How a culture can survive in modern times

Must we sacrifice culture to pave the way for modernity...

8th May 2023

Modernity or culture? Should we choose one of them to carry out our beliefs? I don’t think so. From the perspective of history, they need each other to survive, and both are still thriving. Not all the traditions in the cultures are outdated and unnecessary. There are good traditions and bad traditions or traditions that are not good or bad, it's a personal choice to decide if they should stay or not. But we should value the developments that culture has brought to our society. It is these developments that allow us to live our modern lives now, therefore modernity is one of the products of culture. 

Modernity is one of the products of culture

Why should we value cultural development and what is perceived as a good culture? Take the feminist movement for example, one of the most impactful movements in our history. In 1848, women started fighting for their voting rights in the first wave of feminism. Continually, along with the first wave, women started to fight for more rights for themselves like equality in education and employment. In the second wave, more women started fighting against their stereotype for just being a housewife. Since the start of the movement, women have become braver and speak for themselves, they started to think independently as an individual, instead of following the rules that men had told them. That’s where the motto “political is personal'' came from.

Now, we are in the post feminism period (I know the “post” word is a little bit weird and not everyone agrees with this terminology), women start to embrace their imperfections, and learn to be more confident and independent. Women are spreading their cutting-edge thoughts through TED talks, starting their own businesses by themselves, teaching makeup skills, and sharing their lives on YouTube or even becoming a president or prime minister of a country. Without the development of the feminism culture, we probably wouldn’t have those improvements to raise women’s social status in the modern world.

Without the development of the feminism culture, we probably wouldn’t have all these improvements

Another example of old cultural habits that we should leave in the past is the prejudice towards the LGBTQ+ community. In modern society we are more accepting of the community, but in the past most people weren’t accepting of them due to the bias against them and religion. Although there is still a long way to go, we now live in an age that is more accepting of the LQBTQ+ community. Being gay is no longer a crime in many countries across the world, with more and more countries have passing the same-sex marriage law.

What about the traditions that are neither good nor bad, but are disappearing? My 90-year-old grandfather still goes back to the old house that he used to live in and light up candles for our ancestor’s spirit tablet every day. The spirit tablet represents every spirit that passed away from our family, including my grandfather’s parents and grandparents. It is a tradition that the children in the future generations need to light up the candles every day. In Taiwan, there are not many families still doing this every day because people are too busy. Including my father who doesn’t want my grandfather to keep doing this tradition every day, as he is concerned for his safety and thinks that it's a waste of time. However, nothing can stop my grandfather, even if it's bad weather. When I was studying at university in a different city, I got a call from my sister and she told me my grandfather had a car accident when he was on his way back from the old house and it was pouring rain that day. Thankfully, my grandfather didn’t hurt himself seriously and recovered from the accident very fast. 

After the accident, I am always thinking of why my grandfather is so diligent and insists on lighting the candles every day. I think his insistence is not entirely coming from following the tradition, but also because he has been driven back by the old memories of that house. The house that he used to spend his time in with his wife, son and daughters as a husband and a father. As a granddaughter, I really admire my grandfather’s spirit and I am happy he never abandons the tradition. 

I really admire my grandfather’s spirit and I am happy he never abandons the tradition

Culture and traditions are not always bad, even though they may seem pointless for some people, there are still some who find it worthy for them to keep practicing them. Modernity is unavoidable and some old traditions are fading away because of time moving forward, but to decide if a tradition should become a thing in the past can be personal, you don’t have to abandon the traditions if they have special meaning for you. Even if the tradition has gone for others, they can still stay with you if you remember. 

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