Cultural Awareness

Gent 17

If the title comes across as another sound bite from people into culture and art, yes you are correct. For a child growing up in the Netherlands, the present culture available to everyone is part of education. The cultural and educational sector complement each other. All the beneficial aspect are generally glorified to create “cultural awareness” until everyone can name the most famous artists by heart.

Now what is culture in this context? Culture is basically the name for every expression of a society, group, sub-group etcetera. Through perception, impulses are processed and a response may lead to a song, statue, literature or painting. The response can also be a specific opinion or legislation. What matters is that culture is influenced by human behaviour and influences human behaviour.

As a kid I appreciated the access to culture but I preferred reading about culture. In reading about art, culture and history I came to detest the emphasis on “cultural awareness”. Culture is important. To be aware of your culture is also important. Yet when you only know about culture because you are perceived as a microphone with brains there is little to enjoy.

Personally I am all for sharing and passing on culture. The maintenance of national and cultural heritage, yes please do. Generally open access to cultural events and exhibitions, even better. Thing is, when most of what you experience is told and not actually experienced there is little to learn and enjoy. I can tell every stranger I meet that Shakespeare is awesome yet their tastes may vary and my ardent recommendation may put them off.

The actual significance of “cultural awareness” is very simple to explain. When you know where you come from and what the culture of your time is, you can learn to understand your own position at that given moment. Then you look at the history of generations and ages before and when you are interested you can discover many things.

There is an aspect of “cultural awareness” that is often ignored. Yes it is good to be culturally aware but that “good” depends on your personal interest and enjoyment. Some people think Rembrandt is overrated. That is an opinion. Some people prefer poppies over tulips, flower preferences.

Culture is important. Genuine appreciation for cultural expressions is personal. How a person is culturally aware and experiences culture is even more personal…