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Essay on “Modern Societies- The Cultural Dimension” Complete Essay for Class 9, Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Modern Societies- The Cultural Dimension

The assertion of cultural identity was considered to be an act of liberation, a weapon in the fight for effective in-dependence, and the best means of achieving the self-fulfilment of individuals, and the harmonious development of societies. It was, moreover, the first pre-requisite of the advent of a new world order, based on the inalienable right of nations to expose themselves to the recognition of fundamental equality and dignity of all cultures.

Cultural identity is not a problem for the general public but for the educated, whose upbringing has often included virtually inevitable elements of cultural alienation. The elite must return to their culture to understand it more effectively, and experience it as a living reality in order to find their roots in it. Seen from this angle, cultural identity should be asserted primarily in the schools and universities. An elite, often educated in other schools and some-times unsure of its identity, must be helped into awareness of its own heritage, and its eyes opened to the fact that popular culture is not merely folklore.

The question of each group of nation’s cultural identity, which is at the meeting-point of culture and communication, shows the importance of language both as a vehicle of communication and as part of the cultural heritage. Linguistic richness imposes not only a respect for the many languages existing but also a complex and costly adaptation of the communication networks to the different linguistic areas, as well as the use of many languages by the communication media in order to avoid standardization. Language policy, therefore, constitutes one of the thorniest and most important issues in the formulation of communication policies.

Culture, which was not something separate from consciousness of the community’s identity, was probably regarded first and foremost as a factor making for a stronger sense of national individuality; but the quest for cultural identity was, in all cases, combined with sympathetic receptivity to the other cultures of the region and of the world, and, ultimately, to all that is universally human, which ruled out cultural isolationism and entailed the disavowal of chauvinistic assertions of distinctive nationhood.

The fate of modern societies is enacted on a stage which now encompasses the planet. Societies which until a few ad s ago  were able to live in almost total ignorance of each other are today in increasingly close and regular contact. There is a growing interplay of reciprocal influences; interdependence is a reality in many fields of human activity.

Yet, while this interdependence is undoubtedly a source of mutual enrichment, receptivity, new initiatives and creativity, it is also a cause of frustration to the extent that it is accompanied by worsening conditions for certain peoples, and feelings of growing uncertainty and increased vulnerability. Sensitivity of changes, wherever they occur in the world, is becoming acute.

It is perhaps in the field of culture that the contradictory demands of new world relationships are most readily discernible. Communication between human beings is becoming global in its scope, and the quantity of knowledge and information available is constantly increasing. With the development of computer technology, the possibilities of collecting this knowledge and information, of storing them and transferring them from one point on the planet to another, are also continually expanding.

These exchanges and contacts are accompanied by a growing tendency towards a standardization of tastes and behaviour, and a homogenization of certain patterns of life, thought and action, of production and consumption propagated by the uniform dissemination of the same television series, the same musical rhythms, the same clothes, and the same escapist dreams.

This growing conformity, which seems to follow an internal logic of its own, is gradually invading more and more areas of human activity. In its turn it generates distortions, since it tends to promote whatever conforms to it, and to destroy everything that resists it. Whole sectors of creativity are thus repressed, and societies mutilated in their individuality and their distinctive structure. Carried to the extreme, this logic could lead to the ossification of mankind, since diversity, if accepted on a footing of complete equality, is an essential and fertile source of vitality for both individual societies and the whole world. However, as a kind of reaction of this trend, a renewed, ex-plosive affirmation of individuality is emerging. Communities everywhere—ethnic and national, rural and urban, cultural and religious—are asserting their originality and endeavouring to take in hand, and defend with vigour those features by reference to which their identity is defined.

The will to affirm and defend cultural identity, appears now one of the major driving forces of history. Far from representing a withdrawal into an immutable, self-enclosed past, it fosters a lively, original and constantly renewed synthesis. A sense of cultural identity thus appears more and more to be sine qua non of progress for individuals, groups and nations; it is the force that animates and underpins the collective will, mobilizes inner resources, and turns necessary change into creative adaptation.

 It is today recognized that the notion of cultural identity lies at the very heart of development problems, but it is only recently, that this fact has won full acceptance by the international com-munity. It is only in the last ten years that our understanding of development, its paths and aims, has broadened and deepened. Originally equated with simple, linear economic growth—vital, certainly, in so far as an increase in the production of material goods makes a decisive contribution to the improvement of people’s living conditions, when such goods are equitably distributed–development has increasingly been seen to be an infinitely more complex, comprehensive and multidimensional process, which is effective only if it is based on the will of each society to fulfill itself, and only if it truly expresses each society’s underlying identity.

Genuine development can only be generated from within, willed and conducted by all the vital forces of the nation. It should, therefore, encompass all aspects of life and involve all the energies of a community within which each individual, each occupational category and each social group has its part to play in the general effort, and has its share in resulting benefits.

As so often happens, this growing awareness of the true nature of development was largely brought about by the setbacks experienced in developing and industrialized countries like India.

The developing countries, tempted to catch up with the industrialized countries by following the same path, have sometimes endeavoured to adopt approaches to development which, seeking to achieve rapid economic progress by often inappropriate means, did not always produce the expected results, or even brought new constraints which not only reproduced but aggravated those which had handicapped the industrialized countries.

At the same time, the industrialized societies, considered to be the most developed, have also come to realize the very serious problems caused by economic growth seen as an end in itself. Damage to the natural environment is exacerbated by new constraints which threaten man’s very existence as a social being, attached to a community with which he can fully identify.

