Dialogue is integral to its well-being – Culture in all its forms is complex [Archives:2004/717/Culture]

March 4 2004
Traditional Yemeni architecture, a unique attraction for tourists
Traditional Yemeni architecture, a unique attraction for tourists
By Abdulla A. Bukeir
[email protected]
For The Yemen Times

A great deal of argumentation has been occurred among philosophers, intellectuals and sociologists concerning the meaning of culture. Moreover, many researches and thesis have been written in an attempt to define culture and civilization. Whether culture and civilization are identical terms for one thing, or are they different, it is also another question.
Culture is generally defined as “a combination of knowledge, technical and mental skills, manners of conduct and morals that distinguish any society or nation from another.” It is also defined as “promotion of mentality and morality, and development of the intact taste in literature and beautiful arts and it is one of the stages of progress in a civilization.”
Upon this ground, intellectuals and sociologists “do not speak about the culture of the cannibals and the culture of violence and destruction, yet they mention the Indian, Chinese, Persian or Arabic culture that is realized to them in the civilized customs and traditions; and in the mental outcome, such as: literature, arts, philosophy and science.”

Intellectuals speak also about two types of culture
1. The Scientific culture which is “based on the industrial revolution since the 18th century and its consequences in the scientific revolution, when the scientific theories had been used in industry since the beginning of the twentieth century.”
2. The literary culture which does not mean merely literature in its specific meaning as it seems to be at the first glance, 'but it includes many of the humanities, such as: social history, sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, principles of government, psychology and social sciences.”
The concept of culture is sometimes mixed up with the concept of civilization, to the extent that some people think that they are the same. This is because civilization has, in a way or another, similar definition as “the combination of social, religious, moral, technical, scientific and artistic characteristics in a specific nation; and transmitted through generations.”
In fact, some researchers believe that technology is the body of civilization and culture is its soul.
Consequently, intellectuals and researchers have settled the argumentation about the dialogue of cultures and ignored any conflict, when they stated that the progress of civilization does not mean the overcome of western culture upon the eastern; or the northern upon the southern. But it means essentially a literary, intellectual, scientific and artistic mutuality among all parties, so that the individual culture flourishes and yields its ripen fruit.”
Regarding the most significance of culture in the life of humanity, intellectuals and sociologists devoted most of their time and labour to study the various aspects and fields of culture, according to different times and communities; even to different social classes in the same society, in the view of the fact that each time and each society has its own culture.
This hard work brought forth various branches of knowledge concerning culture. Thus we hear now about the science of cultural anthropology which deals with “the individual as a civilized being, living in a specific culture.” The concept of cultural determinism which means “human behaviour and character are basically restricted to culture factors”, has become widespread.
We also get accustomed to talk about cultural heritage; which sociologists define it as the “combination of cultural specimens that the individual gets from the different communities whose one of its members. The cultural heritage includes also customs, traditions, and dogma that the individual has inherited.”
Intellectuals and men of letters study what they call cultural integration, which means that each culture has its own combination of social manners that the individuals live and think according to them. They are closely and tight integrated, and the missing of any element in this integration may lead to confusion and disorder; and to psychological and social problems, consequently this might bring forth different types of conflict that cause an obstacle in the way of the community progress.

Culture & the IT evolution
According to what is mentioned previously; we come to a conclusion that culture is a combination of different branches and fields of knowledge, customs, traditions, morals and values. Culture is also manners of human and civil conduct that characterizes the identity of a society or a nation and distinguishes its character.
Those societies and nations, even if they differ or vary in their cultures, yet they have one basic ground of human culture and civilization, on which they interact, intermix and integrate in a framework of one human culture. On the other hand, any cultural defect or disorder in the cultural integration of any specific human society, will surely cause confusion and chaos inside this society, and might extend or spread to other neighbouring societies.
Or even to a far way community in this age of great speed in development of telecommunication and information technology. This revolutionary progress makes vast distances very close, and breaks through natural, geographical and political borders and frontiers. It makes the whole globe seems to be one cultural area, where the cultures of great world powers become almost the predominant feature for mostly all social communities.
As far as we are living in a world of increasing speed of crucial changes and great inventions; and in a time where scientific and technological means, tools and equipment develop very fast in quantity and vast expansion; this means that the societies and nations of the world, especially those are called the underdeveloped countries, are obliged to give more attention to researches and studies and to work very hard to fill what is called today this cultural gap or what others call the cultural lag.
In our Arabic-Islamic society, we are undoubtedly, in great need to study objectively our own cultural status; keeping in mind our great cultural heritage that once enriched the human culture and civilization and interweave positively with it.
If we go a little back to the history of modern civilizations throughout the human historical procession; such as the Greek, Persian, Indian, Roman or Arabic civilization, we will definitely realize how the cultures of those societies had founded customs, traditions, spiritual and social values. They also constituted human cultural heritage, which up to date form the base of our current human and civil society.
What is to be taken in consideration now, is this huge industrial progress; and this great scientific and technological development in our today world that form man's culture and mentality. This industrial and technological revolution has brought forth great monopolistic economical and industrial powers that attempt to exploit this great revolution, in telecommunication and information technology, for the sake of their selfish benefits, and to mold man's spirit and mentality according to the materialistic outcomes of this progress.
This phenomenon in the culture of human society, is seriously dangerous and against man's spiritual and moralistic values and traditions. Scientific and technological progress should be utilized for the sake of humanity and its cultural and civil progress and peace.

