Article 27

(1) Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

I know the first clause of this Article will seem alien to so many people. You may ask why we even need to mention this. After all, there are some people in the world that the only thing they have is the cultural life of their community, and this is true. However there have been many instances of one culture trying to suppress another, think of what Europeans did to the natives of North America, or Australia, or Africa, or… wow, um yeah, everyone really.

All lefty snarkiness aside though, this was written at a time when communist dictators were trying to quash the very idea of culture. They turned generations of tradition on their head simply because they thought all tradition was bad.  This is kind of disturbing because to me culture, be it art, music, poetry, dance, food or what have you, is what separates us from other animals. It is what makes being human special. Without it, we are just existing, not living.

I think back on what has been lost, especially the past century and a half of empire and I shake my head. So much beauty gone and for what? A burning need to feel superior because of the way we hold a fork, or how we express our love for this world, or simply to get all of our ducks in a row. I also find myself grateful for those that never gave up and never gave in. The Ukrainians, the Plains Indians of North America, the Polynesians, the Bantu speaking people of sub Saharan Africa. They have had mixed success, but their cultures, and those of a few others, will not be forgotten because they refused to completely give up their identity, sometimes in the face of brutal violence.

We need this now more than ever. I write this as I sit in Starbucks, partaking of (as much as I enjoy the coffee) our bland, homogeneous culture. America has lost a lot of its color, and the sad part is, we just kind of drifted into that. We make much ado of our slight regional differences, but really, when push comes to shove, we consume the same mass processed food, drink and music. Maybe it’s easier that way, but don’t forget to occasionally hit your museum, eat some East Indian Cuisine, listen to a little Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and read a little poetry (yeah, I just went there) and above all, remember where it came from.

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