The careers of many soap stars, television series actors, and even movie stars depends crucially on our inability to find anything better to do with ourselves. A capitalist society brings out the mediocrity in us, we simply will not put in the effort to see the difference between a shakespearan tragedy and a saas-bahu (family drama) serial. There is a difference between the two, and a very important one, the former uplifts the human soul, is still read and studied hundreds of years later, making its viewer think with more subtlety, use language better, and like good Art, refines the human spirit, as we read the genius of Shakespeare and his grasp of the human condition, the latter simply distracts. It is difficult to read Shakespeare, it is difficult to put in the effort and the patience, it is easy to press a button and be fed a soap serial.
A society that does not find interesting things to do with its time, that does not have the patience to do difficult things, ends up paying more to people playing the role of a physicist on television (The big bang theory), than to an actual physicist, simply because, we live on the life support of entertainment. In ancient times, acting was hardly an honorable profession. If people knew what to do with their time, FRIENDS would at best be a popular folk group earning a simple living, and not world famous filthy rich stars, it is up to us to make them what they are, they themselves do not understand why they merit this much wealth and importance, often falling into all sorts of problems, it is up to us to improve the standards of what we watch and pay for, to prevent the skews of the modern “entertainment industry”.
The capitalist monster wants us to be perpetually distracted, to rid us of patience of any kind, boredom is very important to creativity and the desire for upliftment, for as Oscar Wilde said “discontent is man’s original virtue”, but the capitalist monster will never let you be bored, because it wants you to become a machine, because machines are predictable.
A society that loses its patience with literature and art, is much more amenable to mass hysteria, as Nuccio Ordine explains in his book “The usefulness of the useless”, we don’t learn the tools to understand other cultures, or the other in general, we are quick to judge, we do not think, we feel, because we lose all subtelty and patience, this is evidenced in all the madness of the last few decades, it is urgent that we give more importance to difficult, patient “useless” education.
Again, as explained in his book, only “useless” education goes directly against the logic of profit of the cynical economist, because if we share education, we are often richer not poorer for it, and it does not divide by half, but often multiplies, manyfold. It is then also not surprising that simplistic military answers are given to all the problems, I wonder how it would be if the americans on average had more appreciation for persian and middle eastern culture, if their understanding of pakistanis and indians was beyond that of taxi drivers and restaurant owners. Oh the inhumanity! And if indians and pakistanis had a little more appreciation for their own culture and history, if they had their own vision of the future, outside of the urban industrial vision, perhaps the absurdities and excesses of the silicon valley wouldn’t be imported to India.
The Acropolis, after serving as a pagan temple, a mosque, a church, has reached its final state: a tourist destination, with tourists infesting it like crickets, clicking away selfies to be posted on social media…
I don’t understand how the americans get to decide who the sexiest man alive is, they didn’t even consider me! I don’t know how they get to decide what the greatest novels are, the finest films are, the best dresses are, the best music is, and we just let them, worse, we worship their generalizations of the planet as they ruthlessly exploit the world.
We see the world through their eyes, their conception of the world, of Africa, the middle eat, Asia, south america, becomes ours. Their mind-numbing entertainment industry becomes my only point of discussion with a brazilian or a lebanese. Why should I care if Raj is on the big bang theory? Why should I care if they are making hyperspecialised cultureless morons like Sheldon Cooper whose only conception of the world is an equation, who doesn’t know what art or poetry or culture is, and who on top of that is foolishly arrogant? Let them get on with their nihilistic agenda without bothering everybody. Someone was once shocked how I didn’t know which coast California was, but sadly my own education hardly taught me how my city developed the way it did. Education today isn’t narrow enough.
We crave their attention, we crave to dress like them, talk like them, eat like them, get heart disease like them, and destroy the planet like them. Ofcourse they “celebrate multiculturalism” so we sing Indian songs in their universities, but this is just throwing powder in the eyes. We travel to New York to buy the clothes made a hundred kilometers away from us, but designed in New York, because they even tell us what to wear, in a climate that is totally different from theirs, ofcourse their own “culture” is a kind of capitalist derivative of European culture, where a church is only of value if you can get a two dollar entry fee to enter it. “America is the the only country in the world that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization”, this country that “knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” Never in the history of the world has such mediocrity in the arts been given so much importance, “earlier the books would be written by men of letters and read by the public, now books are written by the public and nobody reads them”.
We like to assert a kind of Indian-ness, we feebly assert how “Indian” we are when we play classical music in the evenings, or read some indian literature, but it isn’t culture if it isn’t cultivated, if it doesn’t play a role in the kind of life you lead, the career choices you make, the kind of nation you build. The world needs different perspectives, that is what being open-minded means. The privileged in the world think they are open-minded, but they are terribly close -minded, they have no nation, no patriotism, no boundaries, but infact they do, they are all americans, america will be the last nation on earth, the nation that will destroy the world.
