Culture Vs. Disaster
Community is always multi-faceted. It is a constant negotiation between the individual in relation to the group. And it can be hard to recognize where community begins and ends unless you are already part of it.
Exclusion vs. Identity
People in a specific community often don’t realize that the boundaries they set in order to build, maintain, and strengthen their community can be highly exclusionary. This is the darker side of social capital: when the difficulty and stress of breaking down cultural, linguistic, geographic, or other barriers just to participate in a group outweighs the benefits of joining. Or when people are purposefully excluded because they don’t fit the ideas or priorities of a certain group.
Culture, community traditions and identity are hugely important and we can and should be rooted in our heritage. But there is a fundamental tension in communities between accepting new ideas/people and rejecting them because of the fear of losing group identity. And, unfortunately, there are no easy answers or work arounds for that tension. It needs to be brought out, talked out, met head on, and used as an opportunity to strengthen everyone involved.
The Importance of Culture
ReliefWeb just published an article about the importance of cultural heritage for disaster resilience. It’s exciting and important to think about all the different types of survival knowledge, best practices, and advice for disaster resilience that we can find in the past. And by examining these artifacts, we need to also look at adaptation strategies. How did people in the past handle cultural interactions? Did they learn from one another? Who adapted the best and what were their social strategies?
In the U.S. we have an amazing melting pot of cultures to draw on, and as natural disasters continue to increase, we need to learn from each other more than ever. What heritage do you have? What knowledge, expertise, memories, and traditions do you want to preserve in the face of disasters? But also think about this: how do we preserve culture, whose culture do we preserve, and how can we learn from the past to create a resilient future for everybody?