Culture and Progress

Weavers of Kabankalan

 A few days ago, I stumbled upon someone on Reddit, saying that the reason why there are many tribal minorities is because of how they forgo progress in pursuit of cultivating culture. This person proposed to, as a supposed solution, force these people to forget about maintaining tradition and work on integrating them with the rest of society. Although I can see some benefits of this solution, in the long run, it is not going to work well for everyone. 

Through time, people have developed beliefs, modes of expression, and ways of living to add structure to their day to day lives, which is how culture, I think, came to be. In short, we can say that culture is a record of human experience that is built over time in a specific place among a specific group of people. This, in itself, is fascinating. A lot of things can be said about a group of people based on their culture alone. 

Many wonder about the relevance of keeping these records in the first place, even if they have been formed a long time ago. The common response  given would be that keeping a record of the past can help us figure out our identity now. Why that is important, I will explain. Each person has his or her own identity, and it is what separates us from each other. Having a collective identity where we recognize what all takes part in our culture, however, sparks a sort of unity. Humans need this unity because it is what made man survive and thrive throughout the epochs, even to this current day. Who knows what situation our ancestors would have landed on if they all chose to be solitary.

Now, back to the point the person discussed earlier was making. In his or her message, it was implied that both progress and the maintenance of culture is impossible, but I’d like to think otherwise. I don’t think that the natives having links to traditions of years past is the problem as to why they are considered a minority. In my opinion, they are just not given any access to opportunities that are basic to most people such as education or a way to find livelihood. A lot of the time, the main issue for these people as to why they are not addressed as much is because of their distance from where most people can be provided with other needs. 

One of the things we’ve been doing to help mainly is by working with a group of weavers to provide them with livelihood. We supply them with the materials, guidance and technology to improve on their craft, and in return, we are given their pieces that are a mark of our culture and their craftsmanship that can then be spread around, especially with the use of social media. Doing so has helped achieve progress and the cultivation of culture. 

I don’t think the preservation of culture is a mark of the inability to progress. If anything, preserving culture is part of pursuing progress. For years, colonial mentality has been evident among our people, given our history with colonizers, but then I’ve been seeing people doing their best to keep our culture under the spotlight. Those efforts need more recognition than what they are currently given.