Modern Culture vs. Traditional culture: Why I choose the former

In a previous article, I mentioned a 1990s or early 2000s cable TV advertisement which showed people of different cultures later morphing into people in black modern suits. The narrator was saying that diversity and culture are in danger because of modernization by globalization. I’m still looking for this ad, but I also still disagree with its message that losing cultural identity is harmful to society.

If people say that modernity and traditional culture need not be enemies, I agree. Mass media after all likes to highlight rivalries, not only in politics but even science versus religion, science versus art, and other things. However, if it comes down to it, I’ll choose modernity over national or traditional identity.

SUPPORT INDEPENDENT SOCIAL COMMENTARY!
Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us daily.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

I’ll clarify an idea before I proceed. I disagree that what brought about the modern culture could be called globalization. It’s more of free market capitalism, where goods, services and ideas can be freely sold or exchanged across borders, cultures and divides; hierarchy or control by any authority is minimal to absent. Globalization actually has a few players monopolizing or regulating international trade, sometimes even trying to manipulate society and culture to their needs. Esteemed webmaster Benign0 actually criticized it.

Back to the ad under discussion, I disagree that modernity has threatened traditional cultures. Instead it brought us more freedom, world prosperity and relative peace (to earlier times). And we still have our cultural identities, actually. Modernity does exert a pressure on culture, but a good one; more on that later.

Let’s look at it from another angle. Youtuber Lindybeige has a video explaining the book Why We Fight by Mike Martin on why people easily join conflict despite common sense telling them that it’s better not to. He says the sense of belonging to a group identity is a major cause, since a person will likely seek the favor of the group he wants to belong to. When the group fights another group, even for a nonsense reason, the person will fight with them just to maintain their favor. That is tribal dynamics as far as I know.

Another point by Martin is that wars led to societies getting bigger, such as smaller states getting absorbed by bigger states through imperialism. As societies get bigger, they tend to get less violent. So the summary that Lindybiege gave was, violence does bring about peace and is the reason for the relative prosperity of today. As he said, there’s loads of humans now. It implies that the tendency for violence because of identity is good. Of course, I disagree with this.

For me, free market capitalism brought about by liberal values, as I mentioned above, is the reason why there are loads of us now (My view of this is informed by Deirdre McCloskey, who uses the term liberalism or liberal values to describe the support for individualism over collectivism, different from the liberalism associated with the left, woke and progressives; it’s more of libertarianism). The tendency for violence is one of the hindrances. I believe Martin took a very narrow, “small picture” look at the factors involving conflict and societal size and simply left out the influence of liberal values. The numbers perhaps may have looked to him like violence and peace had a proportionate correlation in the eras he looked at. But once you look at the bigger picture, a different conclusion emerges.

Traditional cultures form a concept of group identity as a focal point for survival. Since life was much more difficult then, village-level tribes tend to kill or enslave people outside of their identity, as I explained in my eliminationism article. This is also the cause of racism and bigotry as well as a lot of human-made inequality, which are actually means to facilitate survival.

But the village autocrats can also be cruel to their own people. Aside from what I’ve described, there’s ostracism or bullying of a village member who doesn’t “fit in” or is “different” (like a geeky person). Then there’s gossip. There’s the dictatorship of other villagers on who your mate should be or whether or not you should have a haircut. Either you conform or we whip you to conform… or you get kicked out or killed in extreme cases. This is the kind of cruel life that Disney heroines often lament in song.

Then came the age of enlightenment, industrial era, liberal values and free market capitalism. They created an abundance of good and services, not to mention medical advances, that greatly increased survivability and life expectancy. It also led to recognition for human rights and individuality. Being individualistic was no longer seen as a danger to other people as in tribal days. You don’t need to be tied to your tribe anymore to have the right to live.

