who is born after 1980. There are certain words you can’t use with people outside of a certain age bracket. It will be like speaking a different language. Culture is a form of language. The so-called generation gap is really a culture gap. It is when different generations have a different cultural language; different body language, fashion language, symbolic language, spoken language, etc. Now you know why your children seem not to be listening. They literally can’t understand some of the words coming out of your mouth.

A strong culture is one that manages to keep its language continuity. That way, communication between generations is not compromised, values can be passed on and lessons of the past can be shared with those who are yet to be born. It also works in the opposite direction. The innovations, new ideas and creative thinking of the young can be translated easily to the elders, reducing resistance so that unreasonably fearful fogies don’t slow down progress.

A strong culture is also one that can easily adapt to other cultures without being assimilated. This is the most culturally open world in the history of the Earth. Culture is more infectious than Ebola. There are very few border checks to keep alien cultures out unless you live in North Korea. Every culture has its good and bad. There is beneficial culture and detrimental culture. You will be exposed to new strains of culture. If you cannot quickly update your cultural software you will either end up obsolete or with a cultural virus. An invading culture can take over your entire system. Just now somebody is going to be promoting a “Ball Drop” from the Parliament buildings, into Heroes Square.

Cultural superpowers are like the Borg on Star Trek. The Borg will assimilate you and make you a pale imitation of them, only fit for their purposes. He who controls the culture controls the minds of the people. The source of your culture; the source of your cultural languages, is the ultimate authority. Culturally, powerful nations can control culturally weaker nations as if by remote. All of a sudden nobody eats yams or pumpkin fritters. Is only burger and fries.

Unlike on Star Trek, we cannot hit warp speed and escape to another part of the galaxy. There is nowhere to run from the global cultural Borg. The only strategy in to turn the tables the way world Thr3Styles DJ champion Puffy did. He turned the tables by using the turntables to demonstrate not only global knowledge and skill, but regional and local confidence and bravery. His secret weapon for conquering the competition was his own Caribbean cultural music. Be in the world and not of it but beyond it.

Culture is dynamic. It is always changing; nowadays faster than ever. What has not changed is that the people who can maintain an old sense of culture while adapting to the new, are the ones who will prosper. Simply holding on to the stagnant old or capitulating to the fickle new will not do. Balance is key to surfing the waves of time. 

For as many people that advocate dashing away the old years and forgetting the past, there are those who cling too tightly to it. For as many people who barrel forward without knowing where they came from, there are those who fear to face the future. What they all have in common is limited vision. It doesn’t have to be Old Year’s or New Year’s. It’s not either/or. Maybe we could celebrate Old Year’s Day followed by the night festivities of New Year’s Eve.

Adrian Green is a creative communications specialist. Email [email protected]