Why cul­ture mat­ters

Ev­ery so­ci­ety has its own prac­tices and be­liefs that im­pact its cus­toms and tra­di­tions and make up its cul­tural norms.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Madiha Bi­lal Ka­pa­dia Madiha Bi­lal Ka­pa­dia holds an MBA in Mar­ket­ing from IoBM and free­lances for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions.

Cul­tures have an enor­mous ef­fect on our psy­chol­ogy. Ev­ery­thing, from the way we cel­e­brate suc­cess to the way we mourn our dead to the way we cope with ill­ness, is sub­stan­tially in­flu­enced by cul­tural norms. Be­yond that, how­ever, cul­tures can even im­pact the way we per­ceive the world around us and, in­deed, the way we per­ceive our­selves as in­di­vid­u­als. The ex­tent to which our cul­tural her­itage plays into our self-im­age is of­ten un­der­es­ti­mated.

Peo­ple who have been raised in coun­tries where the state op­er­ates through sup­pres­sion and pro­pa­ganda and shuns open­ness, can de­velop a mech­a­nism of emo­tional sup­pres­sion that might carry through gen­er­a­tions even af­ter the state has it­self changed its modus operandi in coun­tries blighted with poverty and fear. That same fear and in­se­cu­rity about the world can con­tinue to pass through fam­ily dy­nam­ics, even af­ter the fam­ily has moved away from the re­gion.

We of­ten for­mu­late ideas about our­selves and the world around us from our re­la­tion­ships with our par­ents in our ear­li­est years. Cul­ture car­ries dif­fer­ences in self-per­cep­tion and this can be seen in the way in which peo­ple in the East see them­selves as more closely a part of a wider fam­ily unit. In the East, there is a greater sense of kin­ship with and re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ex­tended fam­ily.

Ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent view on tra­di­tion. Some re­gard it as play­ing an im­por­tant role in their lives

whereas oth­ers may not rec­og­nize its sig­nif­i­cance. What­ever our point of view may be, there is no deny­ing that cus­toms and tra­di­tions play an im­por­tant part in the lives of peo­ple all over the world, be it in the sub­con­ti­nent or in western so­ci­eties. They can have both a pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive im­pact on peo­ple and their lives, de­pend­ing on the type of cus­tom or tra­di­tion and the re­gion it hails from.

On the plus side, tra­di­tion helps cre­ate unity among peo­ple, gets them to come to­gether in times of grief as well as hap­pi­ness. At the time of a huge event like a death, tra­di­tions and cus­toms can carry peo­ple through. When a per­son goes on au­topi­lot, as they are wont to do when faced with tragedy such as the death of a loved one, all close rel­a­tives and com­mu­nity peo­ple come to­gether to help and of­fer sup­port. Tra­di­tion helps you un­der­stand that life goes on.

The cus­toms, cul­ture and tra­di­tions of the peo­ple of a coun­try are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of its his­tory, faith, lan­guage and en­vi­ron­ment. In Pak­istan, cul­tural pat­terns show a rich her­itage. Pak­istani cul­ture seeks its in­flu­ence from In­dia, Cen­tral Asia and the Mid­dle East, and varies widely in each of the four prov­inces.

Of the many dif­fer­ent re­li­gious fes­ti­vals cel­e­brated in Pak­istan, Eid ul Fitr is the most an­tic­i­pated. It fol­lows the holy month of Ramzan – in which Mus­lims fast which is ob­served by the peo­ple of the faith all over the world. Eid is usu­ally a three-day event, and is cel­e­brated by wear­ing new clothes. So­cial vis­its and ex­change of sweet dishes are cus­tom­ary dur­ing Eid. Eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity pre­ced­ing this fes­ti­val is usu­ally at an all-time high, as new clothes are bought and gifts are ex­changed. Re­li­gious fes­ti­vals like this help cre­ate a greater sense of com­mu­nity among the peo­ple, thus bring­ing them to­gether.

Re­li­gion of­ten plays a piv­otal role in shap­ing cul­tural life and pro­vides a pat­tern for mould­ing lives. While the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in Pak­istan fol­lows Is­lam, there are still some in­dige­nous and for­eign cus­toms that have made their way into our lives. More of­ten than not, this im­ported cul­ture may con­flict with the ex­ist­ing one which is why Pak­ista­nis to­day seem to be go­ing through an iden­tity cri­sis - a cri­sis clearly man­i­fested in the ac­tions of the Pak­istani youth. The western in­flu­ence has both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ef­fects. The most prom­i­nent of th­ese ef­fects is the freedom of speech and ac­tion. Women to­day have more freedom and au­ton­omy than they did 20 years ago and are par­tic­i­pat­ing in sports, pol­i­tics, me­dia and other male­dom­i­nated fields.

On the other hand, there are sev­eral ad­verse ef­fects of the western in­flu­ence on cul­ture and its im­pact on peo­ple’s lives. The ex­tended fam­ily sys­tem, a hall­mark of Pak­istani cul­ture, has been dy­ing a slow death. Western cul­ture and its em­pha­sis on the nu­clear fam­ily sys­tem have en­cour­aged peo­ple to break away from the tra­di­tional joint fam­ily sys­tem and set up their own homes. Many would ar­gue that there is noth­ing wrong with set­ting up an in­di­vid­ual fam­ily unit; that it makes sense eco­nom­i­cally, fi­nan­cially and so­cially. How­ever, the fact re­mains that the dearth of the ex­tended fam­ily has led to cre­at­ing greater dis­tances be­tween pre­vi­ously close-knit fam­i­lies.

Tra­di­tional cul­tural prac­tices re­flect the val­ues and be­liefs held by mem­bers of a com­mu­nity. Ev­ery so­cial group in the world has spe­cific tra­di­tional cul­tural prac­tices and be­liefs, some of which are ben­e­fi­cial to all mem­bers and oth­ers aren’t. But there is no deny­ing that cus­toms and tra­di­tions do have a huge im­pact on the lives of peo­ple. Each re­gion, with its own cul­ture and tra­di­tions, makes the world a rich tapestry; one in which peo­ple look, talk, eat and work dif­fer­ently.

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