Culture is a set of beliefs, values, customs, practices, arts, institutions etc. shared by a group of people or the society transmitted from one generation to another. It is a way of life of a group of people. Whereas, Identity is the definition of one’s self, a way by which he perceives himself as unique from others.
Culture provides a sense of oneness and belongingness to the members of a particular group. Humans are considered as social animals because we depend on each other for survival. It is therefore natural for us to seek a sense of belonging. Our culture gives us an identity and helps build our character. Culture allows the members to understand the history of the past generations of the group.
Vansina(1985) states that whether memory changes or not, culture is reproduced by remembrance put into words and deed. The mind through memory carries culture from generation to generation.
Traditional culture of a community keeps us bonded forever. It also makes us unique from other parts of the world. Culture helps us understand our ancestral values and gives us the very meaning of life.
Culture is important to us because it defines our evolutionary identity. Cultural identity is important because it influences how we interpret and react to various situations in parts of the world or among groups with different cultural norms, which can affect how successful we are in life.
Cultural Identity is a way of belonging to a social group with the same intrinsic features and characteristics. Cultural identity can be simply understood as how a person identifies himself to a certain nation or ethnicity. It is constructed and maintained through the process of sharing collective knowledge such as traditions, heritage, language, aesthetics, norms and customs. It consists of values, meanings, customs and beliefs used to relate to the world. Cultural identity is more of a foundation on which every other boundary is established. Starting at a very young age, we embrace the traditions and norms of our parents and grandparents and hold on to them as we grow older. We continue to practice them as it becomes a source of identity for us.
Every individual craves for cultural identity as part of validating his or her existence and conforming to society.
Cultural identity is important because it acts as a way to preserve history and provides individuals a place where they feel they belong. The importance of culture also lies in its close association with the ways of thinking and living.
Culture serves as an invisible bond which ties people together. It is also a link between people and their value systems.
Cultural identity gives a person the sense of belonging towards their culture. The ways of being and the social expectations for behavior within cultural identities do change over time but what separate them from most social identities are their historical roots. The importance of culture in ones’ life has manifold significance.
Ancestry: Our culture helps us gain valuable information about our ancestry. With culture you have a better understanding of how things came to be and why they are the way they are. Since history is a big part of culture, you also learn about the people or the groups that made sacrifices so you can be where you are today. Ancestry and culture go hand in hand. Cultural ancestry can predict human development and improve the quality of life. Keeping our history alive also improves our environment. Human beings do not live for eternity, but their cultures do.
Moral Values: Morality refers to a system of beliefs about what is right and good compared to what is wrong and bad. Following a culture instills moral values in us. It molds us to be a better person in life. It makes us responsible people who can co-exist with each other in a harmonious society. As humans, our behaviors are guided in part by a set of social norms about morality that forms a basic and important part of our culture. Moral values are taught to us by our cultural society.
Discipline: Discipline represents one of the fundamental cultural values which ensure the functionality of the social system. Every culture has certain norms and laws laid down, which if followed leads to peaceful existence. Neglecting cultural traditions is not wise and should not be kept as an option. Thus, culture helps a person in building up his disciplinary character.
Responsibility: Cultural traditions teach us to be responsible human beings. Understanding cultural processes can help people get along better with others and be more socially responsible.
A culture-less and lawless human being is just another animal.
Compassion: Compassion enables one to accept and appreciate the experience of those with whom you have difference. Every culture teaches us to co-exist with all other cultures in the world. It provides a sense of closeness among the people and creates more understanding between them. They teach us to live compassionately and respectfully with everyone, so that peace prevails.
Safeguard future generations: Cultural traditions were made by our experienced ancestors for a reason. The value of cultural heritage is not in cultural manifestation itself but in the wealth of experience and skills passed down from generation to generation.
Our ancestors wanted to pass on their valued knowledge about life to every generation of mankind to make their survival easier. In a lot of cases, culture serves as a guide to the future. The accumulated knowledge of the past can help both individual and the country to advance in the future.
A Sense of Security: Identifying with a particular culture gives people feelings of belonging and security. Helps to break down barriers and build a sense of trust between people. They are more likely to have social networks to depend on for support, as well as to feel a sense of trust with people within those networks. People with a strong and defined cultural identity typically show positive outcomes in terms of education and health.
Self-Realization: When we study about the roots of our cultures and follow them accordingly, we get to know about ourselves much better. Our sense of self is at the core of our being and consciously and unconsciously influences our every thought, action and feeling. We can better relate to our origin and value ourselves more. It boosts our self-respect and dignity to follow our culture. It also makes us feel proud to belong to our own culture.
Duty of the present generation: One should feel proud of one’s cultural heritage and identity. A strong sense of cultural identity and pride is important to our sense of self-worth. It can give life meaning and provide us with an anchor and compass when life gets tough.
We should acknowledge the necessity and importance of preserving the rich cultural heritage.To hold on to the present culture firmly and pass on to the coming generation so that it will remain like that for many more generations to come.
Even though “mixed cultures” are in vogue, efforts should be made not to let go of regional cultures. One should always remember that our cultures define our existence and make us who we are.A world without diverse culture will not be as colorful as it is now.
The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of History, St Joseph’s College (A), Jakhama.