Dying Man’s Daily Journal – Importance of Culture


Had 2 longer naps yesterday and a good nights sleep last night, I am feeling good and rested.

I have been pondering for a while on the real value of culture. Now by culture I am referring to or thinking of it as being in maintaining the ways and traditions of our individual ancestors. Now for me, I am a Canadian, but by ancestry, I am part English and part Irish. I am not sure how to maintain my culture or really what it even is. It seems people of every nation are very proud and understandably so of their individual cultures. Can someone help me out here? I am Canadian and very proud of that fact, but as a Canadian, what is the culture, I should maintain?

Canada is a country full of wonderful people, no question about that. It seems though that we don’t share a common Canadian culture. It is like we are a gathering spot for people from all around the world. I don’t know this but I imagine somewhere in Canada we have people of every nationality and every faith known to man. To that I say good. It seems as people come to Canada they like to maintain the “culture” of the country from which they came and that is fair enough, I understand and respect that. We are a country of very mixed and diverse nationalities and cultures that live side by side in peace and Harmony. That is wonderful, we all can learn and gain so much from other cultures.

I don’t know the answer to this so I pose it as a question. By everyone coming together and to at least some degree maintaining their “previous culture” are we depriving ourselves of developing a truly Canadian “culture”? I am not trying to say this is either a good thing or a bad thing. I quess, I am just left wondering if say I emigrated to Australia or somewhere and wanted to maintain my Canadian culture, how would I do that? What do I have to maintain? I just don’t know.

OK, to figure this culture thing out, I went to wikopedia and got this:

Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire society.”[3] As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, games, norms of behavior such as law and morality, and systems of belief as well as the art.

Now by ancestory I am part English and part Irish. Does this mean I should be looking back to England or Ireland to find “my culture”? But, I am not English, I am not Irish, I am Canadian.

I am not trying to sound negative on this whole culture idea, I am trying to understand it and the tremendous importance it seems to have for some. Is not culture but mere history. A history of the way our individual ancestors did things in the past. That is good to know, good to learn from and honor. But what does that have to do with me as an individual today and how I choose to live my life today.

I really would appreciate feed back on this as I really don’t get it. Here are but 2 examples of why I just don’t get it.

Now understand I am not trying to belittle or minimize the situation of anyone, be it an individual or a group. I am trying to understand it, so please explain it to me.

I have heard and read of many people that feel their lives today have if not been destroyed at least hampered or minimized by the lose of their origingal culture. Now my heart and prayers do go out to all and I am not trying to minimize past injustices. But, culture is history, some ancient history some fairly recent history, but history none the less, today is today. Maybe, I don’t understand the importance of culture since I don’t even know really what mine is. I guess that means I have been deprived of my culture.

My second point is in our child care system here in Canada. I am specifically thinking of when children are placed into foster care, often having been taken away from parents for anyone of a multitude of reasons. Now what I am saying applies equally to children of every ethnic background. Such a child is essentially placed into the care of the government all administered to by different agencies. Now in my mind, the well being of the child should take priority over all other. This does not indeed seem to be the case as is seen by my non expert eye based on newspaper articles. Major priority seems to be returning the child to some member of the family, be they qualified or not. Another major priority is to place the child in a home of the same ethnic background. I understand and appreciate that. So often I read that this “culture” thing takes priority over the well being of the child and to that I say WRONG.

I just don’t understand the importance of this whole “culture thing”.

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5 Responses to Dying Man’s Daily Journal – Importance of Culture

  1. vicki says:

    i think i understand where you are coming from as Australia is very much the same as the Canada that you describe… A ‘melting pot’ for many cultures …and in fact ‘built’ on that… My feelings are that we should seek to preserve our Lands native peoples and learn more of that ‘cultural insight’ and integrate this into our schools as i think there is much wisdom to be gained there, especially about what it means to actually ‘own’ land (ie) No one ever actually ‘owns’ any piece of land but simply ‘borrows’ it for a time…
    And as country’s that are such melting pots, i feel that we have a responsibility to teach the ‘rest of the world’ how it can be done… That different cultures have much to teach each other …i hope to one day see a world that embraces such a philosophy so that we have a world where people see themselves as ‘one people’… i believe that we are all connected regardless of cultural background and that we are all ~one people of one land~ vicki x (ps) i think that these internet connections that we make are a good sign of our world view changing X:-)

  2. Pia says:

    I think it depends on how close to that particular culture the child was in his or her previous home setting. If the child is first generation, the culture issue has a stronger influence and impact, and should be considered (though I don’t know if that means top priority..the best thing to do is take it case by case…??)

