The vitality of a culture lasts only so long as the best men in the dominant minority of each generation find self-fulfilment by living up to its fundamental values afresh.
by Dr. K. M. Munshi
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Culture is not just character or morality. Character is the inside of a man. Culture is external rather than internal. Culture has more to do with behaviour and way of living than with character.
by C. Rajagopalachari
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Our culture is not a composite bundle of different ways nor a regimented unity. It is a synthesis reaching new levels of equilibrium under the unifying influence of certain fundamental values.
by Dr. K. M. Munshi
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Vitality of Cultures

The vitality of a culture lasts only so long as the best men in the dominant minority of each generation find self-fulfilment by living up to its fundamental values afresh.

When we study the vitality of cultures, we find that all these characteristics are correlated to each other by certain fundamental values springing from a Central Idea which has the power to replenish their vigour.

With the passage of time environment changes, civilization alters its content, new disintegrating factors arise. When these phenomena become pronounced, a new age comes, and society, with its culture, comes under the pressure of a new crisis. When such a crisis arises, the best among the dominant minority of the society are faced with a new responsibility. They have to accept the challenge; adjust their outlook to it; adjust their norms of conduct and basic institutions—but in the light of the fundamental values of their own culture and under the inspiration of its Central Idea. ‘This Central Idea drives the stream of culture forward between the banks of Time, changing its course, throwing up formations, leaving behind weeds, meandering or roaring according to the conditions imposed by the pressure and material equipment of each section of time. When the conditions change, new wave crests are formed. But in its essential unity, its characteristic elements and its direction, it remains the same. When the Central Idea drives and inspires the way of life no more, the culture dies and with it die the people’.

Take for instance a Greek of today. Though he lives in the same land, there is nothing in common between him and the Greek who lived in the times of Pericles. The fundamental values which prompted the life of those Greeks simply do not exist for him. We will, therefore, be justified in saying that the culture of ancient Greece died the day the representative of Greece did not find fulfilment in living up to its values.
Similarly the culture of Ancient Rome died when its society was overwhelmed by the presence of foreign slaves and mercenaries from Gaul and Germany, and the best among the Roman youths ceased to worry about the values cherished by his ancestors which had made Rome the master of the world.

We thus find that culture can live only if the dominant minority in the culture group plays its part. In politics, the vote of a man on the verge of insanity is as good as that of the wisest. On the other hand, in human affairs, it is the thinking and active minority, which Toynbee calls the ‘dominant minority’, that counts. If alive to the dangers of disintegration, it alone can develop the inspiration, courage and the vision that makes for the community’s vitality, power and influence. The vitality of a culture lasts only so long as the best men in the dominant minority of each generation find self-fulfilment by living up to its fundamental values afresh. These values cannot be handed down from father to son as if it were a legacy. Every generation must recapture it afresh by trying to live up to it. The values of a culture are recaptured for each generation by a subtle process of re-interpretation, re-integration and adaptation. When the culture is living, the promising young man and woman of the generation receive the impact of its fundamental values.

The sensitive and the vigorous among them become each a human laboratory, which purifies the fundamental values relating them afresh to the Central Idea; stimulates them to meet the needs of the times; reintegrates the subsidiary values with the fresh vigour of the new interpretation and shapes the traditions and institutions not only without impairing the strength of the collective will, but by giving it a new edge. Suppose a time comes in India—God forbid—when our young men and women are lost to the values and ideals of our culture, our culture would be dead. Then they may become civilized barbarians or second-class Westerners, but they can never be the torch-bearers of a living Indian culture for the age in which they live or for the future.



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