Culture, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, is the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. This is further described as being developed through the development of the intellect through training or education. By definition then, our culture is the cumulative total of all aspects of society that define who we are collectively as a nation, and as a global population. Culture can further be split up into a number of subcategories, the two biggest being pop-culture and high culture. High culture in this division would accommodate everything in society from the musical and artistic masterpieces to the literary works that define the way we live today. Pop culture on the other hand defines the more contemporary works such as cult-classics and temporary works which define a very particular age in our history based on current fads and trends. Usually associated with the less-sophisticated, pop culture is often looked down upon as being a lesser aspect of culture and more of a blemish on society in some more conservative views.
Suicide, a word which carries many negative connotations, is well deserving of the responses it usually generates. By definition, suicide is the intentional taking of one’s own life. However, alternatively, suicide may also be used to describe the self-destruction of one’s own interests. Suicide is the intentional undoing of one’s goals and the destruction of any progress and achievements made. With this in mind, cultural suicide, an idea put forth by Jimmy Corrigan’s author, Chris Ware, is the intentional destruction and undoing of the collective intellectual works of art, behavior, beliefs and social institutions in society. Devaluing of art, moving toward complacency, undermining education, and removing social practices built over the years by our ancestry are all ways which culture can be considered to be devalued or destroyed in this sense. But suicide, is our nation or even our global society as a whole forging these destructive processes within the culture itself, leading to the inevitable devaluing of the institutions that formerly constructed high culture?
To begin to understand how culture can be suicidal, a case should be examined such as that presented in Chris Ware’s, Jimmy Corrigan, in which the common practices, technologies and industries of pop culture have created a bleak and humdrum society. A prime example of this is presented in a set of postcards highlighting the peak interests in town with vibrant descriptions of the location written on the back of the cards. The word euphemism doesn’t even begin to describe the blurbs on the back of each card and the utter sarcasm is nothing short of laughable. One card in particular details the “history” of the town in which the noble people who colonized the land were viciously attacked by savage Indians who seemed to come from nowhere. The picture’s focus, as it describes, is the rock where a treaty was signed, thus ending the violence and returning peace to the town which would later be renamed after the vicious savages themselves. Unfortunately, as the postcard notes in the disclaimer, the rock is out of sight behind a Dairy Queen, a streetlight and a cutout house floating in a sea of concrete and electrical wires. What is the significance of these descriptions in both images and words and how does this portray our culture as being suicidal?
To expand on the understanding of cultural suicide now, Ware’s images and descriptions can be used to visualize the definition above. While this example focuses mostly on the destruction of education and beliefs, it is an excellent example of how society is deconstructing culture as it grows. Fast food chains, electricity, urban life, and the many other aspects of pop culture which now define a good portion of any of our lives in modern American society are suffocating out the history and even intellectual and educational ideals which led to the creation of these pillars of society. History, as portrayed in the image as the rock where the town’s famous treaty was signed, is no longer even visible through the jungle of pop culture which was built over top. To further emphasize the destructive nature of the resulting pop culture, Ware seems to point out that history itself may even be skewed and misinterpreted as information is obstructed by the newer facets of pop culture and modern society.
In terms of the definition, how can we look at today’s (pop) culture as being suicidal?
Video game pop culture and the consequences
Invasion of video game culture
What’s being neglected?
The death of high culture
Is the result a bleak and narrow minded culture? The horizons seem gray
Conclusions on suicidal culture and the progression which is leading current video game cultural aspects to destroy the other aspects of culture
Source List (tentative):
-Videogames and Art
-Games and Culture
-The Pleasures and Dangers of the Game
-Technologies Between Games and Culture
-American Heritage Dictionary