Culture as source of well-being

The constant emphasis on economic conditions has obscured our ability to understand the resources which are important for people's mental welfare. This is a thesis put forward by Dr Raimo Rönnholm, based on his research on local attitudes and life experiences in Pirkanmaa region in Central Finland. In an article published in the regional daily, Aamulehti (26 February 2001), Rönnholm writes that by concentrating solely on economic performance, we miss the central concepts which are culturally essential for people's mental perseverance.

Rönnholm says that, in a nutshell, what we are talking about here is cultural capital. It has to do with home regions and roots, relationship with nature, cultural environment and traditions, co-operation in a village and a sense of togetherness, peasant culture and agriculture, and also local identity and the physical appearance of the village.

Typical indicators of mental welfare, according to Rönnholm, are among others the meaningfulness of life and work, as well as the possibility to express oneself.

"These factors, however, have their own roots just like plants. There are no shortcuts. They grow like a side product, as expressions of certain main themes, as indicators.

"They seem to get their nourishment, strength and motivation from the main root of the cultural identity with its various side branches. One such branch is a feeling of community. A person feels that he or she is existing culturally for something which has greater meaning than market value.

"We have gained cultural capital from human interaction. Consequently, communality turns out to be one important concept which is essential for mental well-being and human perseverance. Different communal activities like participating in the work of village and home region associations or community projects were experienced as a central resource of the self."

Rönnholm emphasises that people need culturally important experiences.

"This is part of human development. A healthy self is an expressession of rich cultural capital. A human being is consicous of being part of a cultural chain and simultaneously a unique creature."

Communal energy grows in human groups where all kinds of knowledge, experience, interpretations or ages mingle.

"The cultural experience of a rural region is made of acitivities which are rich in tradition. This experience encourages mental welfare and creative energy which together can give new hope for the quality of life in the region."

Rönnholm points out that originality is encouraged where tradition and forces of change meet. Rootlessness, meaninglessness and mental stagnation, on the other hand, mean that people lose the sources of their continuity without being able to replace them with something else.


See also:

Welfare state "surrounded by confusion"

7 November 2000

New social attitudes detected in research

26 October 2000

"Would inefficiency create more happiness?"

23 June 2000

Lutheran bishops in defence of the Nordic welfare State

24 February 2000

Poverty assumes modern disguises

1 February 2000

Bishops attack Anglo-American economic doctrines

March 1999

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