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Change is inevitable but indigenous culture will endure

Hide your customs and lock up your traditions, the cultural Gringo is coming to town. Who is the cultural gringo, you might ask? It is global culture hailing from the West and threatening our identities as peoples and nations. It comes as a bulldozer to crush and crumple indigenous cultures and replace them with newly crafted fads and crazes.

The McDonalds and other junk food and drink companies along with video culture are penetrating the most inaccessible corners of this globe.

Go to the Amazon rain forest and you will see tribes wearing Ray-ban sunglasses and hunting with sniper rifles. Their children play wearing Lee-jeans. A little while and we will see Bushmen roaming the Kalahari with Dr. Dre Beats earphones slung over their shoulders. In some Malaysian backwoods you can see naked children watching CNN world news for fun.

What will become of our culture a hundred years from now? The bulldozer will not stop rolling. Nothing is safe from its fury. The mammoth like bulldozers in the Amazon have two functions: to destroy the rain forest and the indigenous culture. Until now we have been witnessing genocide, now let’s brace ourselves for ethnocide.

What will remain of a people once their culture has been destroyed? It is like a sailor who loses his bearing in the middle of the ocean. Without any reference point either in the sky or in the sea, he just drifts away and in the end dies of thirst and hunger along with his crew.

Our culture is our reference point and our identity. What is a Jew without Torah and his 5000 year old tradition, including memories of the holocaust? What is a Frenchman without his language, his fromage, wine, accordion and a lot of fine and subtle behavior patterns, memories and peculiar Gallic deposition? Can Paris be the same French capital without Seine, the Tour Eiffel, Boulevard St. Michael and Montparnasse?

Frenchmen’s irate answer to the speedy replacement of nostalgic places with fast-food chains and discotheques is “Things change, life is in flux, nothing remains static…..”

But there are Frenchmen who never drink Coke and refuse to converse in English. Alas, their children are far too gone into the American way with their Franglais and rap music. Adieu Trenet, Piaf and Azbavour, and Good morning Kendrick Lemar, Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish.

All over the world people are dreaming the American Dream although they don’t want to admit it. Nothing succeeds like success, especially when you do it the American way.

In today’s Europe cultural divide has become blurred with the passage of time. The supermarkets are the same everywhere. The people look the same, eat the same food, drink the same river of Coke, and all have mobile phones that drive any sane person crazy at times. They have the same problems and worries. They produce the same type of serial killers and psychopaths.

Viagra and Ecstasy are unchaining emotions and eroding spiritual sensibilities. With the discovery of pleasure pills in the near future I doubt whether there will remain any faith in this world; culture will have no role to play. Horrible times ahead!

Now we have rap songs in Finnish and Hungarian. The Croat and the Californian fathers have the same problem with their teenage daughters. In the most remote and inaccessible Eritrean villages, you can buy Coke and occasionally see girls wearing jeans. I wouldn’t be surprised if I see girls wearing jeans. I wouldn’t be surprised if I see one smoking! Now everything in this world is becoming a poor imitation everywhere.

Are we witnessing a global culture? I doubt it. Like any force in the universe, culture has also its own inertia. It is very hard to kill indigenous cultures because they have the habit of playing dead and can be reborn in different forms. I feel like imitating the physicists but culture can never be created or destroyed; it only changes its forms.

Go to any Eritrean highland village. Once upon a time every kitchen utensil was made of earth and grass. Now we have them in plastic or cellophane. You can witness this during the brewing of traditional coffee. You will notice traditional utensils replaced by modern ones. If it is in a town that you are having your coffee ceremony, then you should expect drastic changes; the roasted coffee beans are not ground with a wooden or metal pestle in a mortar; the electric grinder can do the job much quicker.

The day won’t be far away when we will be seeing hedmo with plastic roofs, bottled Suwa and tsebhi sandwiches. A change of form will always be there. But indigenous culture will endure.

One reason why cultures will withstand the onslaught of Americanism is that despite the Internet, the e-mail or ever-faster means of transportation which are causing the earth to shrink, geography, climate, environment and biological and psychological peculiarities will forever militate against cultural hegemony of any sort.

Diversification is the characteristic of nature and its workings. Only robots are expected to think and act in the same manner. The difference between computers and human beings is that if you put a certain question to a class of computers they will give you the same correct or wrong answers. But if you put the same question (already put to the computers) to a class of human beings, the answers will be different. Why? Because computers do not think, but human beings do. And it is through thinking that diversity arises.

And then there is this age-old mold in the brain. It took thousands of years for mankind to form this cultural mold. A member of the Amazon tribe may drink Coke, but he drinks it the way he drinks his other tribal concoctions.
Probably he identifies the Coke with some kind of deity or spirit, or he might be tempted to use the Coke to heal certain kinds of disease.

I have seen pills and tablets being crunched and used as ‘herbal’ medicine in some remote villages in Eritrea. A gaping wound is filled with ground aspirin to effect healing. How do you like that?

Do you know about the Cargo Cult? During President Johnson’s era in the USA when the Vietnam War was raging, in some remote pacific islands suffering from famine, food for aid was dropped by American planes from the sky. The inhabitants of the island thought the Americans were gods and were ready to warship Johnson for the timely intervention. One more example of foreign culture disappearing into the mold of the indigenous cultural configuration.

The flow of culture from West to East or from North to South will continue but it will take the form of the mold already engraved in the mind of the indigenous cultures. So, America may send as much of its fads and crazes to all the corners of the world and the people will always be waiting with their engraved mental recipients on the ready.

But teenagers worldwide don’t seem to have the proper molding in their brains, one may object. The answer is that as long as they live in different environments (cultural milieu) and have a flickering sense of cultural pride, their indigenous traditions and customs will never disappear forever. On the other hand, seemingly moribund or dead cultures will pop out in different shapes and forms after digesting foreign cultural input.

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