Cultured Cultures

Arshid Malik

Online-ShopingI am genetically averse to the idea of mass modernization. I prefer traditional approaches to living which I figure contribute positively and genuinely to our overall state of happiness, even though, I must confess I am quite modern by worldly standards (but then we all have a right to have opinions and express them too). By modern standards, I would say, I am a bug in the system for as of now modernization is the buzz word, as you would say. Well, it is a very crucial and critical debate, actually, the traditional versus modern systems of living that is. My take is that modernization has only destroyed the social milieu of the human civilization and that too to a catastrophic level.

The catch phrase of the modern world order is earning more in less time and thus it is a rat race. This is what we dedicate our best efforts to. Our information technology, scientific advances and all mainly contribute to increasing our incomes and perhaps raising our standards of living but where does it all lead to… I find it very amusing that the easier it is becoming for us to earn the easier it is turning for us to spend. Usually, in a traditional setup we would go to the market with some cash and buy things which would involve quite some effort and the effort in itself would limit us to overspend. With the advent of online shopping we do not have to worry about that because we can spend while being tucked under a quilt in our bed. We have the apps to do that, don’t we? All we need is a smart phone with internet connectivity and we are good to go. We can blow our month’s earnings in one sitting and that too without any second thoughts for little or no physical effort is required to shop online and then you do not need the actual greens to execute the buying. So the idiomatic axiom of the modern economic order that is “earn fast quicker” is actually supplanted by another axiom and that is “spend faster” and the fact is that these are the sides of the same coin, to put it metaphorically. At the end of the hackneyed day, what do we have in our hands? Not much, I guess. That is the economic take of the new order. As far as social systems are concerned we are being woven into smaller and smaller units so that we appear in the market as a gregarious head count of consumers. Yes, that is what we are in the modern setup of the world, we are heads and we are counted and that too by machines that eventually feed the collected data to giant corporations which in turn punch the data back into the machines to eventuate ideas about extracting more out of the head count in terms of money and monopoly. In this head count there are categories which are quite traditional, the poor and the rich and most obviously the middle class. The categories and the associated head counts are tapped in terms of their spending power. In a general sense all are generously racketeered. And the head count moves on.

The question that beseeches attention now is that whether we can afford to switch to traditional systems when the modern are in vogue – by “in vogue” I am suggesting that we just cannot survive without sort of a thing? Can we divest the television set, for instance, of the bemusing spell it has cast on us as a species since it has metamorphosed from the “idiot box” to the “smart screen” while our spending on it which used to be limited to investing in purchasing the box and watching it free of cost to the times that we are spending around 300 to 400 rupees on an average to subscriptions for watching channels, that eventually turn out to be so boring that we are mostly speaking to ourselves while the TV is blurting out images and sounds that are hardly reciprocated by our senses, leaving aside the costs involved in actually purchasing a television set and the frequency of upgrading it. Well, my experience tells me that the most part that contributes to the sedentary life style of people today is actuated by the television set since we prefer to watch the television since it is there and if it was not there we would have gone for a walk instead which would carry health benefits but then the corporations want us not to do that since if we are healthy we won’t need medicines and when we do not need medicines the pharmaceutical sector falls sick in an economical senses. It is hard to relate to what I am trying to say since we are almost hard-wired to not understand the connections existent between entities in the new world order. So if you are having difficulties getting what I am trying to point out I know the fault is mine. Let me tell you, if you do not apply your mind now to the workings of this order you will definitely end up investing hugely in real estate on a planet that does not even exist.

The culture that is popular now is in fact a graduated invention for the benefit of the corporate order, the clichéd super rich et al. By cultural standards it is not even a culture but rather a conglomerate of sponsored tacit commercializing manoeuvres crafted and implemented by the capitalist regime that we have been made to believe we adapted to in the name of modernization and believe me that is just what we have come to believe.  The last culture that could actually be categorized as “culture” is what I refer to as the traditional and the rest is make-believe makeup. For us, the people of the modern world order, traditional refers to things that we can shelve up to ornament our drawing rooms. Tradition is not a thing, it is a phenomenon that we either keep alive or else it dies. With us in Kashmir the case is absolutely that. We have shelved our traditions or are in the process of shelving them and that is the core of the genesis of our alienation. I myself, while speaking of traditions, am grounded in the sole precipice of modernity but my inclination to cling to my traditions keeps me alive or else I would be dead. Who else is alive out there?

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