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August 15, 2003

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On the question of Globalisation

Aly Zaker

There is an increasing demand for making this world smaller with the buzz word 'globalisation' becoming ever so popular of late. While I subscribe fully to the core idea of globalisation, I am tempted to further the discussion on the subject by referring to some of my personal observations. I remember having said in an UNESCO seminar in Manila, a few years back, that globalisation does not necessarily mean imposition of the indigenous culture of a technologically advanced country on its poorer cousins. It also means that the indigenous culture of the poorer or less advanced countries should also be globalised. I dare say, I cannot bring myself to believe that any linguistic or racial group would automatically be attracted to an alien culture unless there is a desire driven effort to discover and understand it.

Here the endeavours of Ravi Shanker to globalise his music, starting with a scintillating recital at the Woodstock festival in the USA, a long while ago, could be a good example. His concert took the American youth, or a substantial section of it, by storm. The jhala towards the end of his music worked as a kind of intoxicant. Those were the days of 'anger' and of 'peace'. Or of days when peace could have been wrested through anger.

The global appeal of Ravi Shanker however, simmered down soon. It only lived in the minds of a selected few Indian Classical music enthusiasts within USA. Ravi Shanker mentioned this himself on a number of occasions. In order for his music to be universalised it had to get concerted and uninterrupted support especially from the electronic media pervading the wide-wide world.
Look at it from our end. We are being constantly bombarded by culture that is not our own through the electronic media. The reason why many an unknown music, song or even lifestyle does not seem alien any more. Besides, it is cool to be west bound. The situation would continue to be so as long as the ownership of media did not proliferate with the entry of people belonging to diverse cultural backgrounds.

The question against such a backdrop is whether this uneven situation is going to go against the cultural sensitivity of a substantially large section of the world population. Because the number of people with not so well off media coverage is evidently larger than their better off cousins. The redeeming insight of the subject, however, is that what we are worried about is being already noticed by the media power that be. A case in point could be an example that comes readily to my mind. I remember having read in a leading local daily at Springfield, Massachusetts a front-page commentary on globalisation. The scribe of the article started with a question. He asked, whether what was known as globalisation was actually Americanisation? In the light of the fact that today's USA is, for all practical purposes, the policeman of the world, what is happening in the name of globalisation is activities driven by US interest. But, as I have already pointed out, this phenomenon is getting noticed. And the advanced west is also becoming aware of the fact that they have to watch their steps. May be much less in the field of culture than the others but the awareness is there.

In this scenario, we have to take charge ourselves. We should first be sensitive ourselves to our culture much of which we have managed to decimate by being utterly callous. We should stop aping the west and also imbibe the spirit of taking a fresh look at our culture, which has stood the test of thousands of years, amongst our posterity. We should of course let fresh wind of the world culture blow through our doors and windows but we should also make sure that our own culture gets equal attention the world over. I think one way to start it would be to present to the world whatever is good and can stand the test of time.


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