The whole international community is thus, today, in different ways, increasingly coming to accept the idea of integrated development in which economic, social and cultural factors are commonly, linked and contribute together to progress. Culture, which is connected with all expressions of life and which, of every human being and every people, is the expression of their highest values and their very sense of life, emerges as the factor which is to guide and humanize economic growth and technical progress.

To take account of the cultural dimension—or objective—of development is to recognize that the goal of development should , be to render man unto himself; in other words, to grant him a place in the world which magnifies his existence instead of narrowing it, a life befitting his needs and desires, a city in which he can be integrated rather than rejected, a community joined together in solidarity, and an occupation which brings him dignity and freedom. This is to attach due importance to creativity, which implies that each people assumes its own identity by enriching and continually reinventing it through acts, words and artefacts.

Tradition must also be reckoned with, although it should not necessarily be seen as an obstacle to modernization. It is only when the sign loses its meaning that tradition may become negative, immobile introspection. It is far more accurate to see tradition as the cumulative record of the experiences of a community throughout its history.

As a result of cultural innovation, tradition may take on a new lease of life, become part of life as it is lived, and even con-tribute to development and progress. The conquest of modernity can be achieved by bringing upto date the forms, relationship and symbols which constitute, at the deepest level, the specific face of a culture. Innovation, the dynamic aspect of cultural identity and action, will be the agent of this awakening.

Thus, the notion of cultural identity is today not separable from that of development. Three major spheres of human activity—, education, science and communication—which are also UNESCO s fields of competence, are closely linked to culture and combine to extend its action in the service of development.

Culture and education foster the growth of social roots. From the viewpoint of development, they appear as essentially complementary. Economic and social development is largely conditioned by the conception of the world which prevails in a given society, but this conception of the world is itself influenced by the message transmitted by educational systems and the sensibilities which they help to stimulate. Modern schooling has taken the place of traditional education. This trend is irreversible, but the new forms of education are not always appropriate to the situation and real needs of individuals and groups. A widening rift in intellectual and cultural life may be observed with the extension of schooling, an uneasy coexistence between an elitist culture and —a popular or traditional culture which has virtually nothing in common with the former.

In a number of countries, oral tradition is the authentic memory of the people and, swelled by new contributions from each generation, explains the world in all its diversity. In most cases too, its symbolism opens a door onto a fabulous world of the imagination. The data recorded in the oral tradition must be rediscovered and collected, for to destroy or banish them to oblivion would be irreversible.

But there are many other ways in which education must be linked to the most significant values of a culture. To take one notable example, an effort must be made to avoid the shock of uprooting a child, which occurs when he is taught, from the moment he enters the school, in a language which is not his own. The use of languages spoken by the community to which the child belongs, thus, appears as both an educational and a cultural imperative. Associated with this major choice should be various reforms which, through the promotion of popular arts and traditions, and social values, would aim to implant education in the realities and history of the nation.

 In this way, it is certainly possible to gain from people that conscious and active participation without which there can be no profound sense of cultural identity, nor any truly endogenous development

Another fundamental question is that of the relations between science and technology, on the one hand, and culture on the other. Whether we like it or not, the implantation of a technology is a cultural phenomenon. Even in cases where the introduction of certain technologies brings that most obvious benefit, the transfer is not culturally neutral and may cause a distortion of standards, and the emergence of new values bearing no relation to deep-rooted social and human realities.

It seems desirable, whenever possible, to try to develop, on the spot, a technology adapted to the specific needs of each situation, instead of turning to imported formulae when the latter cannot be satisfactorily mastered. The best and most vigorous development will always be endogenous development, that is to say, development consciously and fully assumed by everyone. For, if the demands of development require that no society can do without science, if science is to be most fruitful, it must grow roots in each society. Science will not contribute to improving the lives of men in countries where it is perceived as a foreign import, until the day when it becomes an integral part of their culture.

And so, the need to participate in decision-making concerning scientific and technological development, appears to be emerging in various societies. This trend suggests a certain shift in aspirations, from exclusively economic goals to a range of ultimate objectives related to social and cultural development. It also appears to be the sign of growing awareness of the decisive role played by technology in the development of societies, and of the determination of peoples to assume greater responsibility for their own future, with a fuller knowledge of what is at stake. Thus, the search for greater compatibility between the directions in which technological change is steered, and the expectations of society, may well be one of the key issues of the coming decade.

Communications technology has made such strides in the last few years that it has revolutionized life and development in both industrialized and developing societies. Increasingly, people are en-countering other cultures in their everyday lives, discovering other values, observing attitudes unfamiliar to them, and thereby coming to know the many faces of mankind. And soon, through direct satellite television broadcasting, it will be possible to transmit knowledge globally, and the eruption of other cultures into every home will be a permanent fact.

Whether the role of the new instruments is beneficial or harmful, will depend on the way in which they are used by mankind. It seems indispensable to integrate the communications media into cultural policies, for it would be vain to pretend that the media only raise problems of technical order. They are bound to have repercussions on political attitudes, on social behaviour, on ways of thinking, and thus on culture in the broadest sense. LIf development is the concern of all institutions of the United Nations system, cultural questions devolve exclusively on UNESCO, which has for some years, been making an original contribution to the problem of cultural development by launching and promoting the idea of “cultural policy”.

An inter-governmental conference on cultural policy was held by UNESCO in Venice, in 1970, and subsequently, a number of regional conferences met in order to deepen and continue, in their specific contexts, the process of reflexion begun by the international community, and to accelerate the evolution from an elitist concept of culture to that of cultural action committed to development, which would promote the fulfillment of individuals and com-munities.

“Development must find its inspiration in culture,” says the unanimously adopted Declaration of the Bogota Conference (1978) UNESCO is continuing this long-term effort by holding a world conference on cultural policies.


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