It is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s age to become refined in culture, but it is more difficult to define what being ‘cultured’ actually means. Books, intellectual movies, discussion, classical music among other things is what distinguishes a ‘cultured’ person from the plebeians. But wait.
If culture is determined by all mediums of human creation, doesn’t that mean that watching Miley Cyrus music videos, and being intrigued by Patrick Moote’s rise to fame also means that one is cultured? Well yes, but it doesn’t really mean the same thing, does it?
Surely there are different levels to the culture to which one ascribes to. I could simply devote my time reading history or looking up internet memes- I would be surely be in the pursuit of culture, and I dare say even become cultured, but in entirely different things and ways.
There is certainly a spectrum, and as I wish to stray away from using the old age notions of ‘high culture’ and ‘low culture’ in describing the merits of learning about the Baroque movement in contrast to Youtube surfing.
I think we should break down the old notions of what being ‘cultured’ means, in terms that it should no longer denote someone who is interested in philosophy, history, classics or what have you. It should be used to denote to someone who ascribes to cultural elements, regardless of where they come from, or when.
Instead, I suggest a new word should come into use to distinguish those who instead of listening to popular contemporary music prefer Listz or Haydn. Of course, although one is completely different from the other it is the same thing that created them. Society.
What am I trying to say?
Culture is a something created by society, and usually it is a representation of the zeitgeist ascribing to the masses. However, when someone labels themselves as cultured, people assume intellectualism and mostly that they like books and such things from the historical past, rather than the contemporary. Why is that?
Cultural formation is something made up both of the past and the present. Thus being cultured is something that is far more complex, and is not made up of one singularity. It is ever changing and flowing, based on the past and current trends. Thus to be cultured in the workings of ‘twerking’ and ‘selfies’ is no different from being knowledgeable in Hume or Voltaire.
I refuse to be labeled as ‘cultured’ (not that I am inferring that I am ) if I will be placed in the same category as all people who consume books, movies, music from all sections of the spectrum. The very word ‘cultured’ is simply too much of a generalization. What could possibly work? A ‘specialist’? No that is even worse, it would mean you spent 20 years refining your research in a subject so minute no one really cares. Perhaps an ‘educated individual’- that would also be too arrogant.
Oh I know. What if we refer to someone in regards to their pursuit of culture in more specific terms like “Jane likes to read D.H Lawrence” and “John is interested in twerking”. That would be most fair.
Published in The Art of Polemics, Issue 2, on Sept 9th, 2014.