What is culture?

Written by Anonymous
NZ Born of Cook Island descent


What makes culture, culture? 
Why is it important to have? 
Is it important to have?  

Let me speak some truths - according to me - from the point of view of one person. That being said, if I think this is so, then I wonder how many others think the same?

Culture in my opinion is misunderstood, often translated or described as an object, ‘akatapu, a piece of clothing, a pasifika song or dance or a handed down relic from an elder within your 'kōpū '.  This in my eyes/ears is often a definition of culture, so that we/you can understand or grasp onto the 'thing'.  What we are really missing, is the 'key' that combines the very fabric of culture weaved amongst all this shit.  There are some of you reading this who already know the answer, and are curious as to what 'my answer' is and just want affirmation of the 'truth'. 

I am not going to tell you what my truth is right now, instead I am going to ask you more questions and give you examples of what I know is a false description of 'culture'.

I am of Pasifika decent living in a non-Pasifika world, is this good or bad?  Do I have less culture than those of Pasifika decent, living in a Pasifika world?  I have Pasifika running through my veins, how do I know this?  It's because of my forefathers/mothers.  I have the blood of my father and mother running in my veins. I also know that my father’s father, and his father before him, their blood flows within me.  My mother's blood is also in my veins, with my mother’s mother and her mother before her.  

By default don't I have culture?  
Do I need to live like my forefathers lived?  
Do I need to know how to speak my language like a 'native' of the Pasifika?  
Do I need to know how to behave and act around Pasifika ceremony's?

If your answer "Yes" to the bottom 3 examples, I want to know how did you come to that conclusion?  By listening to someone else and adopting their conclusions?  Or are you a self-proclaimed professional on identifying 'Cultural-ness' (I just made that up)? Let me share with you what some of those answers mean to me, shit I see locally and globally.

If I lived like my forefathers then I would be fisherman, fishing from a fish depleted ocean.  If I spoke only my native Pasifika language, then I would have limited to no employment opportunities.  If I only knew how to behave like I was attending a celebration or funeral, I know that I won't be able to obtain employment behaving that way.  

Don't get me wrong I am not against our Pasifika ways, I just think we need to look at adopting the good and leaving the bad full stop.  Let's break down what an untrained eye/person thinks culture is.  We often cringe at our culture around churches - we are all guilty to some degree more than others -  how families give 'financial offerings' to the church/ekalesia, and how many of you have been to a service where they read out loud the amount of each families/aiga's offering.  Is that our culture?  Is it something we would preferred didn't exist?  I am sure we can all agree that, we don't like that stigma attached to our churches regardless of denomination.  

Often I hear real people's stories of when they were ridiculed for not pronouncing a Pasifika word properly, or not wearing a certain attire during such ceremony's.  What I want to know is "Why do we limit culture and put it in a box?"  We often bring it out of the closet and dust it off for special occasion of celebratory or deaths.  Why is it that we can't live, speak, act culturally through every interaction we have whether it's at a professional or personal level.

I want to know if you think culture is, a relic or object with 'akatapu’ attachment handed down through the ages, then I would like to share with you what culture is and this I know to be true.  I want you to look much closer than you have already ... closer .... much closer ... let me help you. 

Go get a mirror or stand in front of one and then look culture in the eye.  The truth is now staring you in the eye, you should know this person.  Your father knows this person and so does your mother, and their parents before them.  Culture is not one object, nor is it a static landmark ... culture is YOU and YOU are culture.  Ever heard of the saying 'the truth is in the eyes of the beholder' or 'the truth is staring you in the face'.  

YOU are the fabric of culture and everything that I mentioned earlier were objects, and the commonality of all that was described has always been YOU.  Culture is not a 'trophy' clothing OR ethnic dance / song, without you then the clothing is just a pair of pants / t-shirt or lyrics to a song.

Next time people ask you why you’re not in the cultural group, or why you cannot sing the cultural songs or dance.  Say to them "I am culture and culture is me" ... It works for me!

Anyway, I have lost another $1 for bread so I need to go get another one.  In my eyes my $1 is just a price to pay for what you have given me ... your time ... for that I am grateful.