My cultural demands strike close to home

As a true fan of diversity, I love to travel and experience the various cultures the world has to offer. Even if I’m not adventurous enough to actually eat the more exotic foods I encounter, I still enjoy watching other people eat them and I enjoy photographing them. I love it when the natives dress in native costumes, when they speak tribal languages, practice interesting rituals and hold colorful parades in honor of festivals I’d previously never heard of. In my travels I can make believe that locals do all these things for my entertainment. That if they fail to please me in this regard, they owe me a refund on my plane ticket.
In all seriousness, they owe me nothing. Yet do those people have a moral obligation to maintain their own cultures? Are they doing anything wrong if they forsake their traditional dress in favor of jeans and t-shirts? Is it a sin if they treat their ancestral language as a pariah? If McDonalds pleases their pallet more than their mother’s cooking, should they be rebuked? Should we encourage them to stop watching the Simpsons and participate in local festivities instead?
We could argue that, even if their own behavior is their own business, they’re robbing their descendants of a heritage. I think that, on some level, there is a moral obligation to maintain one’s culture, at least the harmless aspects of it.
My Peruvian vacation was a mixed bag in this regard. The foods did not disappoint. I’ve already written about native languages. I was pleasantly surprised by local festivities and I even had some good musical experiences. Back in the U.S., I was filling out a mental score card of how well Peru fulfilled my cultural expectations – and then I accepted an observant Jew as a housemate.
I realized that if somebody were grading me on my own culture, I’d get an “F”. I don’t practice Judaism, not even the holidays. At least, given the opportunity, I speak Hebrew.
But it’s not my fault. Long ago, something terrible happened to the Jews: Our culture was transformed into a religion.  Before this happened, it was possible to be a Jew by living the culture, even without being a particularly religious person. There was a Jewish way of dressing, Jewish food, Jewish traditions and Jewish language. There were sensitivities that might have transcended any sense of spirituality or religious obligation. Back then, one didn’t have to worry about going to hell if he didn’t live as a Jew; it’s all he knew.
Americans watch football, eat fast food, go to movies and upgrade their cell phones every few months not because they consciously choose to adhere to a specific lifestyle. They do so because this is their default behavior and they rarely have occasion to question it. Once it was the same for Jews. Zionism was an attempt to restore this state of affairs. It enjoyed some success but time has shown it to be an uphill struggle. It appears that to be truly successful, a complete cultural identity must come naturally – but we all now live in a giant blender where “globalism” only grudgingly allows smaller peoples to keep their own ways.
As for me, I welcome my new housemate as both a friend and an opportunity to reconnect with some of my own traditions – but I won’t pretend to believe in fairy tales. It should be interesting.

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7 Responses to My cultural demands strike close to home

  1. “I think that, on some level, there is a moral obligation to maintain one’s culture, at least the harmless aspects of it.”
    Well said. And in my area of America, the South, our heritage and culture is continually and mercilessly vilified. So I went back deeper and started researching European culture and Medievalism revival. I think there might still be something left to be salvaged from the old traditions of history. Like you said, at least the harmless aspects like food, clothing, and song.

  2. Nyk says:

    I’d also visit some parts of Africa, but apparently the savagely noble Black race is not on my side, what with the crime rates. I would be interested in Kenya and Ethiopia, perhaps also the foothills of the Kilimanjaro in Africa. Would those parts be safe enough to visit for a White person?

    • deltapolis says:

      If you can stay out of their “cities” you should be ok, because it is in cities that Africans worst traits are most magnified. It has often been said that a culture that does not have the ability to invent something itself will abuse that invention if given it. Imagine what would happen if aliens came down to earth and began trading flying saucers for food? Alcohol, firearms, democracy, justice, etc., are all examples of white (and Asian to a lesser extent) inventions and concepts that blacks and other primitive varieties of humans cannot handle responsibly. Cities are not thought of as an invention like firearms but, as an expression of civilisation, they are just as likely to be abused if the wrong people get hold of them.

  3. WmarkW says:

    When Judaism was invented, their values were very different from the surrounding nations that had fertility temples and gladiator duels. Jews today live among neighbors who either practice a minor variation of their faith, or a secular interpretation of it.
    Being a Jew today does not make one a distinctive member of society, except to the extent one chooses to differentiate yourself that way.

    • SFG says:

      My understanding is the rabbis are actually harder on Christianity than Islam, largely for historical reasons regarding the relative hostility of each faith which no longer obtain. I kind of wish they’d reconsider, but since you’re not allowed to overrule a prior era’s judgments…
      Personally, this is why I think Talmud is a little silly…

  4. Attila says:

    I’ve studied both Biblical and Modern Hebrew to the point where I can make out quite a bit of it without much trouble. Since I am of full Spanish ancestry- and on top of that – speak French, Italian, Turkish and Farsi- a lot of people mistake me for a Sephardic Jew -which is a lot of fun. When in Turkey- they asked me if I was Israeli – and in Spain – the Turkish tourists asked me if I was Jewish—LOL! Right now – I am listening to Mizrahi music on Kol Israel, on Reshet Gimel.

  5. Alexander says:

    Hey man, was there ever Jewish culture per se?
    Not what I was taught.
    If there wasn’t God’s intervention and radical religious difference between you and other nations, you would have probably been an Iraqi Arab today.
    Your culture is secondary to your faith, your culture exists only as a supplement of your faith.
    You aren’t even a nation as is most of other nations, you are a community that can’t get along with anybody else and that’s why has it’s own identity.
    Surely you can drop faith during time, and retain that culture of yours, but do know that the God is the One that kept you in existence through your faith through all of these years of exile and persecution, if you only have had a culture you would have probably perished during your almost 2000 years of exile.
    There are examples of people striving and having SIMILAR fate to yours(romani nation – the Gypsies), but there is where God’s grace shows it’s true glow. You were persecuted true, but also you were always on the economic top in any given country of the world too. it is two extremes and you can see that’s God’s deed with you.
    You have so many evidences of God’s grace for you, and yet you are one of the most atheistic nations on Earth. Sad.

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