THERE is now coming to the fore a hesitating but certain evidence of the power of the process of social change. And I speak particularly, Mr Editor, with special reference to Amerindian culture, as we endeavour to unpack the theme, “Maintaining our cultural integrity; celebrating our cultural identity.”
The perceived change in the visible and perhaps non-visible social expressions of the Amerindian culture is not any indication of a dying culture. I believe changes occur in any culture in order for it to survive. Changing of social norms is indicative of a culture that is adapting to the effects of a changing world, to the effects of the socio-economic sphere around us and everything that revolves around it, for the sake of its survival.
So an evolution is taking place, does take place and will continue to take place, ad infinitum, to the Amerindian culture as we adapt to a changing world ethos.
Communication, housing, clothing, language, music, etc., keep adjusting; keep adapting, to meet the demands of the social world. Some things must and will go as a matter of course into the dustbin of history, for example the ‘Lap’ that is mistakenly perceived as part of our cultural identity in Guyana. That is not so, Editor. Certain key aspects of our culture, subject to will of the People; their preferences, must take precedence.
I emphasise: some aspects of a given culture will obviously change, adapt, to meet the demands of a changing human environment. It can never be etched in stone, as such. I think of a ‘closed community’, much like a Chinese community, in Guyana, (subject to correction) where language, dietary preferences, easily survive simply because of what it is: a ‘closed community.’
Today, but much to the loss of our Amerindian tribal languages, our communities are no longer ‘closed’ as in the past. But can we stop ensuing changes? Of course not. Development will take place, is taking and will continue to take place. Where development is, change is inevitable.
So, change continues to take place and whether it wreaks havoc on one’s culture or not is not the question. What is needed is the will of the people, the strength of the people to securely preserve what is theirs.
Once my culture is my pride, I must live it, love, protect it, come sunshine or rain. My culture must take precedence over social forces. It takes priority.
In a changing world environment, however, whether we accept it or not, we will never historically preserve all of the Amerindian culture in its purest form. But that is not excuse to compromise it. Facilitating a cultural evolution; a process that occurs to every social group in every corner of the world are social factors, social forces, both negative and positive. If we are selective in what we adopt as our sub-cultures we could be contributing to the enhanced, improved image of our cultural identity.
So, prevailing changes in the social world which might be contributing to a cultural evolution, is not the issue. We all have a moral obligation to continue to rally our brothers and sisters to continue to make a cultural impact on the Guyanese society in an approved way as we embrace the change which is already here.
We will be open to change while at the same time not relenting on making our presence felt through our life-style, our language, educational achievements and, of course, our culturally approved ceremonial wear, etc.
The element of change in our cultural practices is bound to occur which I do believe no one can possibly stop. But it is an evolution; not a revolution.
Rev’d Joseph C. Atkinson.