August 19, 2014

Importance of Strong Cultural Foundations

One recurring theme in Fethullah Gulen’s writings is the problem of cultural identity, which is how the individual relates to his cultural and civilizational heritage. Culture is seen as very important since it is an encompassing environment where each individual member of the society is affected willingly or unwillingly. Thus the issue of discovering the roots of our cultural identity and staying true to it becomes fundamental to continuation of our civilization.

As Gulen lays the foundation towards defining cultural identity he provides an extensive explanation for culture, which manifests itself in the feelings, thoughts, language and art of a nation. Culture is nurtured in the conscience and intellect of a nation and exhibits itself in things like how we act, how we interact with others and how we think, speak or write. Fethullah Gulen also rejects a mere folkloric understanding of culture. In this regard staying true to one’s cultural identity is not just engaging in cultural entertainment forms (such as folkloric dances in traditional weddings) but living it in every aspect of life.

Continually living our life based on our cultural codes is very important in installing all aspects of the culture in our character. Here Gulen also welcomes internalizing useful values from foreign cultures as well. In his understanding culture evolves over a long time internalizing different values from different systems as in the cases of Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations. The result of the synthesis of internal and external forces in forming the culture will also shape the characteristic of the nation over the time exhibiting itself in the streets, schools and other places of social gathering. According to Gulen, if a nation can rely on such a strong cultural foundation it will overcome the ills of ignorance, poverty and disunity over time. Fethullah Gulen provides the example of Germany after the WWII as a successful example of strong cultural base lifting up a nation, which solved its economic, political and administrative problems by developing answers inspired by their cultural roots.

In Gulen’s teachings going back to cultural roots and relying on one’s own culture is the way to ensure the continuity of a nation into the future. Solutions for all sorts of problems in the society must be inspired by this national atmosphere that the culture forms. If the individuals in a society bring their original culture to the life by expressing it in every aspect of the life, that society will not only prosper but also secures the futures of its young generations.

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