Thursday, December 6, 2018

What is culture?

Politicians and the media do not seem quite clear about the meaning of culture. When people talk about the world of culture, they usually refer to issues as diverse as pop music shows, bullfighting, opera, theater, cinema, museums, university... This is an abuse of language that mixes four things quite different, though related: culture, shows, entertainment and education.
The Cambridge dictionary defines thus these four terms (in each case I have chosen the meaning closest to what I am speaking about, because there are others):
·      Culture: music, art, theatre, literature, etc.
·      Education: process of teaching or learning, or the knowledge you get from this.
·      Show: a theatre performance or a television or radio program that is entertaining rather than serious.
·      Entertainment: public shows, performances or other ways of enjoying yourself.
Let us call things by their names. A cultural act should be a public celebration where attendees try to increase their culture, to get knowledge that will improve their critical judgment. A classical music concert, the presentation of a book, a visit to a museum, are cultural events. Conversely:
  1. Except in a few cases, we do not watch a movie to increase our culture, but to enjoy ourselves (entertainment).
  2. A pop festival or a bullfight are not cultural events, but shows.
  3. We can go to the opera or the theater to improve our culture, but the performance itself may not be a cultural act, but a show, especially when the stage directors distort a classic work to express their originality or to shock the public.
  4. University professors can be considered a part of the world of culture if they perform popularization, but that is not their main activity. Education and research are.
When the media talk about the world of culture and put there actors, pop musicians (some of whom confess that they do not know music), and even DJs, they are really talking about the world of entertainment.
Let us call things by their name.

The same post in Spanish
Manuel Alfonseca

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