The aggregate of knowledge as amassed by any given society does not constitute a unique culture, identifiable as distinct from all others; otherwise, as general knowledge is disseminated throughout and across national and international zones of distinguishing features, all cultures would remain the same. Culture precedes knowledge, and is the driving force which specifies the direction of it. The relevance; the choice between what is accepted and subsumed; the normative constraints and demarcations which preserve the very distinctiveness of any given culture; these are what focuses the idiosyncrasies of the preserve.
One may query, as in the question, Which came first, the chicken or the egg? But that is a nonsensical approach to any such issue; for, the answer is that, in the prefatory phase of cultural origination, when language and analysis did not necessitate a reflection upon the loss of either culture or knowledge, there was a symbiotic relationship where each fed into the other and enhanced in a self-reflective manner; it is only in this time of modernity, when an evaluation of the loss and destruction of culture is occurring, that such a question is even posited.
An addendum observation to be made, of course, is that information does not constitute knowledge, and thus cannot define the distinctiveness of a culture. All cultures retain and accumulate information; some cultures have been able to preserve distinctive knowledge; the ones which rely merely upon the aggregate of the former are fast becoming extinct and subsumed by the juggernaut of the Internet, where lines of distinguishable features become lost in the widening chasm of the vacuum void; it is only the remaining enclaves that recognize the importance of the latter which will survive in this Brave New World of Huxley’s predictable outcome.
Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, of course, understand full well the uniqueness of their own “culture”; for, the bureaucracy of service, in an industry which looks after the protection of the country, providing for administrative, regulatory and social services throughout the nation; of the receipt and delivery of letters, parcels and packages throughout the country and beyond; it is, in the end, a unique subculture within the greater society of the country.
And it retains and applies a distinctive set of knowledge, disconnected in many ways from the rest of society, and thus comprises a definitive “culture”. But even such a subculture can lose its “cultural compass”, and this can be seen when a fellow worker, whether a Federal employee or a U.S. Postal worker, begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition leads to the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
That is when the “ugliness” of a culture uniquely identified can come to the fore, and reveal its inner nature of wickedness. When fellow support fails to empathize; when coworkers turn on each other; when supervisors begin to harass and demean; such behavior tends to denigrate the entirety of a cultural compass which has lost its way, and preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted ultimately to OPM, is a way not of preserving the cultural compass left behind, but recognizing that the direction pointed had gone awry, and corrective action necessitated a reorientation of leaving behind the twilight of past darkness, and into a dawn of greater opportunities.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire