You can see it, hear it, touch it, smell it, eat it, hate it, love it, breathe it, wear it,
buy it, watch it, read it, speak it, but just don’t house it; share it. It’s everywhere and you can’t possibly miss it. It’s more valuable than gold or any form of currency on the globe. It’s evolving every second of every day and people depend on it, like a life stream that pumps through the veins of this planet. It’s yours but it’s also every one else’s. You don’t own it, no one person does. And if you don’t have it, you can borrow it, but never, ever steal it.
Culture. Read closely and etch this into your dome piece; you do not own it
and you shall not steal it.
Culture. Everyone uses the word to describe many different things.
In its most basic definition according to the Oxford dictionary, culture is “The ideas, customs,
and social behaviour of a particular people or society”.
Some people use it to define who they are, to define their lifestyle or even life choices. Some use it to describe an unexplainable feeling of joy, bliss, nostalgia, and sorrow; anything that causes a sensation connected to memories. Some use it as inspiration to create, influence, and motivate. Even marketers use it as they’ll try to sell it to you in a product form that you probably don’t want, and most definitely don’t need. A corporate boomerang dipped in the colors of culture,
but very much lacking the elements of the much-desired essence.
Culture. There are two types of participants, contributors and consumers;
those who make and those who use. We all fall into one or the other, sometimes into both. Those who make are helping it evolve; building and modernizing it as a reflection of the new age. The earth is constantly spinning and with it are the people who are weaving new threads into this colorful garment that is our species’ wonderful handprint. Those who use it will live by it, waving it proudly like a flag. It can be a symbol of who they are and the group they honorably like to represent or be represented by. Therefore it is indubitably and enormously important to people. If you insult it you insult the people. If you insult the people you insult the culture. You can’t separate culture from a human, it’s a completely symbiotic relationship.
So who owns it? Who has a right to say what you can do with it? Well that’s easy,
the group of people that it proudly represents. You know, the ones that created it and continue to nurture it. Although culture as a whole is a representation of human customs and behaviors, it’s made up of small pieces attributed to all parts of the planet. That’s what makes it so rich and vibrant. The differentiating factors between people or groups attribute to the progression of culture because we all influence and inspire each other. We borrow from one another and create something new.
Borrow is a very important word to focus on. It implies sharing, like a thoughtful transaction of ingenuity. “You have a quality that I really like and I’d love to use it to better my lifestyle. Thank you for sharing”. But sadly that kind of graciousness hardly takes place. One can definitely borrow culture, but please don’t steal it. Steal is such an ugly term. It causes feelings of shame and regret and brings about images of a dark alley and shady ordeals. And in those dark alleys exist some very vile creatures known as culture vultures. These vultures watch people as they pass by; they listen to them, observe them, and when they sense something they like, they swoop in and snatch it. They don’t ask questions, nor do they make an effort to understand its origin or meaning. They simply take what they want and present it as their own without ever giving credit to the source. They profit from it, gain from it, misrepresent it, and ultimately disrespect it along with everyone that holds it sacred.
Some of the most popular, most beloved creations that humans have invented have been ripped off so much over time that we can’t even identify the origin. That’s pretty fucked up. Take Rock music for example, it’s tough to pinpoint one single creator of Rock ‘n’ Roll. You’d be digging through some serious crates of archives to piece that one together. So many musicians have stolen from other musicians that this constant reclaiming has created a very complex lineage. We all know Rock and Roll is an amalgamation of blues, jazz, and other music forms that came together over time, but the likes of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino certainly helped mold it into something that felt and sounded different enough to cause a disruptive reaction. Had it not been for guys like Chuck Berry there probably wouldn’t be Rock ‘n’ Roll or Punk. Lou Reed and Bob Dylan might not have created legendary, generation-defining anthems without the influence of those guys. At least not in the way we know them to sound. CBGBs might have been playing that hippie West Coast 60’s shit instead of “Blitzkrieg Bop”. In fact, everyone from the Beach Boys to The Beatles ripped Chuck Berry’s style and, like so many other black musicians in history, he didn’t get the credit he deserved. Not right away at least. After a few lawsuits however, John Lennon and The Beach Boys were citing Berry’s influences and including him in the credits, proving that credit is due even if by force*.
Think of the massive list of monumental cultural skullduggery that has taken place since, practically forever. Without credit to the true originator someone else just absorbs the adulation, that’s not right at all. It’s too easy to take something and claim it as your own, especially when you’ve never had to carry the weight attached to that one thing that might me so simple for one, but incredibly emotional for another. Long before Gucci got into the steal street wear from the black America we always shunned fashion strategy, who was doing indie, street wear collabs like Dapper Dan? And before upper class kids in the suburbs were mixing J’s with hoodies, who was rockin’ that look while having to bear the burden of being ostracized as a thug? Due to the prevalence of Hip Hop kids of every color, in every city and country, using the N-word ever so nonchalantly, it’s really incredible how many people think it’s ok to make it a part of their every day vernacular. I guess everyone completely understands, and knows exactly what its like to have had ancestors purchased, worn, and resold like a dope pair of Yeezys. Man, snatching culture is some whack shit.
* Elizabeth Frock, Without Chuck, these 10 famous rock songs would not exist, (PBS: 2017) Berryhttps://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/without-chuck-berry-10-famous-rock-songs-not-exist