Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Is our Culture a Colonized One?
The British packed their bags and left 64 years ago but they left behind the legacy of their language, which has become ubiquitous these days. America’s star has been on the ascendant ever since the Second World War and with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites the Bald Eagle has ruled the roost in the cultural arena. Dr. Ramesh Grandhi shares his view on the cultural imperialism that we have been left with.
The inspiration for writing this piece came while reading an article that Hu Jintao the powerful Chinese President was keen to enshrine a culture drive away from Western cultural influence as the final defining moment of his decade-long tenure at China's helm. Hu says that China must strengthen its culture and defend the West’s assault against Chinese culture and ideology.
If anyone other than President Hu had articulated these views the West and the rest of the world would have ignored them, but I guess no one can afford to ignore possibly the most important man on the planet! Chinese affluence and military power have grown so remarkably under him, that China these days has a voice that is heard with respect in all the Capitals of the world.
There is no gainsaying the fact that there is a covert cultural hegemony that is influencing the youth of India and the rest of the developing world. This is so insidious and overtly so harmless that nations might even ignore its significance until it is so late. I know there are two sides to this argument—there are always two sides! but let us explore them in as unbiased a fashion as we can.
Hollywood films, especially the blockbusters like Avatar, Mission Impossible, Tintin, and even the Immortals enjoy a phenomenal run at our box office. I don’t find this alarming—the movies that garner public attention are few and far between, and the masses are still enamored with their Khans, so not all that big a cultural invasion. However, TV channels like Star Movies, HBO and Warner that constantly telecast movies daily through the year are a cause for some concern.
In the musical arena Lady Gaga, Madonna, Beyonce, Justin Beiber, JLo have quite a hold on our youth, I am really not sure our current singers are as popular. The days of Lata, Asha, Mukesh, Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Ghantasala, SP and Jesudas are gone, lamentably so.
It is the idiot box that is much more a cause for concern, the content is for the most part uncensored and there is the very real risk that the youth could be influenced in a way they might regret later on in their lives. The West has its own culture, their mores are very different from ours and being constantly exposed to what we might consider morally unrestrained or libertine practices will cause societal changes that are totally against Indian value systems.
The West has a lot to offer and I am grateful, but what gets me is the stupid aping that our teens seem to be doing. I might be an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy but having to see the way our teens dress really hurts the senses, but they seem to flaunt it-perhaps they are rebelling against societal pressures?
Our own TV serials have become home breakers, so much suspicion is built into each relation in a serial, so much backstabbing goes on, that the homemakers who are exposed to this drivel day in and day out get influenced negatively. We used to have directors ripping off film plots and “Indianizing” them, now we have TV serial writers rip of plotlines from popular English serials and inflicting them on our homemakers. No wonder joint families are breaking up all over India, it would be foolish to say that this is the only reason, but I would suspect that the negativity these serials have brought into family life and relations between family members is quite considerable.
The less said about so called “reality” shows the better. My grouse is can’t we find something original at all, must all these shows be influenced by the West?
American Idol --- Indian Idol
Masterchef America – Masterchef India
Kaun Banega Karodpathi, Big Boss---in fact all the popular English reality shows have been reshot in the same format. Come on guys, Indians can be creative too. I know there are budgetary constraints, but try and overcome them and don’t be satisfied with mere aping and copying.
Coming to the positive aspects of allowing this cultural invasion, competition does have a salubrious effect. Our movies and TV serials have become slicker, using visual effects more often and there is a richness to the sets that was missing earlier—our budgets too have increased with the increase in ad spends.
Cultural conservatism in the form of Nationalism of the Bajrang Dal variety or cultural censoring should never be the answer. We need showcase our own rich cultural heritage and identity. We need to win our youth over not by preventing them from watching Western offerings but by making our products much more appealing. The youth should need to understand that there is much more beauty and yes even sensuality in our traditional sarees than in midis and minis. Wearing torn and faded jeans, well I’ll not go there—I am a fuddy-duddy!
The Indian Government and its cultural agencies have quite a big job if they intend to do anything on this front. Budgets need to be allocated and spent, in fact efforts should be undertaken to reverse the cultural invasion. We should propagate our classical dances, classical music, Yoga and so on and do this on a long term basis. We as a nation should do whatever is needed to see that the traditions handed down to us over millennia remain and flourish.
The Chinese have woken up, but will we?