I think the speaker overstates the function of rituals and ceremonies to the
culture of a society. In my view, some rituals and ceremonies today is
about a superstition and a society’s religious belief. They sometimes
reflect a society’s some respects of culture and value, but their existence
has little difference on people’s sense of who they are, or people’s identification and consciousness of themselves and their society.
Self-consciousness of a person oneself means the person’s cognition of both one’s physical and spiritual traits, one’s role in the society and one’s relationship with others, etc. We begin to develop self-consciousness
since we are children. American psychologist James first divided the
process of self-consciousness into three aspects. The first aspect is
people’s consciousness of the material self. That is people’s recognition of their bodies, the appearances, their dress, their relatives and things
belonging to them, etc. The second aspect is the social self. That means a
person’s consciousness reputation in a society, his status, his or her
relationship with his relatives and friend, their economical conditions and
so on. The third aspect is the spiritual self, which means a person’s consciousness about his intelligence, his personality, interests and so
I think James’ division about the self-consciousness also applies to the
groups or societies. In terms of the groups or societies, the material self
mean the cognition of the society’s nature condition, the climate, the
location, and so on. The social self should mean the cognition of a
society’s relationship with other societies, their status, reputation and wealth among all the societies. And the third aspect, spiritual self means
the recognition of a society’s mainstream value, characteristic, traditions
and so on.
After the analysis above, we can see that the self-consciousness of the
society, or the identity of its people, is fostered during the interactivities
of different societies. The people of a society realize who they are by
getting to know the environment of their society, by distinguishing and
comparing the differences between their society and other society. So a
society’s self-consciousness is not much influenced by the rituals and ceremonies.
During the past few decades, many rituals have diminished in China. For
example, people used to like firing special paper for the dead people on
some holidays, like the spring festival. But with time going by, such
practices are not commonly seen in the cities. People have turn to other
environmental ways to show respect for their ancestors. I think, in some
sense, the obsolete of some old rituals and ceremonies is good show that
people today have become more sensible and intelligence. Like the
example, rituals change, but our society’s inner value, respect for the
ancestor remains unchanged.
In conclusion, the rituals and ceremonies is a reflection of a society’s
culture and value. It is the society’s culture and value that determine the
rituals and ceremonies, not the other way around. And of course, the
rituals and ceremonies have little influence on the society’s self-consciousness.