Culture and cultural invasion
In such heightened argumentation concerning human cultures, a question forced itself urgently, to know whether there is a dialogue or a conflict among these different cultures ?!! Logically, the answer will be: dialogue is the natural and normal case, because human race is inclined to its nature and civil mentality to understanding and not to contradiction to dialogue and not to conflict.
So dialogue is the normal and the proper approach in a civilized community; while conflict, violence and destruction are all savage and barbarous means used in jungles among a community of beasts against. If conflict is used instead of dialogue by any human community the other; this means that there is something wrong in the mood and mentality that dominates such a community. If this society tries to enforce its culture upon another, regardless any human or moral respects, this really will cause a conflict.
The approach of dialogue is generally based on the ground of equality and equivalence, regardless the differences in materialistic powers of this society or that. When matters are settled by force; here the authority of logic disappears to be replaced by the power of violence and here the voice of truth and reality fades against the voice of falsehood and unreality. Here then, the scale of conflict outweighs and dialogue looses.
This controversial issue leads to another question. Is there, really, cultural invasion in our present human society as some people claim ?!! And if it is so; to what extent the so called invaded cultures are able to resist it or to adapt it ?!
The answer is definitely: there is an inevitable cultural invasion, in this world of increasing speed in the development of telecommunication and information technology. We can see the dust of its marching covering many cultural areas. We can also realize some of its tangible advantages and disadvantages. It is obvious that cultures of the highly developed countries and of great world powers are the ones probable to invade the cultures of the under developed countries and societies. On the other hand, we cannot ignore even slight effect of the under developed societies culture upon the developed. So no one is safe of this “mutual invasions.” If it comes normally and smoothly, this means that it falls and streams in the channels of dialogue; otherwise it is really a planned cultural invasion that leads to the conflict of cultures.
Regarding the second part of the question; the answer is the invaded culture is capable to face this cultural invasion or to adapt to it.
If we take, for instance, our Arabic and Islamic culture, we may say with absolute confidence that our culture has the ability to interact with, or to adapt to any human culture; nevertheless this process needs the following conditions to be achieved:
1. Full understanding of the real meaning and nature of culture and civilization, and their specific human purports and significance. This is to fortify the cultural community, the youth and the new generation, who is starving and striving to obtain knowledge, and who is surrounded by huge, developed multimedia of telecommunication and information technology.
2. Full objective understanding of our Arabic Islamic cultural heritage; because its is a remarkable factor that portrays the features of the individual and the community. It is true that our culture had interacted, through all the human ages, with other human cultures and civilizations, and still has the ability to be an active pole in the current dialogue of cultures through both its present creative culture and its original cultural heritage.
3. All modern and developed scientific and technological means, tools and equipment should be available for scientists, intellectuals and men of letters, so as to be able to participate positively in this cultural dialogue. They also need to be highly qualified in both humanities and applied sciences, to cope with the high speed progress in our contemporary age of science, technology and industry.
4. Our cultural, intellectual and informational authorities should avoid to be trapped in the ready made molds and terms of culture that are brought from abroad, or to be attracted to new ideas or thoughts, without putting their creative fingerprints on them. This notion should not be understood as an attitude against what is called Occidentalism. We are open-minded people; but what we are aiming at, is that any cultural individual or community should be aware of his or its own culture, and also to beware the abuses and disadvantages of other cultures. To promote your culture does not mean to accept whatever is presented to you, but to make use of the advantages; otherwise one will find himself at the margin of the process of the cultures' dialogue; and consequently far away from human civilization; especially in our present age where the whole globe seems to be one village as it is said, and all human communities seem to be one human society.

There is a vast distance between the concept of dialogue and that of conflict. However when one thinks of dialogue he, finds himself spontaneously thinks deeply of the raised question of the concept of the conflict of civilizations; which is now one of the most prominent issues of the age. It is also one of the hot questions of disputation among the intellectuals as well as among the politicians.
As we have already stated previously that man's intact nature is inclined normally to dialogue; while the uncivil mentality mostly trends to conflict and destruction. Furthermore the concept of civilizations' conflict is usually adopted by what we may call the “Tatarian” communities, or by “Tamburlainian” leaderships; since such a concept will not logically and probably emanates from a civil minded community. However, such a concept of conflict and violence does not necessarily represent the whole community but only the dominated circles and classes in it.
The up normal call of the conflict of civilizations is surely related to unhealthy psychology, and uneducated and uncultured mentality that hates positive human relations among the various societies and nations of the world. This call is an outcome of a defect in the cultural integration of such a society; which leads to disturbance and chaos in the mood and mentality of this community that consequently leads to a trend of hatred and vengeance.
From all that we have previously mentioned above, we come to a conclusion that, humanity will not surrender to uncivil mentalities or uncultured conducts. Humanity is able to protect its cultural and civilized heritage through positive cultural dialogue; and through balanced positive human relations among all various cultural areas and communities. Human race is capable to live in peace and protect its civilization, and is able to defeat and overcome all concepts and calls of conflict and violence.
Humanity owns all the conditions and constituents of existence and living peacefully through its historical cultural heritage that includes values, traditions, moral and religious teaching, as well as through its international laws, establishments and authorities.
We look ahead into the future with an open-minded and optimistic vision. A vision that sees the whole world as one integral society .. or even one great unified family. Although its members slightly vary in behaviour and conduct; yet they have one language of dialogue that will go on as far as there is love for peace, freedom liberty, democracy; and above all love for humanity.

Quotation have been quoted from the Arabic references:
Abdunnor, Jaboor. The Literary Dictionary, Beirut: Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin, 2nd. edition, 1984.
Al-Mohandes K. and Wahba, Magdi. A Dictionary of Arabic Literary and Linguistic Terms. Beirut: Library Du Libon, 2nd. edition 1984.
Badawi, A.Z. A Dictionary of the Social Sciences, Beirut: Library Du Libon, 1978.
* Abdulla Abdulrahman Bukeir is a researcher and lecturer in English Literatur