Here we sit, among the ruins of the past. The formal announcement of our collapse happened with WW1, but still we struggle onward, mainly because there is nothing else to do. Suicide or accepting decay radiates weakness and self-pity. No one wants that, if exposed to it enough.
Very few people understand culture since years ago it was replaced by government, media, and commerce.
To them it seems intangible, so they substitute ideology and procedure, or at least this is what most of them mean when they talk about “culture.”
To people inside a culture, it is invisible; to people without one, it is inscrutable. Our modern civilizations are based on anti-culture, or the political belief in pluralism which means that multiple viewpoints coexist without one being chosen for the group, a rejection of the idea of culture itself.
People in our current time do not understand culture. It is not a categorical thing, like politics, law, or economics. It is a framework of things, a network of behaviors and ideals, and a collection of goals and principles that work together like an ecosystem.
Culture is more like aesthetics and rhythms than the hard-edged black letter law, economic calculations, or political issues. It means coordination without communication, at its core, and unites a group with heuristics based on a “feel” or “sense” of how things ought to be.
As a result, it is both abstract and tangible. People know roughly how things should be and what that should look like as an end-state, so they do not have methods, just directions. Culture is a sense of self based on an idea of the function of a civilization.
Its daily actions are as much metaphorical and imagery as they are practical. People who practice a culture follow a calendar, have a cuisine, share linguistic tropes and folklore, and even have schedules based on the rhythm of a place, all to maintain the feeling of normal life in that place.
Some of these metaphors unite psychology and practicality in parallel, like spring cleaning. Common sense says that every spring, it is a good time to toss out the old, clean out the dust, and then let the fresh air and sun renew your living space (and kill off the airborne microbial parasites).
On a psychological level, it makes sense to force renewal as well. You look at each object and wonder what it means. Does it still have relevance? If not, toss it, like those bad memories, bad decisions, and unfruitful attempts of the past. Learn and try again.
Aesthetics have a point too. The structures that endure have adapted to a place like the many species in the region, and have found a balance with the weather and uses by the people who live there. In this way, nature produces infinite variety instead of standardization.
The rhythms of a place reflect function, as does the cuisine. When the sun comes up, it is time to face the day, and when the seasons shift, one can enjoy what is plentiful then (summer squash) and prepare for what comes next (harvest season and hoarding for winter).
Sounds including language also reflect what is unique and adapted about a place. The language and music of a zone tell us what its occupants prize and adore, such as gentleness and precision. A place that cares enough to organize its sounds clearly prizes the idea of culture itself.
Modernity seeks to replace culture with individualism. That is the whole point: once civilization has been established, it grows too fast, and people take civilization for granted. Then they want to be able to do whatever they want, with others paying for it, and no one able to criticize them for this.
In this way individualism leads to equality. When everyone is equal, no one can be criticized, and all costs are passed on to the society. Government comes in and takes over from the functions of culture, including religion and charity, centralizing and standardizing.
These new institutions, unlike culture, are based on weak power but strong methods (you will find an inverse relationship between the strength of power and the strength of its methods). They demand everyone be treated like an identical being in the grand tradition of bureaucracies.
Consequently everything is run by committee, and with committees, people compromise to what they think the group will support and ignore what is real, necessary, and especially relevant over the long term. Standards drop and mediocrity becomes normal.
Culture includes hierarchy by nature. If there is a goal, those who achieve the goal receive greater rewards, both to acknowledge their service and to place them higher in power because of their greater competence. Individualism seeks to replace hierarchy with “me first.”
This inevitably becomes collectivized and one gets bureaucracies, committees, and governments based on taxation and wealth redistribution to “solve” “problems” and address “issues.” These are symbolic acts, security theater for the neurotic soul that is driven by fear more than realistic concerns.
Only culture can hold back the tide, but almost no one knows what culture is, or recognizes that it — and not themselves personally — is the target. To have culture, a society needs a single ethnic (not racial) group. Does this explain the mess we are in?
We are in a culture war of a different sort: we are fighting for culture. With culture, we can let economics (capitalism) and law work for us. Without it, they become parasites like government, taking from us in the name of helping us while degrading everything around us.