Essay on High Culture

Submitted By lozsophzeoz
Words: 809
Pages: 4

In recent decades, the word "culture" has developed a number of very negative, very wrong connotations. When a modern American thinks of culture, he thinks of snobbish rich people watching fat Vikings shriek at each other in Italian. He cannot relate to this image, thinking it pretentious and boring. This may be partially because these same snobbish rich people, when thinking of the rest of the American public, picture an unkempt hillbilly scratching himself and saying, "I'd shore love to go to the ball-let with y'all tonight, but me an' Mary Kay was gonna shoot us an okapi for dinner." This notion of culture as something exclusive and elusive, however, arose only recently. In fact, according to an article in the New York Times, in the 18th century, "the power of classic literature transcended ideology and class, transforming society along the way" (Rothstein). These books, now regarded as a status symbol for the cultural elite, were in reality read and understood by people of all social classes. This inclusiveness made them a part of culture. Culture is not a barrier between social classes, but rather the factors that define and unify a group of people at a given time.

When a tourist ventures to a foreign country, she may find herself surrounded by unfamiliar things. All around her, people are wearing clothes she has never seen, laughing at jokes she does not understand, and saying things in a tongue she does not speak. The poor confused tourist is baffled by the natives' culture—their way of life. Even in different regions of the same country, there are cultural differences, most notably in dialect. What a Marylander calls soda, a person from Michigan calls pop. While Oregonians drink water, residents of New Jersey are sipping glasses of wudder. And, as comedian Bill Cosby puts it, "Up in New England, a man can die from a hat attack," rather than the cardiac arrest that endangers the rest of us. These differences set different countries, regions, religions, and other groups apart from one another, making them unique.

Culture can be anything from the highbrow to the mundane. Part of French culture, for example, is their refusal to use air conditioning, even when the weather becomes so unbearably hot that people are collapsing from heat stroke after merely crossing the street. This is not an artistic or architectural innovation, but it is still a defining feature of the French.

The problem with culture is that many people cling fiercely to their own cultures and refuse to consider anyone else's. One notable example of this cultural closed-mindedness is Robert C. Solomon's assertion that "television culture is no culture at all" (Solomon). Unfortunately for Mr. Solomon, televisions have been around for more than half a century, and have formed numerous bonds across generations. Baby boomers recall with pleasure the days of "Howdy Doody;" many of today's teenagers can still name all of the Power Rangers. Bonds created by television have become a part of American culture, whether or not Solomon wants to admit it.

Solomon is of the opinion that the…