And so our world became bigger, leading to more peace. Instead of finding common ground in tribal loyalties, we found new common ground in international products, such as fictional properties. For my generation, it was Transformers and GI Joe and other toy properties. Others are popular music, personally 80s music and new wave. Hobbies like scale modeling and video games, among other things, brought together people from across the world. Identity was no longer the focal point of survival, but was for fun, and I think that was better.

The problem with the idea that violence can bring peace is that it can be used to justify wars, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A propagandist for the war could say, oh, look, if bigger societies are more peaceful, then the Russian invasion in order to revive the bigger society called the Soviet Union to existence is justified.

Youtuber Vlad Vexler explained that the Ukraine invasion was motivated by a cultural factor, namely a search for Russian identity. This dynamic of identity assertion is still found in most collective violence today. The terrorist group Islamic State/Daesh sought to create its own political entity through conquest. There were the Rwandan conflict and Yugoslavian breakup. This shows that, if you want conflict to stop, it’s better to encourage dropping identity assertion and sticking to traditional culture, and letting free market capitalism and liberal values bring peace.

I do recognize that even modern culture has its own problems. Actually, it’s because some business players try to create their own tribalism. For example, if you don’t have a certain product, you are not part of the tribe called “in” and there are messages actually shame you for it. You have rivalries such as the Noranian-Vilmanian one, disputes within hobby communities and, not to mention, sports rivalries. Shills are used to create questionable messages to goad consumption; for example, a blogger is hired to write that a person who doesn’t like to travel the world is a racist (in order to spur travel ticket sales, fuel consumption, etc., by giving non-buyers a bad identity). The proliferation of vanity and self-worship also takes advantage of people’s search for identity, namely, if you are not among the “beautiful people,” you do not deserve validation.

Then you have the wokes. Wokes at first seem to be a product of capitalism, but I think they are actually a product of tribalism struggling against capitalism. “We are a tribe of people who are awakened to issues and their causes, and capitalism is the cause, so we want to bring it and you down, you white supremacists.” Sometimes, they even invoke state action to support their tirades against people who disagree with them. Wokes are among the noisiest in saying capitalism is the cause of exploitation and subjugation, while ignoring the fact that the real perpetrators during the age of exploration/exploitation were older kingdoms (states) expanding empires.

Speaking of kingdoms expanding empires, there’s South Africa in my Silverton Siege article. Apartheid was an act of identity assertion by the Dutch. When you look at racism-supporting messages around the world, notice that they have an identity element in them. Apartheid and segregation are attempts to secure the identity from being soiled by the blood of others. Adolf Hitler really believed this when he led the Nazi party, although his conclusion was that the greatest way to preserve identity and purity was to eliminate the impure. And racial purity was not an idea that was unique to him; it was basically everywhere at the time. Darwinism was also used to support it.

I remember the witch character Kim Diehl from the Soul Eater manga and anime. Because her kind was subject to discrimination, she said that money is the only thing that does not discriminate against you. Sounds sad at first, but to me it sounded like it supported capitalism over cultural identity. Judging a person based on whether they worked and are willing to buy your wares is better than rejecting them because of their cultural identity.

But I do not advocate deliberately trying to erase old cultures the way Mao-era China tried to conduct the so-called Great Leap Forward (that is a great cautionary tale to keep returning to). No, state action is not the way here. But what is really happening today is that, as a result of the flow of ideas, liberal values and intellectual properties, cultures will have to adjust and change. If they resist and hold on to their old attitudes, they are more likely to create more problems such as more conflict.

I believe though that multiculturalism and similar efforts failed because states and other entities tried to force acceptance. Whether it was through policy or bombardment with advertisement and other messages, it made people feel forced and threatened. Try not to force things on people and let the free market and liberal values do their job.

Philippine culture, like many others, is also undergoing change but tries to resist by holding on to identity. Indeed, many have commented that tribalism is one of this culture’s greatest faults. We saw it manifested in the latest election. Many fanatics from the bigger political sides tried to fight other sides as efforts to please their own group with the hope of a reward, the dynamic that Lindybeige and Martin explained. On the collective depression of pink fanatics, it can be an identity thing; if everybody else in my group is depressed, then I should be depressed too.