In language and literature lie the key to saving the world, the languages of the world need to be saved, because those before us have already thought in that tongue about the weather, the climate, the food, the men and women and children. I have never read a poem praising the beauty of an Indian women, but I have read countless pieces of literature speaking of the blonde blue eyes girl that doesn’t live anywhere near me. The languages shall also permit different conceptions of the world, these conceptions exist already, I want to learn of what melancholy is in different part of the world, what sarcasm is, ofcourse there is a limit to how much one can take in, but I certainly wish to take in something other than the clowns on american television. The burden of the world should stand on many different, proud cultures, that is a world worth dreaming of.
“Good morning Sir, May I see your papers please?”
“Oh Sir, what a relief! You speak English. I was worried how I would get around here”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I didn’t know if America spoke English”
“Really? You’re pulling my leg aren’t you?”
“Oh no Sir, I didn’t know Sir, so do a lot of people speak English here? What other languages do you speak here?”
“We all speak English here, some of us speak Spanish”
“Really! The whole country! But it is such a big country! Oh how very excellent, this is really quite a relief for me, thank you Sir, and good day”
“Here are your papers, Good day to you”
“Good day to you Sir”
I was trying to teach some written hindi, we came upon the ली, when I was told it looked like a penis with two testicles on the side. I realized that when I read hindi, it always gives me the feeling of reading something sacred, distant and something I should not offend by trying to understand. Its nice to get a fresh perspective.
I don’t think there is a language more moralising than hindi, especially when it comes out of Narendra Modis mouth, or my fifth standard hindi teacher, the poor lady could never sell her language to us. I have always wondered, did hindi borrow the comma, the question mark etcetera from english? Ah, and commas, if only I knew where they went, too bad I never needed to learn to pass my exams in english. If people think english is just a language, just a tool, they are terribly wrong, it divides people and societies, prevents country men from understanding each other, in my school we had the manchester- united worshiping- chilli- pepper- singing- not- knowing- where -the- comma goes -can’t -write- a- piece -of- writing-to-save-their-lives- but- don’t- need -to- to- pass -the- exams group, and the other group, unable to speak to English, or specifically the slangy spoken english, speaking in their minds a much more sophisticated language, that unfortunately didn’t travel as much historically, crushed by the dominance of this job-giving language. “words are the planks on which we traverse the abyss of our minds” said the french author. How do I know why Indian men and women behave this way or that if I don’t know what they are reading as children? What do they find funny? How can I connect if all I feel is guilty about not having read enough Shakespeare to understand 17th century britain? It took me to come to a country that resolutely does not speak english to understand what it is to live in one language, from end of the spectrum to the other, where a language represents centuries of thought about how people live, behave with each other. When these moralizing idiots come at me, I don’t know where they are coming from, and what they grew up on, unfortunately I grew up on the slimy froth that America spat at me through my childhood, spread thin over endless hours of senseless television, and it continues, making me wish I could one day go there to master the twang of their lazy accents, to colleges where “real” education happens, oh what power it is to make someone do something without forcing them, all this which has nothing to do with being Indian, and which reinforces the cultural hegemony sold in the perfumed garb of “open-ness”, “liberal-ness” an “modern-ness”, Oh! if only I could go to United states and be in New York City! Oh! then I can come back and criticise a country I do not understand in a language they do not understand. Isn’t education great?
Does “life imitate art” or “art imitate life”? Is bollywood, and the need to have 5 dance sequences in a movie a consequence of indian society, or are these 5 dance sequences going to marr indian society forever? Is it like in europe where “the nineteenth century is largely an invention of Balzac”, will indian society in the 21st century be largely an invention of Shah Rukh khan? or will it be Chetan Bhagat? The horror… or can someone explain why bollywood movies in the nineties talked so much about what seems to be a rather middle-ages western invention of “romantic love”. Is hero worshiping our actors inherent to us?… Have the indian words for “love” and “romance” changed meaning with the introduction of the english words? Did teenagers suffer less heartbreak before the english? Before christianity? Would we have made such nonsensical films back then? Is it the words? Did this word, “romance” which had its own life in western history fall into the wrong hands in the 90s in bollywood? And what are going to be the repercussions of this? How can a country that suffers so much poverty spend that much money watching something as frivolous as romantic love? “We see coming out then, in fresh souls, this sickness that we call romanticism, this Christianity without illusions and without myths which reflects, even more, its sickly dryness. All the evil of the romanticism comes form the confusion between that which is necessary to us and that which we desire. We have all needs indispensable to life, to its maintenance and its continuity, and we desire all of us a life more perfect, complete happiness, the realization of our dreams. It is human to want that which is necessary to us, and it is human to desire, that which is unnecessary. That which is sickly, is to desire with the same intensity the necessary and the desirable, and to suffer our lack of perfection like we would suffer lack of bread. The sickness of romanticism lies there, it is to want the moon as though there was a way to obtain it.” -F. Pessoa (poorly translated)