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May 7, 2017 / Congau

Cultural Universality

Human beings are always the same, at all times and all places. Culture is a detail; interesting as a shade of a color, but insignificant for understanding what it means to be human.

History is also mere variations of scenes from the great human theater. Where and when the stage is set is of less importance, for the same tragedy or comedy is played over and over. To understand the contemporary world one might as well learn about the past and to grasp the mentality of the West one might as well look to the East.

Great literature, or any literature worthy of the name, is aware of that. The story takes place somewhere and sometimes, for reality needs a background to be real, but its significant elements are not dependant on those specific settings.

Therefore there is little need to worry about being exposed to a too one-sided cultural influence in literature. The basic themes of any story worth reading are always universal. The demand for cultural diversity often seems forgetful of this fact. Stressing the need for variety in areas of less importance may have a divisive effect instead of the unifying ideal that is intended by the messengers of multicultural understanding.

On the other hand, stories of a somewhat cheaper value, particularly what is mass produced by the movie industry from a particular part of the world, rarely provide much psychological insight and then those insignificant cultural details may reach the forefront of attention where they don’t really belong. One may call it the culture of globalism, but in reality it’s the culture of a very contemporary America which doesn’t actually exist; an artificial culture without depth.

This is the kind of cultural uniformity that should be avoided, but under the seemingly neutral globalist label it is spread to a world hungry for light entertainment. It’s not at all universal and therefore there isn’t much to be learned from it. One could get a better understanding of the contemporary world by reading a more than two millennia old Greek tragedy than when indulging in the latest box office hit from Hollywood.

When real human beings are portrayed, they happen to come from a particular culture, but it doesn’t matter which one. Any culture can represent any culture.

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