When it comes to health, many people think about genetic and environmental factors as those that affect the quality of life, whereas cultural aspects of the healthy lifestyle are often forgotten. Nevertheless, culture plays an important role in supporting good physical shape and mental condition. For instance, certain health problems directly result from destructive cultural practices. Moreover, culture-specific traditions might prevent people from receiving modern medical help. This essay will discuss the relationship between health and cultural background and analyze the consequences of culture loss as depicted in the clip A Fossiled Life.
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Nowadays, researchers generally agree that culture is closely connected to fitness and psychological welfare. According to the research on American Indian historical trauma, indigenous health providers associate the forced change of culture experienced by their ancestors with increased poverty, violence, and substance abuse (Hartmann & Gone, 2016). Moreover, the loss of culture is thought to result in the displacement of protective traditions and excessive stress among American Indians, leading to such diseases as diabetes and cancer (Hartmann & Gone, 2016). What is more, culture can affect other social determinants of health, like access to healthcare.
For example, Rowlands, Shaw, Jaswal, Smith, and Harpham (2015) report that people rely on their culture to guide their search for specific health information and assess it in terms of its significance. Furthermore, immigrant cultures are typically correlated with lower income and educational levels, which means that immigrants might have poorer access to the healthcare system. Finally, some traditions prompt people to seek healing from their local practitioners who can provide ineffective or potentially dangerous treatment.
The short clip A Fossiled Life was shot in 2007 as a reminder of the importance of cultural heritage. The video focuses on a man who mourns the loss of the indigenous culture of the Tlingit. It is noticeable that Matthew feels disorientated, and I believe that his inner sense of culture loss has a profound effect on his psychological well-being as the man cannot remember his family or navigate his daily life.
He regrets not knowing about the traditions of his ancestors, which leads him to experience disconnection from the rest of the world. I found it interesting that Matthew appears to be the only person to notice how the indigenous culture is becoming extinct, suggesting that his personal history made him particularly sensitive to his cultural inheritance. Furthermore, while the man mostly feels alone and depressed, Matthew becomes more optimistic once he finds a cultural artifact at a local beach. The meaning of this final scene is not evident. Perhaps, the finding helps Matthew to realize that his culture is not completely lost, which restores his connection to the world.
Some people might interpret the clip as demonstrating isolation and confusion caused by the lack of knowledge about one’s origins. Others suppose that Matthew cannot find his aim in life due to the loss of support from his family and uncertain personal identity.
While such opinions are well-grounded, I believe that the video represents something more than the portrayal of the protagonist’s experience of cultural loss. It is plausible that Matthew was chosen as the narrator of the story because of his cultural sensitivity. Through his eyes, the clip demonstrates how an indigenous culture is slowly turning into a fossil, which accentuates the importance of preserving ethnic knowledge and traditions.
Physical and psychological health are inseparable from culture. Traditions, beliefs, and cultural practices affect individuals’ choices about their health, as well as their mental well-being. The clip A Fossiled Life highlighted the importance of culture preservation by demonstrating negative consequences of the loss of cultural identity. Such initiatives can help people to acknowledge the influence of ethnic heritage on their physical and psychological states.
Hartmann, W. E., & Gone, J. P. (2016). Psychological mindedness and American Indian historical trauma: Interviews with service providers from a Great Plains reservation. American Journal of Community Psychology, 57(1-2), 229-242.
Rowlands, G., Shaw, A., Jaswal, S., Smith, S., & Harpham, T. (2015). Health literacy and the social determinants of health: A qualitative model from adult learners. Health Promotion International, 32(1), 130-138.