    I am first generation American, child of immigrants from Italy and if I had been sent to a foster home, I don’t think I’d have thrived in an Irish or English cultural setting.

    We had few immigrants in our area, which made integration easier for us in a way. My mom had to learn English to survive, whereas my dad, who had already been living in the States for a few years, ended up going to university and ultimately became an English teacher (he taught me American Lit!!) My Canadian cousins, on the other hand, are also first generation, but they lived in a close knit Italian community, where everyone spoke Italian at home and away from home. My mother’s sisters never learned English because they didn’t need to. All the stores had people who speak italian. The children learned English very well nonetheless and ended up being teachers (all of my cousins are teachers!). They also have an easier time when they come back to Italy because they know Italian (dialect). I had a hard time when I decided to come to Italy to live because I didn’t know Italian very well at all. Then through the years, I learned it well enough to teach it to immigrants coming from Romania and Albania! Anyway, the funny thing is that now I have to help these immigrants to Italy interact and integrate into our formidable Italian culture!

    Besides the individual national cultures, there is a universal culture: respect for other peoples individual cultural backgrounds, together for a love for the arts, both in their classical and modernexpression; knowledge of world history and philosophy. This kind of knowledge helps foster understanding between all cultures and helps people bridge the cultural gap.

  3. Juanita says:

    Culture has always been explained to me in 1 word, “HUMAN”.

  4. Very interesting Bill, I too am English and Irish, but I’m American! Also, what I learned from your post is that Canada is a melting pot too, I didn’t realize that (you know Americans…..we think we’re the only ones…..lol!)

    Here’s my perspective, I think it’s great for people to uphold their traditions and cultures, yet, they also need to embrace the culture they live in. For example, the area I grew up in had a lot of Swedish, German, and Polish people living there. These people and their parents were born here in America, but they had traditions like St. Nick’s night, and everyone wore those beautiful Nordic snowflake sweaters but they all spoke ENGLISH and celebrated American traditions too…..they were proud to have their heritage AND proud to be Americans.

    Where I live now, there are a lot of hispanic people, and they only want to speak Spanish, they want the schools to teach their kids in Spanish, and they want the stores to have signs in Spanish…..they even expect me to speak Spanish when they talk to me. (heaven forbid, they should live in American and someone should expect them to speak English…..anyway…..)

    The difference is that where I live now, the people expect society to cater to them, instead of them embracing the American life style and traditions, and them keeping their traditions at home, they are trying to force our community to conform to the traditions and way of life that they had where they came from…..I believe that anyone who wants to come to America should be able to come and live here, but for goodness sake, if you want to live in America, you should want to be an American…….you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    For me, the most important thing about keeping my heritage if I lived in another country, would be perserivng my language (at home), and observing Independence day (again, at home, not forcing my community to celebrate it too.) And making sure my kids knew their American history……which sadly many people who live in America don’t even know.

    I love learning about other cultures, but if I went to live in another country, I would want to conform to their way of life (unless it included eating spiders or fish eyes or something like that.)

  5. Hey Bill I’m intrigued by your ponderances re: culture in Canada.

    I currently live in the NWT & am surrounded by vibrant First Nations/Inuit culture & peoples. And they are all over Canada. (Actually my late husband was Alberta Cree, so my daughter has her status.) I’m suggesting that it’s easy to think of Aboriginals as the “original” Canadians. Not that we have to adopt their culture (as they were forced to adopt Catholicism, etc. & English/French when the colonisers came). First Nations have it in their humanity to be mediators, to accomodate & welcome others. I think those are wonderful attributes to have. Canada should be glad of that.

    As for me – I was born in Finland, grew up in Toronto. We spoke our language at home so I have a working ability to communicate in Finnish. But to “find” my culture I was on my own: so I’ve gone back to Finland several times to reconnect with relatives & the country itself. Plus last year I applied to “recover” my Finnish citizenship (which I never gave up – my parents just got the Canadian one for me). So ideally I’d have dual citizenship & the right to live/retire in Finland if I so wish.

    I love Canada; it’s the perfect mix of “everyone else”. For example: most of our cab drivers in Yellowknife are from Africa. They are the sweetest happiest guys & love to tell their stories. They often have come from poverty, war & oppression. They love Canada. We also have a large Filipino population & they also appreciate the good life they have here.

    Aren’t we lucky? Think about the people you know who are multi-cultural: ie have parents from different cultures & can enjoy both. Me – I love middle eastern & Celtic music, Thai food, Inuit art, east Indian clothes, powwows, Finnish handicrafts & follow a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. We are all human & family. No need to isolate ourselves.

    May you spirit continue to be strong

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