“Culture” is a framework developed by people to describe patterns of social behaviour, expression, consciousness. A given culture will manifest in multiple ways, will have more than one characteristic. and will in the final analysis be defined by the practice of people, albeit refracted through a distorted view that they have of themselves.
Culture can change, but not according to anyone’s rulebook. It is the result of what large numbers of uncontrollable people will do, often without thinking about it. It is the result of not only what “members of” a culture will do, but also of what others not recognized as such will do.
Culture can be imitative. If people’s lives are intertwined, if they grow up together, live together, work together, struggle together … they’ll sometimes adopt habits or forms just because the cultural expression in question begins to resonate with them, not as alien, but as part of their lived experience. Even if it didn’t used to be.
Culture is made by people, and all people are capable of of the same cultural accomplishments, expressions, and innovations. So “different cultures” can end up developing parallel expressions, just as they can develop radically different ones.
Culture is both form and content, reflected back and forth like two mirrors held up to each other. But if you take one of those parts away, it falls to bits.
Cultural forms (or expressions) carry genealogies which can be traced backwards forever. However, to pick up a cultural form, take it on, integrate it, one needs to know nothing of that, i.e. cultural forms are accessible, nobody needs a rulebook or guide. Cultural forms are dynamic much like an object-oriented programming language. But just like an object-oriented language, the meaning of the form in one cultural context need have nothing to do with its meaning in another.
Cultures are generated automatically and continuously by nations, classes, societies, collectivities. Cultures constitute one of several factors that in turn can occasionally contribute to giving partial form to nations, classes, societies, collectivities.
A culture’s self-presentation can’t be trusted. It’s version of it’s own past is invariably off kilter. Its official boundaries inevitably cut off people who in their lived lives are a part of it. Its dos and don’ts are sometimes followed, sometimes not. Like stars in the sky, what you see is not where things are now, but where they were when the light started streaming towards you, maybe years ago, maybe much longer than that.
“Tradition” refers to what some people feel invested in other people believing the past was like. This may be true, or it may not be true. Politics and ethics are excellent guides to what one should or should not do in life. Whether something is culturally sanctioned, or part of “one’s own” tradition, far less so.
The above is not “good” or “bad”, it’s not a map of the terrain, it’s just a description of how the terrain will operate. One can try to intervene to change that, but as culture is just the aggregate of so many individual realities, you are unlikely to succeed. Far better to intervene on the cultural terrain to get done what you want to get done, rather than try to change the nature of the terrain itself.