What is it that has made man what he is? Led him to where he is today? What is it that has made him soar high above other animals? What is it that gives his short existence a purpose? The answer to these questions lies not only in his matchless nature and profound intellect, but in his pattern of behaviour, values, arts, morals, customs and beliefs; his way of adapting to nature; his culture.
Culture is said to be the oil that keeps the society running, the force that keeps humanity afloat. This explains why it has remained the focal point of studies relating to man and society. No doubt, culture functions to establish the identity of a people, distinguishing the white from the black, the Greeks from the Barbarians, the Americans from the red Indians. It helps in facilitating social integration, by giving a people a common goal and prescribing common means to attain such. Its understanding equally prevents prejudice and discrimination between persons of varying races. However, the crux of this write-up lies in how the good utilisation of culture has the tendency ‘to create a better future’. Not just a future-state of stability and equilibrium, but that of excellence and near-perfection.
The Yorubas and numerous other cultures, have a logically appealing moral-code and ways of peacefully resolving disputes. This system has been preserved mostly through ‘owe’ (proverbs), ‘alọ-apagbe’ (folktales), ‘ewọ’ (taboos) and ‘oriki’ (panegyrics). They fervently encourage hardwork, honesty and chastity. Their values are not cycled around luxury, but rather contentment and moderation. This is very germane because a state that gives room for materialism must inevitably welcome exploitation and wide-spread poverty.
Aside from diligence, Yorubas also value decency and the use of dignifying wears. This aspect of culture is observable from time immemorial. The Yorubas’ buba and agbada, Indian Sari, Japanese geisha and kimono, and even the western suit, all lend credence to this. Consequences inherent in the deviance from decency include an increase in crime rates, most especially sexual harassments, thereby creating an atmosphere of unrest not fit for development. It is also noteworthy that to combat crime and foster unity, the traditional communal spirit is invaluably expedient. Gone are the days when elders were duly revered, when goods can be sold without the seller around, when lives were sacred and properties safe. Those days can return if only we give room for culture.
Men travel from their native lands to others simply because of the unique language, scenery and culture existing there. Hence, if the culture of a place has been devoured by another, of what use is it to tourists and sightseers? Travel and tourism is, today, the largest services industry. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, tourism, across the globe, supports 255 million jobs and generates 9 percent of world GDP. In fact, in Dubai, one of the most widely visited countries world-wide, tourism contributes up to 31% of her total GDP (emirates247.com). Also, in Nigeria, it’s been established that in 2012 alone, some 897,500 jobs were generated in the industry (businessdayonline.com). We can deduce from these figures that the propagation of a people’s culture can and actually does improve the standard of living of such people.
What’s more, social maladies of pollution and lack of drinkable water can be solved if cultural values are highly esteemed. This is because most cultures persuade against or even forbid the desecration of water bodies and other life-supporting resources deemed sacred. This in a way has promoted the actualisation of the 7th millennium development goal which is to “ensure environmental sustainability.”
Finally, I wish to assert that the culture of any and every society possesses the power to create a better and brighter future for all. As a matter of fact, this power is not acquired nor is it bestowed – it is inherent. Sadly however, this power has been hijacked by the forces of imperialism, immorality and materialism. And as it is self-evident that there can be no culture without man and neither can there be mankind without the concept of culture, the future remains gloomy unless man resolves to restore sanity, restore the ideals of humanity and restore the power of culture.