The Invisibility of Culture


By Andrea Fernandes, Grade 11, The Westminster School, Dubai

“Tradition, which is always old, is at the same time ever new because it is always reviving – born again in each new generation, to be lived and applied in a new and particular way”.
Thomas Merton, ‘No Man Is an Island’.

Cultural extinction… An issue that is becoming increasingly prominent in the monotonous society we find ourselves in. Of course, there are occasional splashes of colour, tradition and vibrancy here and there. After all, culture has not been fully extinguished… Yet. So yes, there are still people who extend knowledge to curious listeners about their cultural heritage and their rich fascinating backgrounds that may ignite amazement and awe as a response from their audience. The problem though, is that “Tradition and Culture” is slowly vanishing as generations today forgo traditional values due to the reign of globalisation and modernisation that grips the world.

It would be wrong to say that globalisation is all bad because no, it’s not. It has the incredible ability, like no other, to link people together and create a sense of an international community. The media, internet and technological advancements that globalisation includes, arouses a sense of belonging because even when you’re living on the other side of the world you can still know about and manage to provide help or empathise with someone else’s problems as you can relate to their lives. The wonders it has done to stabilising and expanding the world economy too, are so numerous and significant it would be impossible to list them all down here!

However, according to UNESCO’s alarming statistics – every fourteen days a language becomes extinct. Traditions like “Tsiatista” which originates in Cyprus (a duel between warring poets that celebrates quick wits and a rich vocabulary. Competitors try to outdo each other by constructing elaborate verses of rhyming couplets) has been listed as one intangible form of heritage on the verge of extinction.

Culture is essential to us human beings, also identified as social creatures because it molds us into unique, different individuals with our own share of generations-old stories, traditions, languages, attire and food. It allows us to express ourselves and to become more knowledgeable and respectful and have our own cultural identity.

So, the question is, how long before culture ceases to exist? According to experts, cultural extinction is not a mere virus that suddenly appeared in the 21st century. No, it’s like a constant tidal wave that washes each generation with change. Every century’s traditions and beliefs are replaced as discoveries and theories are made and tested. Hence, until entire communities crumble and replace their traditions it is unlikely that culture will die so soon. But to prevent that from happening in the near future we need passionate people to take a stand now to protect their vital and beautiful culture and traditions…