Culture and Boundaries

I recently read a book called ‘A Pattern Language’. In the very first pattern of the book it talked about a very interesting issue. The issue was about diminishing the national and state boundaries. It suggested that instead of having so many hierarchies of governing power in the world, why not divide the whole world into regions. Each region will have a population between 2 to 10 million; each with its own natural geographic boundaries; each with its own economy; each one autonomous and self-governing; each with a seat in world government, without the intervening power of larger states or countries.

I was really fascinated by the idea. It’s obviously easier for a minister to be CM and run a small state than for the same minister to become PM and run the whole nation. The person is same in both the cases. Like everything around, governing also needs to have a human scale to it, just like a courtyard in the house. A size of courtyard in a small house against an open space for a huge housing project will be very different. None can be substituted with another.

Considering that the world is divided into such regions, the book went on to state that “The regions of the earth must keep their distance and dignity in order to survive as cultures”.  This made me wonder about the present scenario. The main task for any political party in a country like India is development. Right from election campaigns to next election campaign, all they talk about is development.

What happens when a region develops? Its population increases, infrastructure increases, opportunities increase and hence to accommodate all this, a region (city) grows physically in all directions. It’s like a point of ink spreading into a larger dot on a piece of paper. What happens when two points very close to each other on a piece of paper spread? Both of them merge to become a larger dot. Thus each point loses its individual identity and participates in becoming the larger dot. Now what happens when these two points are of different colour?  The resultant dot is of a completely new colour. That’s exactly what happens when a city develops. As it develops in a particular direction, a city next to it also develops in the opposite direction. Slowly they come nearer and eventually merge into each other. Now there are not two separate cities, but a single large city. It is obvious that each city had its own lifestyle, its own culture and its own way of thinking.

What happens when two regions (cities) having different culture meet this way? A new culture is born as a result of this fusion. Slowly a cluster of these large cities will mix and become an even larger city. Slowly the whole state would be one single city. Imagine the situation. Thus all the cultural differences would be lost in the state and eventually in the whole country.

Here we must know the importance of having different cultures. Each culture signifies its locality. It tells us about the climate of the region, the nature of its people, the way they dress, the way they eat and etc. Its sets apart one group of people from another. It creates a sort of identity for a group. Now imagine the chaos where there is no such cultural difference. Everyone shares the same belief. The sense of identity would be completely lost. Again imagine a situation where a piece of paper has all the points of different colour very close to each other. All will merge to form a huge dot. Thus different colours would not exist on the paper at all. Now substitute the paper with the world and colours with cultures.

So now the question arises

  • What are we achieving by developing?
  • Do we really need to get up-close?
  • Do we really need to diminish the boundaries we share locally?
  • Should the regions we live in really develop (or expand)?
  • Are we losing more than what we are getting in the larger scenario?
  • What are the ways of growing and not losing the different cultures?

Or should we stop worrying about the culture and keep on moving in the current direction


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