I am guessing that duo my topics, there is no doubt that I am fucked up cultural mishap. At least that according to all the articles I happen to read lately, where the very cultured people raise the topic of “the enemy of our culture is the people themselves.”
Like I said, I come from multicultural… life. I can’t say family, because I must admit we have been rather unanimous on the way we go throughout the years – men do as little as possible and females follow traditions that go back more than one generation. Not that all men are like that – that’s just how OUR men are.
Ok, so the reason behind this fumed outburst is that when I posted a response on my FB page going like this:
We treat our culture the way we treat thin glass – it shines through, it breaks if we try to move it. Now it is like that precious vase on grandmother’s cupboard nobody dares to touch. It is empty and useless and nothing more than meaningless decoration, a memory of good-old-days.
In reality that vase would hold bouquets set there by younger generations – new flowers, new designs. Does it mean the vase changes? No, but it would be given new purpose and over time it would become just as close to our hearts as it was to our grandmothers.
But as long as it is kept on that pedestal waiting for better treatment, it will fade and get covered in dust. Or it falls and is forever lost, accident blamed on grandchildren,their mistake or not. They don’t even know, what was broken, because they never had closer look to that piece of glass sitting on that pedestal. It is meaningless decoration with “don’t touch!” echoing in their minds each time they even look in its direction.
The same way our culture is on display. It shines and gleams in sunlight, but we are not allowed to change it, make it our own. As everything changes, the need for such “decoration” disappears over time and then there is no point of yelling at your grandchildren, when it breaks, for they don’t understand your pain over a piece of glass.
I got response through PM saying how this only proves how little I care of traditions Estonia has.
I’m sorry, WHAT?
Sometimes I feel I am the last person on this earth, who can read subtext! Because apparently everybody else just skip that part and brand me culture-hater on the spot!
Well, guess what? I do spoil culture with religious traditions that are not part of the original culture of this piece of land! I do call the Jõulud Winter Solstice, because I like it much more! I do paint the eggs the way Ukrainians do it, because I think they are pretty and adorably complicated! Does that mean I toss aside the tradition of painting boiled eggs and instead go straight to chocolate eggs and bunnies, because that is like the ultimate taboo?
By the way, I hate chocolate. I am a woman, who hates chocolate and to assume I will do anything if you are “kind” and show up with chocolate is grave error on your behalf. Both, because I can’t be bought like that and because I really, really do not like chocolate. Or red roses. Or Barbie pink things.
Back to topic.
This outburst made me think, who is that cultured person they keep referring about? Is it educated person? Or who has read certain authors? Or who doesn’t use another man’s work or declare it as their own? Is it the skinhead screaming how they keep culture pure by threatening to beat you up if they think you spoil the culture with the impurities of foreign customs? Do I need to visit theatres or see modernistic movies how woman eats paint from the walls? Should I read the sarcasm so plain in view in literature world that most don’t even know how to use sarcasm at all? Or is it the pagan community member, who declares you stupid and false believer, because you have an altar that is composed differently than his?
By the way, what is with that? When I joined with the mail list, I never expected to be bombarded with that much propaganda and whining over how unequally that religion is treated compared with Christianity. I was hoping to find the feeling of being united with the rest of the pagans around here and to meet up. But when I read from their forum, how badly they think of anyone, who isn’t following exactly their ways and see the mails circulating in the list, where they do nothing but whine – I’m not sure I want to meet up with any of them. Do I want to open myself up even more to that whining and negativity? I thought of celebrating solstice – I got a general letter of Estonian customs that in half are so general even the smallest toddler knows them. I raise the topic and I’m the bad guy, who is trying to insert foreign culture in the customs. I guess I keep going solitary, because too many are so into keeping culture pure that the meaning is lost.
To me, culture is like flowing river. The patterns, the way the Holy Grooves are built up – it is guidelines, not fixed measurements. Like card weaving patterns. We have many in the museums. But for long time, when I talked about changing those patterns, twisting them a bit, I got negative responses. Mostly saying that this wouldn’t be folk costume then, but my own creation. That thinking bothers me more and more and in any part of culture that I come across. We like create a pattern or image of something in our past and then expect ourselves and our kids to follow it exactly, no changing allowed.
Where does it get like that? Nowhere! It is stilled slice of time that just sticks further in the past. Like Viking clothes – if you want to imitate the period clothing, you must do them as the ones found in the graves. I’ve seen eight different coloured costumes with EXACT SAME PATTERNS! Replicas. That’s the symbol of our time and effort of keeping culture. We replicate, but we don’t evolve. It becomes something Unesco needs to protect, because we leave it sitting on the pedestal like that grandmother’s vase. We say it is precious to us, but we don’t work with it.
I can’t live like that. I have tried, it didn’t work. Yes, the customs were there, but they felt wrong, because half of the customs we didn’t even need. Bad thing to say, but I’m saying it anyway – we didn’t need customs to feed bread to animals on Yule’s eve, because we have no such animals. We don’t need extra long swing to have long flax for linen, because we don’t work with linen. So despite the effort, it felt awfully empty and meaningless and waste of our energy. Why do cattle protection if you don’t own a cattle?
So I customize it and live that way. It doesn’t mean those customs are forgotten and if I get myself flax field or few cows, I will bring those traditions back. But to turn me into culture hater, because I don’t do things 100% by one culture alone, is sick and twisted thinking. How can I hate culture I was brought up in? Or, wait, are you sure it is the right culture, fellow countryman? Because I know you haven’t even heard of tossing led for future or boiling sült for 8 hours. But it must be my fault, surely – to be brought up in the wrong culture! Because your lets-drink-through-solstice-culture MUST be the more cultured one and more accurate to the culture we have!