(Essay) Contest Essays for Jan 2008 : As civilization advances culture declines

As civilization advances culture declines :

From time immemorial, human race has been making efforts towards civilization. From cave dwellers to modern day's concrete jungle dwellers, it has been a journey of development and change for human race. Civilization, as defined in most dictionaries, is a social process where societies evolve to higher levels of development. The process through which the Stone Age man evolved into the man of 21st century over thousands of years, is what civilization is all about.

Culture, on the other hand, is more of a by-product of civilization. In the process of civilization, different groups of people developed a way of life unique to themselves. This way of life is the culture of that particular group of people. That is how we have different cultures in different countries. The word culture could also mean development of the human mind to higher levels of thinking, refinement of the individual. These two meanings of culture are one and the same conceptually. The culture or way of life of a group is determined by the levels of refinement of the human minds constituting the group.

Civilization and culture are often the most widely discussed topics, particularly since the dawn of the 21st century. This has been necessitated because never before has human civilization and culture been subject to such rapidly changing scenarios, thanks to the giant leaps that human race is taking towards technological advancements. Cultural changes are bound to happen as people all over world are inter-mingling and new thinking is evolving. We see new changes in culture and life styles every alternate day. All this is part of civilization of human race, which is a never ending process.

In our today's world, we constantly hear about deterioration of cultural values, about the benefit of advances in civilization at the cost of human values, rights and peace. We are pitied at leading mechanical lives and always speak about the glorious past. Our own advancements in civilization are looked upon as a bane to the very human race that made those advancements. "Where is the world heading?" - this is one question everyone seems to be asking these days. That is why, it has become a common notion that as civilization advances culture declines.

This is where, may be a change of the line of thinking would help in putting things in the right perspective. Civilization, as mentioned earlier, is a never ending process. Human race was never meant to remain static, dynamism is inbuilt in human beings. We, humans, have an undying thirst for change, to explore new ideas, to venture into unknown areas. It is this thirst that has lead to all the inventions and discoveries over thousands of years. At every stage, whenever there were changes in civilization, cultural changes walked hand in hand. Cultural changes happened during every phase of history be it the Stone Age, Iron and the Bronze Age. Changes happened during the Industrial Revolution, changes happened during every country's struggle for liberation and changes are bound to happen as we enter into a whole new era of advancements in civilization of the 21st century.

Take the case of India. We say Indian culture is declining and we Indians are losing our culture, meaning, we are losing their values. Was there one unique Indian culture since the planet Earth came into being? No, Indian culture or the Indian way of life, like every group of human beings evolved and changed over centuries. The earliest known culture of the Harappan Civilization changed over the centuries with the raise of the Aryan civilization. It changed again with the raise and fall of every ancient kingdom. More changes came from the medieval kingdoms and finally through the British rule. At every stage, Indian culture did not decline; it only absorbed the new features of every phase of civilization and is where it stands today.

The cultural decline that we talk about today, is actually not a decline, it is an evolution of existing culture into a new form. Why then do we suddenly talk about cultural declination with advancements in civilization?

One basic point could be because, today, we think we have reached highest points of civilization and that is why we turn back to look at the journey of human race over time and pin point the culture we have lost in the process of civilization. However, we should remember that, advancement in civilization is the very essence of human nature and civilization is bound to keep going further and further. The cultural changes that occur as a consequence are not something to be looked upon with despair but they are something to be welcomed since they are a proof of the advancements that human race is making.

We have to accept that change is inevitable as we make progress. Either we face advancements in civilization and the consequent changes in culture or remain static where we are today and prevent culture from "declining". Once we are able to accept the fact that culture changes as civilization grows, we would find that many of our grievances are resolved. If today's life seems mechanical, it is because machines have become an integral part of life. If early man welcomed the invention of wheels to make his life easier and thereby accepted the changes in culture as a result of it, we too should welcome changes that our new inventions bring along with them. If invention of wheel was a new level in civilization for humans, centuries ago, our technological advancements mean a new level in our civilization. If our ancient men had not invented the wheel or cultivated land or the use of iron, we would not have been what we are today. At every stage of civilization and changes in culture, even those ancient times, someone would have looked back to think the advancements in civilization brought about a decline in culture but that never stopped people from thinking higher and it never will.

In conclusion, that which changes is what we call civilization, it would not be civilization if things remained the same. Culture, which is the result of civilization is bound to change as its parent changes. Culture never changes for the good or for the bad, it depends on the perspective of the individual dealing with it. As civilization advances, culture does not decline, it plainly evolves.

Harichandana Devalla

Courtesy : civilserviceindia.com