Culture is not simply song and dance but its’ domain includes all things associated with our life, from birth to death. Although the al encompassing practices need reformations, firstly to undo discriminations against the vulnerable sections of the society, secondly to sustain the globalized world.
Culture is an ongoing process; we add to it, cultivate few, discard some and create new. There are adjustments made to it and therein happens its evolution. We now propagate several traditions which were previously foreign or have inculcated new belief system to make it our own. In ancient and medieval India Sanskritization has definitely punctured in several cultural practices through centuries. The downpour was spread across all facets of life, from religion to food, from social institutions like marriage to the social structures like caste, gender roles. But the adaptation has lacked homogeneity in some cases: the indigenous part is always decipherable from the later modifications.
In a modern globalized world a pair of jeans, MacDonald or ideas of liberty, equality, and democracy even anarchy, feminism, communism, capitalism are cultural-political-social currents that influence and impact cultural dynamics. But how far has cultural globalization, the integration of the world, benefitted the indigenous communities? For me culture has always been both a link and a source of identity, a means but not necessarily an end to it. In this era of globalization culture has attained a somewhat global context, with 1.71 billion active Facebook users in the world, English as the lingua franca, growing Americanism, there is a sense of ever expanding global village. As globalization has augmented new dimensions to how we perceive the world, it has been done at the cost of cultural diversity. Cultural hegemony of the West, of the dominant groups, has reduced native practices tremendously. To a large extent regional culture has suffered a blow in India and other parts as the world has carved some standards and stereotypical notions from a western point of view. No doubt, the deprivation of culture magnifies as we move from urban to rural, from dominant groups to minority and it threatens the resilient communities the most, the one who are unwilling to adapt and seize the opportunities that global community holds.
As mentioned earlier ideologies, lifestyle, political views blend with the mainstream culture. The growing sense of universalism traps and liberates the modern man into an interpersonal dilemma. For an example, the social networks, which is again a gift of digital globalization, expanded the digital communities through a common platform, like Facebook pages or groups, YouTube channels, liberating mankind from time, space constraints. It has also trapped imaginations, curbed rational thoughts, diluted human bonds, annexed territories for organized crime and terrorism; it is largely individual priorities that either uplift or degrade the cultivated society. Although it empowers us by giving an opportunity to choose, a platform to practice and preach what individuals believe in or would like to.
Globalization and its subsequent impact on the middle class have been tangible. It has uplifted them economically as economic thinkers argue. In general India’s infrastructure has improved. The literacy rate in India has risen from 12% in 1947 to 74.04% in 2011, employment opportunities have eased since 1990’s. So has many indigenous communities climbed the ladder of success, with some inevitable changes following them; changes in our habits, behaviors and languages. With families moving from rural to urban metropolis, migrating to developed countries, students confronting transnational cultures, acculturation followed and still follows. The conflict of culture and subsequent social vacuum between the past believes and present influences are constantly filled up by dominant cultural trends leading to the disintegration of the native cultural mechanism. Like students in metropolitans imbibe, associate and claim cultures that constitute their global image. It is simply an explosion of new trends and multiculturalism manifests in all facets of life. In essence, the conflict is the clash of ideas and beliefs that are undoubtedly knowledge oriented. It educates us and broadens our world view to deconstruct myths, decode them, reconsider national identity and history and social inclusiveness and a lot more on the global outlook.( Only of course the sensitive triumphs).
The varied approach to culture is not always detrimental; it liberates the age-old traditions from turning into mere doctrines and dogmas, into something relevant to the social and cultural life of the people it encompasses. The issue of dowry is a practice which needs to be amended to the degree of its annihilation. Stretching it further, the very concept of ‘jol kosha’ part of Rajbangshi community or the ones who impart them, incarcerate religious powers into mere magic and supernaturalism. Surely it is a part of our cultural history through which tremendous resourceful information can be derived. Although notoriously it limits us or any community in general to irrational expectations, discriminates vulnerable sections like women, working class, and children, also disturbs the healthy growth of society. Such superstitions can be nothing but a luxury of the misanthrope. Cultural clash is, therefore a vent to reconsider and assess our own selves and traditions which infiltrated into our moral expectations long ago. And globalization has culminated self-consciousness among those who are ready to accept change and make modifications, reformations to enable culture to evolve to sustain the changing demands of a modern society.
Consequently most of the time, we tend to appropriate our lifestyles and adjust it with whatever culture is approachable or rather affordable, the flip side of globalization. The cost of practicing one’s native culture is simply high. It costs you a sense of detachment from the mainstream culture, dominant lifestyle, education and social expectations. Both family and society adopts the readily available behavior, lifestyle, traditions and language. The native Indians of America from the nineteenth century onwards denounced native practices to live, speak and dress like Europeans. This kind of paradigm shift happened in India when Islamic rulers invaded India or British Empire colonized her. The dominant culture always superseded the native cultural trends. It is simply cost effective -politically, socially, psychologically and economically. In a similar way, there is a silent persuasion, that drives the indigenous people all over the world, consciously and unconsciously to acquire foreign culture within her or his native self. This is more a coerced phenomenon for me, as moving out from a hegemonic native society, nuclear families and city walls have engendered a sense of un-belongingness in a multicultural society, where nothing is relevant but adapting dominant culture is the only way to realize one’s identity.
-NABANITA ROY (NOYA)