Culture Warriors – Give Me Lactobacillus or Give Me . . ?

OK, that’s probably not what most people think of when the term “culture warrior” is tossed around, but it would certainly fit the lady I overheard opining with great vehemency and intensity – but relatively quietly – from the dairy section at the Organic, Fermented, and Free Range grocery store (of which we have two in town). I was getting tea. I think she was Kirmhilde Schmidt’s spiritual sister, based on the firmness of her opinions about certain brands of fermented stuff. Apparently certain bacteria are better for you than others, and certain brands have higher concentrations of microbes.

[As an aside, some years ago, I got called for a medical flight just as I had removed a carton of yogurt from the fridge. Off I went, and returned some hours later to discover that the “live and active cultures” had gotten very, very lively and active. A blueberry volcano now flowed over my counter. The pressure of fermentation had forced the yogurt out of the container, under the foil and plastic lids, and it was merrily wandering across the formica.]

When most people hear “culture warrior,” we tend to think of, um, someone who writes books, or has a podcast, or a TV or radio show, and who talks about modern culture and what’s good and bad about it. I’m not sure the term is used outside of the Anglo-sphere, although there certainly are active groups in other places, notably Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Austria, and France to an extent. I’m not sure if you’d say that Russians are defending Western Civilization or Russian national culture. There’s some overlap, but also some clear differences.

So, what about a culture is worth defending, fighting for? I’m pretty sure everyone around the world, including westerners over a certain age, can list things about their particular way of believing and living that they’d defend and that they value highly. I’m equally certain that not everyone else would agree with those things. I can respect a lot of things about, oh, Japanese imperial culture prior to the 1900s, or certain aspects of Arab Muslim culture, and Iranian/Persian culture, without wanting to protect and defend them. I respect Mathias Corvinus and Vlad III Tepes, Mehmed the Conqueror, and Elizabeth I. I would never invite any of that worthy company over for dinner and conversation. Ditto Oda Nobunaga and Tecumseh. Certain cultures have aspects that I admire, or respect, and acknowledge that those facets made survival possible. I don’t have to want to keep those things around, or to have them imposed on me!

What is culture, anyway? Besides the stuff that ferments yogurt, and sauerkraut, and beer, or that appears on long-ignored food in the back of the fridge, or in petri dishes? “I know it when I see it.” OK – carpets and miniature paintings and wine poets? Weapons and armor and fighting styles and martial arts and the faiths that encourage or discourage those things? Foods and architecture? Is Middle Eastern culture kebobs and shawarma and hummus and belly-dancing? What about tribalism, and religious intolerance (often linked with tribalism), and deep suspicion of outsiders and outside technology? Is Western culture Christianity and Judaism, and Renaissance art, and classical music, freedom of speech, and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding or pizza or CFS*? Is it “Dancing with the Stars,” and Facebook, and hip-hop, and fiery protests, and pink pussy-cat hats? Yes? No? All of the above?

How you define a culture, and the people who follow that culture, shapes everything that follows. If culture was “what grows in the lab or in yogurt,” life might be simpler. Probably not. Three people, four opinions, to paraphrase several religious jokes. You can agree that Western Culture is worth protecting without agreeing on all the details. Likewise other things.

Except Icelandic fermented shark. That can go away, far away, and stay there, thank you.

*Chicken fried steak, as opposed to chicken fried chicken.


20 thoughts on “Culture Warriors – Give Me Lactobacillus or Give Me . . ?

    • How about a lutefisk latte?

      Can’t be THAT much worse than coffee with other stuff added that people drink. Why anyone would ruin perfection by adding stuff to it is beyond me.

  1. Has to be lutefisk latkes with lingonberries. Yumpin’ Yiminy! 🙂 I know, incoming carp …

    The culture is what keeps things alive and growing, for the desired end conditions. That which poisons, bleaches, or denatures it, is not part of the culture.

    CFS, taco dogs, and the like are best viewed in terms of their penitential benefits, BTW.

    • Different cultures…chicken fried steak, cream gravy, and mashed potatos.Yumm!

  2. I think of Culture as a “Way Of Thinking” of a people. The foods they eat, the type of clothing, etc are only the outward expressions of the Culture.

    Hey, I don’t have enough coffee for serious thinking so I’m finished. 😀

  3. Speaking of Krimhilde, not that you were, when Andre tells Lelia “Drink this, and don’t ask what it was,” is it something from Krimhilde?

      • I’ve always assumed that it was alcoholic but otherwise good for Lelia.

        • No alcohol, just . . . Let’s call it highly, highly concentrated herbs and things. It’s something Shadow was/is no longer supposed to have access to, and that Mistress Cimbrissa and Krimhilde can make weak variations of, but would only do so with great caution and would not hand out without very, very good reasons.

          • Makes sense and the “don’t ask what it is” would definitely apply if Shadow wasn’t supposed to have any of it. 😀

      • Knapped flint knives are artifacts.

        Well, so are rolls of mechanical drawings of airplane parts from the 1960s.

        It is just that, quite a lot of people would assume that more recent technology is more advanced, and that modern engineers have all the techniques of prior engineers.

        America with its wealth supports a lot of enthusiasts for the past, so understanding of the tech doesn’t necessarily disappear even if we aren’t training people to be able to design and to make it in exactly the same way. But, there aren’t necessarily a ton of enthusiasts for training someone to use the engineering techniques of yore, as the engineers of the day did. There are people who track that stuff down, but that is usually after they have fallen in love, after being trained in modern techniques.

        Professions are artifacts in a way, a result of some cultures but very definitely not all cultures. Which isn’t throwing shade at peoples, it is recognizing that there are a truly wide number of possible cultures.

        I originally thought that Industrial Engineering was kinda of hippie discipline, for people with a capacity for soft skills, and a lack of interest in challenging technical questions. I learned differently seeing it in practice. Also that corporations have cultures, and national cultures can shape flavors of corporate culture as practiced on the floor.

        Culture has no closed form definition. We find it everywhere in things that we cannot reduce to closed form theory, because human invention is more prolific than a single human mind can hold.

        Also, the joining of anthropology and economics is interesting.

  4. Interesting post and thought provoking… And not no, but HELL NO to the fermented shark. I’ve seen it empty an entire lounge up there before… Yech…

  5. What is culture? Might as well ask “what is an organism’s environment?” It’s a fractal question, or rather a fractal answer: no matter how deep and detailed you go, there will always be another layer under that one. If you want a shorter answer, though, then I’d say that culture is “the ways in which a group of humans (or any other sapient entities) lives.” It’s everything about how we react and behave toward each other, the world around us, the past as we remember it, the future as we predict it…

    On a lighter note: is there really such a thing as “Icelandic fermented shark?” Do people really eat it? I have long wondered whether lutefisk and vegemite were simply cruel practical jokes played by certain people on the rubes from Elsewhere. Perhaps fermented shark is another of that ilk?

    • The shark is called hákarl, and is fermented, then dried/aged for a few months. Apparently it is either a delicacy, or banned by the Hague and Geneva Conventions. If you eat the shark without aging it first, it can slowly kill you as toxins build up in your system, so the fish has to be treated to allow the chemicals to break down. Sort of like turning manioc into food.

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