A Lost ‘Cult’

There is a standing comedian’s joke which goes like, when our descendants carry out excavations, they would find CDs and mistake them for the plates we ate in. A joke it may be, but it was worth a ‘ponder’. This is one of the less tangible effects of commercialization of our lives from A to Z where the C stands for culture. People are so obsessed with their ‘now’, what we are leaving behind as people as a generation, is all but forgotten. Culture of course is not of the dead but a way of living. Arts, Architecture, dance and music which define a culture seem to be dying a slow death somewhere and I suspect its more in the minds of people than anywhere else.

Now you may argue that we have what is called mass culture. From being a domain of the exclusive club the arts have now come to the common man. I agree. However somewhere the fear lingers, that commercialization has meant that instead of being an appreciative audience to the artistic expressions of others we are now aiming to become owners of it. And unfortunately what is being offered to us, lends itself to being owned…from wallpapers (I mean on your computer) to ring tones, music at discos I wouldn’t know which category to place them in. Aren’t they just our lifestyle accessories? So what is the culture- quotient of your life?

Other areas of human life have acquired greater significance; prime among them is science and technology. Even though in earlier times too the two, i.e. science and arts coexisted, today science has infiltrated culture. It has undeniably made our lives more comfortable, but I wouldn’t be so optimistic about its impact on creative expression. Our chief guiding principle has become ‘consuming’ rather than ‘creating’. While science is allowing everybody and anybody to become a Picasso (what? a new software which can be used to create “Picasso paintings’) commerce has made sure very Picasso needs a Wal-Mart. Every good author needs a high end publishing house; a good artist needs to be visible in the media and so on.

Times change, and change is the essence of life. Culture is a way of life, so cultures evolve. Or maybe they don’t, as it seems in the case of the arts; there have been changes, but these changes have come from outside the realm of arts. In fact changes by themselves are scalars while progress is a vector. The progress of the arts does not lie in piggy riding on the progress in other fields. The arts represent the pinnacle of creative achievement in all ages In today’s fast paced world the stagnancy that our cultural life has witnessed could prove to be fatal to it. This would mean a serious dent to our identity as a people, maybe even its loss.

Malavika Vyawahare
Delhi, India