The Nation of Culture

Salman Al-Awaidah - Al-Jawf Track
This article was written by a Youth Voice program participant. Youth Voice Program is an enriching dialogue program that aims to engage Saudi Youth from all around the Kingdom in several seminars, discussion meetings and training. It focuses mainly on critical thinking and persuasive communication skills.

Righteousness, goodness, and beauty are the holy grail of the human mind, the purposes and desires of science, and the values and beliefs of the people. Science concludes what is true, art and literature shape beauty, and the way to all good things is defined by ethics.  

So where does culture situate itself amidst all this? 

If we were to contemplate our reality and people's obsession with information, we would notice that information ownership is one of the greatest weapons in the hands of individuals and societies, as well as one of their pillars and success factors. The events of the COVID-19 pandemic and the race between countries to decode this virus and create an effective drug are such a true and realistic example of this.  

Does this then make information ownership the pillar, foundation, and reality of culture? 

When referring to informed and "mindful" people, we always hear individuals and young people say: (He is cultured), (He has a vast culture). At other times, they may use the word (learned) to say that someone is educated: (He is well-read). In the 1930s and afterwards, the term (culture) came to be used the same way the ancients used the term (literature), which meant learning a little bit of everything or as Al-Jahiz used to say

 i.e., expanding one's knowledge in every area. In that same period, Europeans used to believe that a man was only considered educated if he knew something about everything and everything about something.

So, what is the reality and notion of culture? Where does culture fall in terms of science and information ownership? 

In order to attract more minds and understand this issue related to social notions, we must start from the belief that science and art are two inseparable parts of culture in its broadest sense. However, science and art differ in their purpose, methods, and means. The purpose of science is the truth, its method is judgment, and its means are thought and mind. As for art, its purpose is beauty, its method is feelings, and its means is fine taste. Consequently, can the broad meaning of "culture" be narrowed down to knowledge and information ownership, despite the vast contrast between science and art, which are considered the backbones of culture? 

For this purpose, we must delve into the depths of this concept, deduce its tools, and establish its frameworks and features in order to uncover the true meaning of a "cultured person", "cultured community", "cultured country", and so on. 

Philosophical curricula and schools differ in their approach to setting an accurate definition for the term "culture", depending on the angle from which they perceive this subject. However, some researchers believe that culture has become a stand-alone science which is backed up by various scientific branches. Western schools think that culture is the fruit of thought, i.e. the fruit of man, while Marxist schools believe that culture is in essence the fruit of society. 

From these two ideologies, thinkers started to define the notion of "culture". In the Western school, Ralph Linton argued that culture is one complete entity made from closely intertwined parts that can take a specific structural form. This means that different elements make up this concept. While William Ogburn believed that culture is made of one materialistic part and another adaptive part. The first includes the material aspect of culture: work tools and instruments and their results, while the second includes the social aspect, such as beliefs, traditions, customs, ideas, language, and education, and this social aspect is what reflects on people's behaviors. 

 In the Marxist school, Konstantinov updated the concept of culture based on the stance of Marxist philosophy. He said that "the material life of society is an objective reality existing independently of the will of men", while the community's intellectual life, i.e. the set of social ideas, theories, religions, aesthetics, and philosophical doctrines are all a reflection of this objective reality. As for Mao Zedong, he believed that each particular culture, based on its notion, is a reflection of a particular society. 

Thus, it becomes evident that the notion of culture, its origins, and structures pose an issue as old as time with different points of view between peoples, schools, and thinkers. Each group has its own perspective and sees this notion in a different light in trying to identify the traits of this concept that has been cascaded from one generation to another.  

After Malek Bennabi, a well-known philosopher, discussed the notion of culture and its issue in his book "The Question of Culture", he came to a specific conclusion and a special notion of "culture" as "Moral traits and social values that affect individuals from birth and subconsciously build the relationship that connects human behavior to the community's lifestyle where one was born."

Dear readers, culture is a harmonious combination of several sublime goals, as well as ethical, valuable, beautiful, and logical purposes. If people treated each other with respect and lived their lives based on the foundations of culture, they would achieve the desired level of knowledge. Accordingly, if we were to use short polished words to summarize all concepts and definitions, we could say that "culture", in its comprehensive meaning and broad general concept, equals "awareness and efficient behavior."


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