Restore hope to the future

in recent weeks. It is no secret that topics like “traditional values” and “identity” have become publicity catalysts or that crime incidents in the recent past have accentuated the process of public speaking on these issues quite dramatically. But there is an aspect of this process which has the potential for shrinking our moral and socio-cultural horizons rather than expanding them. As the trade of rhetoric in the name of morality and culture grows, it is becoming more and more of a unidirectional process, a one-way street leading from solely the religious stalwarts to the rest of society. Cultural hegemony by political powers, economic onslaught, media aggression, persecution and suffering are the expressions they use time and again.
In fact, that is the ultimate problem. Of course, they interpret the most pessimistic and extreme scenario.
We many a times do not gather intelligent, awake people — people who are not afraid to face the burning questions of our times — for meaningful conversations about things that matter.
At what point shall this rhetoric stop and effective action begin?
We act in the new public sphere dominated by globalization. First we need to take note of the technical characteristics of this public speaking and lecture “intervention” today.
Let us acknowledge this fact that in almost all areas of culture, the hegemony of big powers is even more open. A few large corporations control both news gathering and dissemination. A few large entertainment businesses control not only what people all over the world see and listen to, but also what they think they enjoy.
Internationally culture has been identified and expressed in goods that can be traded and sold, such as crafts, films, books as well as music. Even tourism has become the selling of particular cultures. Trade in culture has become an explosively growing activity thanks to new technologies.
New forms of entertainment, for example through the Internet, are also proliferating rapidly. The multimedia boom in turn has spawned large multimedia companies who can now be counted among the largest multinational corporations.
Good news though is, the same technologies that have allowed for concentration and uni-directionality of culture can also allow for more local non-hegemonic forms to be disseminated. Anyone can operate today with some notion of very probably reaching much larger audiences than we could conceive of even a decade ago. But the million dollar question is who will produce these forms, it can be a writer, a novelist, poet, dramatist or any shade of socio-cultural elite. Think of what an impressive range of opportunities is offered by the new media platform, cable, the pamphlet, radio, alternative journals and the Internet, to name only a few.
Last week a seminar organized by a local religious organization presented some interesting and important voices of our time. They had more inventive forms of cultural dissidence to this new social and criminal pattern. The primary activity in our such socio-cultural functions should be interaction of speaking and listening with focused attention and respect.
The question is, do we ever long for meaningful conversations, in which we can be honest about our feelings about what is happening in the valley? Where we can drop our roles — the masks we all present to the world — and speak from our heart?  Where we can speak about the dangers and opportunities of our time, and our hopes and fears for the future, without meeting blank stares?
Kashmir needs to develop an environment within society that stimulates and encourages the involvement of intellectuals in mapping the way forward.
The intellectual stratum shall perform important functions in society, such as shaping public opinion and investigating social, political, economic and philosophical questions. To do this requires that intellectuals should be skilled of engagement and inquiry. This means that a lot of resources are put in place within our community and in universities to raise people to the level of intellectual engagement.
We need an initiative to get people talking with each other about the concerns we share in common at this critical moment.

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