Local Culture, Local Wisdom & Local Stupidity

Many people assume local culture is the symbol of backward, barriers for development and in contrast to modern culture. To be a modern (rational, engaged in secular institutions, and disenchanted with the world) one should drop all that connected to the local. Through their purified wings, world religions in fact involved in negating –or even destroying– local cultures, blaming them as unauthentic and source of heresy.

But it was in the twentieth century when modernity was the dominant narrative of cultural explanations. The Coming of a new millennium has been stimulating criticism to modernity and all derivative explanations about it. New perspectives, theories, paradigm or even ideology have been appearing such as post-modernism, multiple-modernities, and post-traditionalism, which are appreciative to local expressions. Having been tired by the aridity and linearity of modern life, people are now searching for alternatives that are softer, more spiritual, and more flexible than ever before. They find such things in local knowledge. For these purposes, local culture is now seen as a source of wisdom instead of obstacles.

This is the era of flashback, where localities are cheered in modern space concomitant with globalization. The notion that there is local wisdom in every local culture stimulates local supporters to a campaign that the local is able to co-exist with the global. But wait, who does actuality recognize the wisdom of the local? Are they insiders of the local or the outsiders? If they are the insiders, they are absolutely subject to any biases. If they are the outsiders, what are their motives in doing so? Clear answer of the questions is required in order to determine the quality of appreciation.

In reality, what insiders hold as the wisdom is different from that is seen by the outside. The first would see holistically the wisdom in their local expressions as value systems, whereas the latter just impress it as the exotic expressions to be preserved. The exotic is a state when ones are enjoyed and amazed to a unique and antique expression but they do not want to be like such an enjoyable object. Behind the exotic is a consciousness of the subject that one’s is better than the object being watched. Consequently, it is also common that what is recognized local wisdom by some will be seen by the others oppositely, as local stupidity. This difference levels of appreciations could cause further cultural double standard, phobia, and even racist point of views. In such a differing cultural context, we need a better multicultural perspective rather than just the melting pot and assimilation.

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