Some people describe those glued to their cellphones these days as zombies. But people who are willing to be violent towards others for the sake of belonging are probably worse zombies.

Perhaps embracing modernity and leaving identity behind will help solve Philippine problems. It’s a “modest proposal” that webmaster Benign0 called, quoting Nick Joaquin, “Murder mentality.” I’m sure others will call me a traitor for this. But I’ll stand fast. If loss of cultural identity might be the price for peace in the world, I’d be willing to pay that.

15 Replies to “Modern Culture vs. Traditional culture: Why I choose the former”

  1. Remember that Sarsi ad from the 90’s?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzv1R_6tIdY

    There’s always a way to bring traditional forms into the modern setting, it doesn’t have to disappear.

    It’s just sad that our notion of progress is to do away with anything old. Of course we move on from processes that are obsolete, but it doesn’t mean that *all* elements have to go.

    1. You and Aeta are right, actually. But aside from identity being a basis of conflict, I think people are not sure of what things to eliminate and what to keep. There are after all the hardcore traditionalists who oppose mixing old and new, as well as the hardcore “erase the past” types. How to balance things (like resisting the temptation to erase a river or creek in order to build a condo on it) is part of the issue. I think that’s the challenge going forward.

      Sarsi, I still look for it among the root beers. Wish it had a liter bottle like Mug. I like the ad’s message indeed.

      1. @ChinoF. This is the way I look at it. The Filipino people have survived Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations, including Communist insurgencies, for generations by living off their own land by means of agriculture.

        I’m not sure if the next generations of Filipino people will be as lucky surviving the Yellow oligarchs’ over-commercialization of their own land, while working as OFWs and expatriates in some foreign land.

        The Filipino people like to praise themselves of being able to adapt to any situations around the world; however, upon their return, the Philippines may no longer be their own land even if they own the condominiums, and hangout in the shopping malls, above it.

        1. I just watched Ryan Chapman on Youtube, I learned from his explanation on Liberalism that I’m more on the Liberal Right, meaning no intervention in culture. Now I can put a name on and place in the spectrum for what I wrote on.

          Yes, it’s sad that agriculture got left behind in focus by any government since Cory era. That’s one of the things that was badly affected by globalization, which I now think of as highly interventionist. If the Economic Hitmen book is to be believed, then our country was goaded to reduce agriculture and industry and focus on services like BPO and labor sent to other countries. I hope the incoming BBM will try to steer away from that.

        2. “…This is the way I look at it. The Filipino people have survived Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations, including Communist insurgencies,”
          ========
          Oh-oh, the martial law years was conveniently overlooked on that statement.

          I think as a nation and people surviving against a homegrown despot is equally uplifting surviving foreign occupiers. Both snatches your heart and soul and at both times you were able to defend, resist and win the struggle.

          Let us not forget. 🤓

        3. “I think as a nation and people surviving against a homegrown despot is equally uplifting surviving foreign occupiers. Both snatches your heart and soul and at both times you were able to defend, resist and win the struggle.” — Juan Luna

          I would agree with you if I’m a liberal and sympathized with the Yellow liberals like you do, who hated the Marcoses because they preserved more of the Philippines for the Filipino people than what the Aquinos and Cojuangcos, and their Yellow cohorts, did of selling off the country by piecemeal to “Globalization.” Not the kind of “Globalization” that is tied to the rest of the world, but the type that only catered to their Chinese, and selected Korean nationals, connections throughout Asia, who wouldn’t mind engaging in legal and illegal transactions that other countries (America, Australia, European, and Japan) refused to take part in.

        4. “… the Yellow liberals like you do, who hated the Marcoses…”
          ==========
          Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. You can call me for what you think I am but that doesn’t mean you made your point.

