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