Photo: Arijeet Bannerjee/Shutterstock

The Death of a Culture Prompts the Question of Why?

by Christine DeSadeleer Mar 31, 2010
Some could argue cultures die out as a necessary part of survival of the fittest, but economics might be the true culprit.

Kolkata (Calcutta) is one place where Jews left of their own accord. Nonetheless, it is sad to see the Jewish culture, rarely linked with India, quickly dying out. recently posted a story on the “fading” Jewish community in one of India’s largest cities. Once a strong community of 6,000 people, there are now only 30 left; prayers can’t even be held in the synagogue due to the lack of 10 “able-bodied men needed to form the minyan, the quorum required for a Jewish service.”

The Jewish culture, arriving in Kolkata during the 18th century from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Damascus, and also from Iraq and Iran, was an important part of the city until 1947. That is when India gained independence from Britain, whose trade had brought the Jews to India in the first place.

Not only tolerance, but hospitality was extended to the Jews from the Indians, one of the few places in the world that was the case.

I appreciated that the article noted not only tolerance, but hospitality was extended to the Jews from the Indians, one of the few places in the world that was the case. And I can imagine the richness of the collaboration between these two cultures would have been quite amazing. Maybe that’s why I’m so sad to read the Jewish culture, with only an estimated less than 100 left in all of India, will soon be gone.

I began to think about other parts of culture dying throughout the world and not, by any stretch of the imagination, by choice – how climate change is impacting indigenous peoples, the loss of languages, even those poor redheads. Some cultures, like the Gullah people in South Carolina, are fading right underneath our noses.

The Question of Why

What does this mean? Are these cultural deaths really about survival of the fittest, or is it more a plundering of people based mostly on economic gain? Many indigenous cultures live on land with natural resources we like to cultivate for our own consumption, and those who make money from plundering will deny global warming until the cows come home.

In 6 Inspiring TED Talks About Happiness and Belief, we included a video from Wade Davis about the worldwide web of belief and ritual. Here, Davis discusses the diversity of the world’s indigenous cultures, and how they are dying out at an alarming rate.

We lose not only diversity, but humanity each time a culture, or interconnection of two cultures, fades into oblivion. But as many of the aspects of life and the environment continue to be in flux as the big boys remain in charge, it’s hard to know exactly what to do about it.

What do you think about the death of cultures? Share your thoughts below.

Discover Matador