Culture – what it means to me?

When it comes to culture, I find myself these days being a bit uncomfortable. Not that I wouldn’t like or appreciate culture – I love to consume music, books, films and all other branches of art. God bless culture. I think my uncomfortable condition is due to my background as political scientist. When you have spent nearly a half of your lifetime dealing with political questions and social sciences, you will evolve a certain approach to the world around you. To be more specific, you start seeing problems everywhere you look, and that’s my issue.

From my point of view, culture has become a kind of social battlefield. Concepts that were unknown just a while ago are now framing cultural issues and making them as political grievances. Ideas of political correctness and cultural appropriation make me worry about my own situation as a person who is trying to describe and analyse social and political phenomena such as multiculturalism, cultural diversity and immigration on the one hand, and on the other hand issues such as national politics, demographic differentiation and security threats.

At the moment political correctness isn’t a big problem in Finland, but I wonder will it become as such. On my shelf I have a book by Diane Ravitch called “The language police: how pressure groups restrict what students learn”. Diane Ravitch has been an educational policy analyst who studied how political correctness and the requirement of “right vocabulary” permeated American school system. I won’t go in details here but to give you a hint, the book has a “glossary of banned words” which is 35 pages long. The list is a compilation of words, usages, stereotypes, and topics banned by major publishers of educational materials and US state agencies.

When people are getting more and more sensitive and eager to be offended, I constantly find myself asking how should I say or write certain things. Should I treat multiculturalism, for example, as a thing that has none drawbacks whatsoever, or should I express my concern what could happen if immigrants from entirely different culture won’t assimilate to western culture? Luckily I have the possibility to leave these kind of questions behind when I put on my stereos and enjoy a culture that brings me a sense of good feelings, belonging and harmony.