Two ladies of my acquaintance were discussing how to eat sushi.
One wondered whether her method of eating sushi was cultured. Her method consists of picking it up with her fingers and putting it in her mouth.
Apparently the correct method is picking your sushi up with chopsticks; then dropping it on the floor, picking it up with your fingers and putting it in your mouth.
Getting back to the start of the discussion, somebody posted a link to an article which basically listed the stuff people think you need to know to be ‘cultured’.
Culture is strange stuff. Bacteria have culture, pearls are also cultured. So I looked at the article. It was in the Daily Mail, so obviously the people who read that newspaper feel that culture is especially important.
But then I looked at some of the things on the list. Some were obvious choices, ‘know what wine goes with what’, but others were things like ‘Doesn’t skip the news when it’s on TV’ and ‘Watch documentaries’.
Some threw me entirely, what common factor connects;-
Be able to use chopsticks
Collect music on vinyl
Read Wikipedia articles
Only eat local produce
Apparently if you do these things, you’re ‘cultured’.
Anyway you can see the whole list on http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3240407/Owning-library-card-watching-subtitled-films-skilled-use-chopsticks-traits-make-cultured.html
So perhaps to be cultured you’ve got be educated enough to read, smart enough to enjoy it, and wise enough to keep an eye on the world around you?
But actually this definition doesn’t work. The purpose of culture is that you (and those worthy souls you feel warrant inclusion) have a reason to look down on those who don’t fulfil your arbitrary criteria.
Culture is a ‘lay’ version of jargon. Professions have jargon which only the professionals are fluent in. This means members of the same profession can talk to each other, knowledgably and incomprehensibly in front of those lesser beings without the law. This keeps the lower orders firmly in their place and by excluding them as unlearned justifies the professional’s well earned salary.
For groups who don’t share a common jargon, they need some other reason to look down on people and to flaunt their group superiority. It’s probably easier under these circumstances to flaunt their culture rather than invent a jargon. To be fair each succeeding generation of teenagers has gone down the developing a jargon route, but that might be because they’re not confident enough in their knowledge base to flaunt their culture.
Yet ironically everybody has culture. Teenagers have one which fluctuates and churns along with the group membership. Your culture might flaunt literacy, or involve chips, cheese and gravy, but it’s still a culture. Rest assured that whilst your neighbours might sneer at it, find somebody who lives far enough away and they will regard your culture as awesome and will copy aspects of it without really understanding them.
So, are you lost, short of a flauntable culture of your own with which to impress people?
Well at this point good old Jim can come to your rescue. I’ve got just the thing, a slim book of poems. Drop quotes from this into your conversation, smile knowingly when somebody else does; you too can be the very acme of cultural achievement.
For 99p that cannot be a bad deal!