          Blame here, blame there is not the way to go and certainly not an effective tool to isolate and defend the Marcoses for their role in what has become of the country after they left. Unlike you, I’m a fair decent guy. I blame the Marcoses NOT for everything but for something as I blame the other administrations the same way.

          I don’t specifically have one party or president to protect and defend because they all worked for me. Remember, they serve for us? 🫡

      2. “I hope the incoming BBM will try to steer away from that.” — ChinoF

        You(?), me, and the rest of the country who didn’t vote “PinkLawan” hope so, too. The people’s movement to take the country back started in 2016 when they elected Duterte. Unfortunately, the liberals in COMELEC were able to maneuver their candidate into the vice-presidency that would’ve made the Duterte-BBM presidency a much more powerful force against the Yellow Party’s monopolizing influence in government and economy. Now, we just have to put our faith into the thought that everything happens for a reason and a season.

        Perhaps those reason and season is now ripe with the BBM-SARA administration, because the people want more of what “Digong” had started, of transforming their country from what is now a concrete wasteland of shopping malls, condominiums, BPOs and OFWs, back to their fertile agricultural beginning: an agricultural society that sustained the people for generations, so they would never find themselves in a desperate struggle to meet their basic needs for survival everyday.

        1. The people’s movement to take the country back started in 2016 when they elected Duterte.
          ==========
          That is a questionable assumption. If you take the country back, to whom are you taking it from? Duterte did not run against the president at the time, he ran because the office is available to anyone qualified.

          Had BBM run against Digong, from whom the presidency was entrenched, we can say he took the country back after winning. But, just like when Digong run, the office is available to anyone qualified.

          So, what is this “taking back” nonsense really mean? 🙄

    2. Yeah I’d remember that TV ad from Sarsi and it’s very catchy and nice, and also the song who’d wrote that jingle is none other than the National Artist by the name of Ryan Cayabyab and no wonder that TV ad had a message of balancing the modern and Filipino hype, so thank you for your talent that you’d shown us, Maestro! However the band who’d sang it is none other than The Company but unfortunately those band are Pinklawans/Dilawans who’d supported the Leni-Kiko tandem in the 2022 National Elections.

      But anyway forget about that, as what @jbqyang said that bring traditional forms into the modern setting and of course that is not a bad thing for as long as we could love our country first while embracing the modern trends and this is what some Asian countries do like in South Korea, Japan, China, India, etc. where there are many of those countries are on the height of economic development and cultural changes, the Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Indians and other Asians would never abandon their beloved country and they would keep their Asian identity to the world. We’ve seen K-Pop music, K-dramas, Japanese animes and mangas, Bollywood films and other things that dominate the entertainment world and the Asian countries prove it that balancing the modern and traditional way of life is not impossible and we don’t need colonial mentality to abandon or change your identity. This is the moral lessons for the Filipinos out there.

    3. The above comment, in all honesty, simply meant more than the whole article itself, with an example to boot to drive a point. It sums everything up, it’s unpretentiously clear, concise and straightforward. A position most Filipinos who value his roots can openly relate to.

      I have high respect for people who’s in accord with his own than those who projects one’s self as someone belonging to the World… like as a world citizen. It takes something more to be acknowledged as being one.

  2. You can’t feed the masses with shopping malls and condominiums, but you can with rice and other agricultural products. Because of the aristocratic (arrogant) and individualistic (self-serving)–the current terms for colonial and crab mentality–nature of the Filipino people to look regal and cosmopolitan, they went for a “modern” instead of sticking to a “traditional” culture.

  3. Great article. So many quality points. Very enlightening to think about war/conflict from this perspective. Very well done, thanks.

  4. About identity, I realize another thing about why the project to make a Filipino language didn’t take off. Not only was it mostly Tagalog, but, since language is a part of a culture’s identity, trying to make a Frankenstein language sort of stepped on the many identities of the tribes and groups around the country. Now I realize, you can’t just tell Filipinos of different tribal and cultural identities to adopt the new thing. If there was no intention to step on anyone’s local culture, the program didn’t make that clear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.