Because culture represents the unwritten rules of one’s society, accepted cultural practices that are not questioned but are considered a “given” are left sometimes free of critical analysis or thought. Which leaves these practices open to abuse or manipulation by sections of society that wish to reinvent or reinterpret these cultural icons for their own gain. Culture represents the glue of social cohesiveness, common beliefs and celebrations to bring societies together for a common good. I argue that the more mature in age a member of society, the more cultural practices they have experienced and the more respectful of these traditions and less accepting of new (“Darn youth of today”). These are also the people that see the most change, waning or divergence of these practices which sometimes results in a push back via moral panic. The current debate on same sex marriage is an example. These people fear change or evolution in their societies and expect a cultural sedentariness. Yet those cultural practices that defy change or critical thought are usually those that do harm to offers rather than a tactile experience. I might note with the same sex marriage debate, the same moral panic in defence of our constitution is missing. The debate in the communities about Australians being in control of the Australian Parliament, the institution that represents and governs them via our constitution is just not there. This pillar cultural document left to us by our forefathers is being reinvented and reinterpreted by the political elite that are, via the constitution, illegitimate. What does this tell us? I would say, it shows how culture and cultural practices can be manipulated and guided over time away from what was originally intended. By people and organisations that where not privy to its inception or who have a lot to gain by corrupting it. An example of this I see every day is the indigenous population of Australia. Their culture has been thoroughly trashed leaving them in social isolation through no fault of their own except that they did not have the skills or strength to resist the invasion. So, their culture has disappeared. What you see left today is the commercialisation of some of those cultural practices and a populace devastated and broken through generational trauma. And I can draw parallels with the current debate on dual citizenship. Is it not just another wave of immigrants taking control of long held cultural beliefs and practices? and discarding those that cannot be commercialised or corrupted for benefit.
I faced the same debate within myself years ago when moving from the country to the city. The culture I was use to did not reside in the city, so I needed to learn new cultures with new traditions and cuisine. The question arose, where these city people Australian? Because they were foreign to the culture of the bush. So, to survive I needed to learn these new cultural ways that weren’t Australian but brought in by new Australians. I did myself a favour, as people debated the ways of these new migrants, I already knew the answers that was blinded to them by ignorance. An example was the use of concrete by Italians to cover their front yards. While Australians loved their green front lawns, Italians loved to concrete it over. No one knew why, it was a mystery and something to latch onto, to use against them. But I knew. To the Italians, concrete was a sign of wealth, prosperity and social standing as in Italy only those lucky enough to have these could afford concrete. So it was with these new Australians, they were prosperous and showed it, how their old culture did via concrete. Another observation on Migrants bringing their culture to Australian. I have found that the Migrants of the fifties and sixties from Europe held their culture to that time period of when they left Europe. And I have heard it be said many a time that the Australian Italians, Greeks and Cypriotes are more Italian, Greek, Cypriotes than those that actually live in those countries. My partner was born in Darwin to Italian migrants. As a child, she was taught to speak not only Italian but also the local dialect of her parent’s district. But when she returns to her ancestral land she finds that there is no one left speaking the local dialect. It has passed to history. A cultural loss. She is Australian of Italian descent that still speaks a dead language of Italy. Does that make her more Italian than Italians? Or is it an example of how culture is always in flux along with the population. Some old cultural ways slip past without a whimper while others cause riots.
Only by engaging culture from everywhere is one able to obtain cultural maturity. The ability to accept cultural practices that diverge greatly from one’s own. And to do it in a way that doesn’t degenerate or belittle or is scornful of. A way that is respectful and understanding. With an influx of African migrants to Australia and my industry. I have turned my cultural curiosity toward them so as to better understand the people I am working with. The hard lessons I learnt early in my life have giving me a good grounding into how to approach these new Australians. An understanding of their cultural practices and expectations provides me better tools on how to approach or broach subjects with them. Who knew African time was a thing? Who knew African men sit down to their phones when women’s work was to be done? Who knew that disabled people were discarded because it was a struggle every day just to survive for the able, let alone to have a disabled person to look after as well? I knew, because some cultural practices are universal.
I would argue that while cultural self-awareness might lead to cultural intelligence it doesn’t necessarily lead to cultural maturity. It could be said that those that are culturally intelligent, pick and choose different aspects of opposing or emerging cultures to spread scorn and fear so as to keep the status-quo or cause moral panic. An example of this would-be Pauline Hanson’s political stunt of wearing the burqa into federal parliament. This did nothing except pour more scorn onto the most oppressed cultural group in our society. Further alienating them from integration and cultural safety.
The term ‘Cultural safety’ was first defined by the Maori nursing fraternity in New Zealand and is expressed as
“An environment that is safe for people: where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning, living and working together with dignity and truly listening.”
Cultural self-awareness leads to Cultural intelligence which should lead to cultural maturity.
The universal culture of disliking and fighting change needs to be critically looked at by everyone, everywhere. Otherwise these unhealthy universal cultural practices will continue to grid against each other, the status-quo is maintained and people continue to suffer all because of a clash of culture and lack of cultural maturity. The world has a lot to learn from the Maori nursing fraternity.