In the modern world, “culture” is generally identified with forms of entertainment, and is often characterized by the spectacle. With the identification of the term “culture” with one special category of cultural expression, the fully comprehensive meaning of culture is no longer properly understood.
There are in fact two types of culture: real culture and abstract culture. All culture consists of real cultural elements at least as much as abstract cultural elements.
Real culture consists of everything that one ordinarily uses in one’s life, and as such it includes every instrument and activity which belongs particularly to a distinct way of life, including real elements such as diet, clothing, shelter and technology. Real culture has to do primarily with all of the practical considerations of living, and might therefore be called practical culture.
Distinct assemblages of artifacts that archaeologists identify are said to belong to archaeological cultures, because they consist of elements of the real cultures of distinct ethnic groups, with some indications of the abstract elements. The artifacts of an archaeological culture are often called material culture.
Abstract culture consists of the intellectual and spiritual side of culture. It is something much more comprehensive than the modern notion of “culture”, which has largely become restricted to those spectacular forms of cultural expression which are properly called the arts. Along with the different genres of art (music, poetry, painting, theater, etc.), abstract culture also includes politics and religion.
The arts are the most abstract type of culture. For this reason, the arts tend to be spectacular. The arts are all about impressing people. There is much beauty and wonder in the arts, but the arts can all too easily slide into vanity and folly, particular without a guiding cultural tradition. Unfortunately, the latter trend has been increasing steadily in modern times, and genuine beauty and wonder in the arts are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
At this point in time, most of what is called “culture” in this modern age has already degenerated into nothing but meaningless, and even detrimental, entertainment. Entertainment, unlike art, is simply spectacle for the sake of spectacle. Although the many forms of modern entertainment may contain authentic cultural elements, they are often drawn from a confused variety of cultural backgrounds and are never presented in any coherent Traditional context, and are thus largely devoid of genuine cultural value.
In fact, the vain and contrived spectacles which are called “culture” in this modern age effectively serve as means by which the dissolution of genuine traditional culture and the disintegration of genuine ethnic communities may be accomplished, whereas the genuine traditional cultures of past ages ordinarily served to edify themselves and thus to properly integrate the ethnic communities to which they belonged.
For almost all of human history, distinct ethnic groups have had distinct cultures. Although modern archaeologists are reluctant to equate “pots with people”, I believe that distinct archaeological cultures in distinct geographical territories generally do indicate distinct ethnic groups. Any ethnologist will agree that a distinct ethnic group normally has a distinct culture, and that this has undoubtedly been the natural state of affairs since the beginning of humanity.
In our modern multicultural world, distinct cultures are doomed to extinction. Especially in the western world, all immigrants conform to the dominant western culture within a generation. And in the third world, distinct cultures are disappearing at an accelerating rate as third world countries conform more and more to the requirements of globalization.
In the western world, all conform to the dominant western culture. Despite all of its modern variety, the dominant western culture is still a single over-arching culture according to which all citizens of the western world live more or less the same way. For this reason, the western world has seen the emergence of various subcultures which try to attain some kind of cultural distinction, at least to some degree, although all modern subcultures are always either vain or vile.
Different cultures are showcased from time to time in cultural festivals – for a price, of course. But these are largely just spectacles, the cultural elements on temporary display being obvious remnants of what were once living cultures. Truly, cultural festivals are essentially a lot like museums in that they display things that belong to the past.
The obvious aim of modern trends is the establishment of a global culture. This of course is part of what is called the New World Order. In terms of political culture, liberal democracy is being imposed throughout the world. Even in terms of religious culture, the ecumenical movement and multicultural toleration are moving humanity toward an eventual unified religion. And as already mentioned above, the mish-mash of artistic cultures from around the world is already well under way.
Some people understand that the disappearance of distinct cultures is a great misfortune, and they realize that the global culture which is taking their place simply does not, and can not, have the same genuine essence and vitality as the distinct cultures that once were. The western culture is recognized by these people as being a contrived pseudo-culture.
The real culture of the western world has been reduced to simply being merchandise which is devoid of any special distinction. The political culture of the western world is corrupt and deceptive. And the religious culture of the western world is partly confused, partly moribund. Only the arts still seem to hold an attractive cultural vitality, which is why only the arts are now considered to be “culture”, but the arts have largely degenerated into the useless vanity and senseless folly of the spectacle, which is not at all the essence and vitality of genuine culture.