Synopsis: We see the degeneration of culture in many parts of the world due to to outside influence that diminishes the values in any culture that was traditionally held dear. It is a phenomenon that needs countermeasures so that the cultures are kept intact and passed on to the next generation.
All over the world I see the degeneration of everything nice in a culture that people still practice and continue to pass on to the next generation. People are nothing without their valued traditions and culture that they strive to keep as a source of pride that defines them.
You see this pride in Japan and in Mexico. You see it in all people who display this pride in their culture through fiestas, through a show of hospitality and through their manners and their generosity toward strangers. They show it in the refined way they talk, prepare their food and dress.
The culture is what defines a certain people and makes them known to the rest of the world. People from all over the world visit other countries to know the people and participate in the overt expression of the culture of the country through their festivals and food, through their rituals that may be religious in nature or not.
Millions of pilgrims descend on the city of Allahabad every 12th year to participate in the worlds’ largest religious fair there called the Maha Kumbha Mela and are amazed at the vivacity and joyfulness of the month long festival that has no equal anywhere. They see for themselves a great aspect of the Hindu culture that is open, tolerant, welcoming and all-embracing creating a brotherhood and sisterhood among strangers.
We were fascinated by the dances of the Aztecs performed in their dazzling attires and colorful feathers at the Palace of Bellas Arte in Mexico City that was nothing short of wonderful. They glittered on the stage and showed great pride in their culture through the ballet, the dances, the music and clothes.
If you go to Spain during their tomato festival, you will be amazed at the joyfulness of the Spaniards who throw truckloads of tomatoes at each other and enjoy getting dirty. I would not run in front of wild and aggressive bulls like they do but that is a part of their culture when they let their guards down and just enjoy life even if it is tinged with danger at times.
If you visit India during the colorful Holi festivals, you will be drenched by the spray of colored water or smeared with colored powder just for fun once a year and later embraced by total strangers who will give you a bear hug and put sweets into your mouth.
If you are in Japan during their Bongodori festival, you will be invited to join with them while they dance around the drummers in circle in their colorful yokattas and kimonos.
Nothing defines a people like their culture because the culture of people is so different from each other and so unique.
I had the personal experience of visiting many countries and have come to appreciate the culture of the people in a way most tourists can’t and miss out altogether.
People do not travel to other countries just to gawk at concrete jungle and the slums that are hidden or not so hidden between the tall buildings. Every country has them and the locals are not proud of them but that is the reality.
But the same people rich or poor come alive during their festivals when they get a chance to forget their day to day misery, their poverty, their crime ridden societies, their mafias, their abandoned street children who scrounge for food in the garbage bins like feral dogs and cats.
The culture and the visual aspect of their culture through fiestas and carnivals and religious fairs therefore act like a valve of the pressure cooker that lets out steam when the pressure is great. It is the time to enjoy and let the guards down.
We were in Port au Prince in Haiti during their annual Mardi Gras festival and watched how people danced in the streets in very colorful dresses in total abandonment joyfully although this joy was only temporary and aided by the liberal doses of rum they sipped constantly. It is a very poor country that was run by a dictator who suppressed people through the use of the militia called the Ton Ton Macoutes but the Haitians chose to forget all their poverty and hopelessness during the Mardi Gras.
So I come to the part where I want to write about how the culture degenerates and destroys the identity of people as I see it in many countries.
First it happens through the media like the television where they run shows where anything goes and nothing is a taboo including shows where women appear in very skimpy clothes, where jokes are repeated by the stars that are racist or show disregard for anything decent in life, where lip synching is considered normal and quite acceptable, where vulgar imitation of some popular shows abroad is normal and acceptable, where the shows are meant to be just revenue earners with a populist angle.
Such shows degenerate the culture of any country because it has a wide impact on viewers including children. The poor quality shows just to fill the air time 24 hours a day only exacerbates the problem. I will exclude the 24 hour channels of Bible thumpers who openly castigate other faiths and people and the junk selling channels that offer you useless things that come in 6 easy payments and store under the bed. They are a part of the problem and not solution as they proclaim.
One can switch the channels or shut off the TV but the problem of degeneration of the culture as expressed through poor quality programs through the media continues.
It pervades every aspect of life of people. It teaches people that normal body smell is bad so you should buy the expensive deodorants. It teaches people not to sweat by walking or working. It tells people that dark skin is not good so apply the skin whitening products every day. It tells people that it is ok for women to walk around in very tight mini shorts and blouses that show more than they cover because thanks to the media, we now live in a “anything goes” society where there are no limits to indecency, to the narcissism, to greed, for insensitive behavior towards others like making noise in restaurants, talking loudly on cell phones in cinemas, not giving a seat to the elderly or infirm on a bus etc.
I know that behind this constant onslaught on the culture of people is the greed of capitalism that pushes to sell their products everyday by inundating you with ads in the TV and other media. The TV people make a lot of money from these ads and are not concerned how it impacts the culture of people and teaches them wrong values that are then accepted as normal.
So a normal human being of dark skin who walks to work and sweats in the process , who has normal un shampooed hair and who does not use skin whitener or deodorant is not normal so he or she must buy these products to look better. The normal look and smell and sweat is no longer fashionable so one must be fashionable in order to be acceptable. You can see this in the TV ads where women constantly sniff at their underarm and make faces thus sending out a powerful message that normal body smell is not fashionable.
The problem with this sort of aggressive advertising and constant push for the capitalistic way of life is that most people in most of the countries are normal people who go about their daily business of living in a normal way who cannot afford or do not care about their skin color or hair or their body smell.
I know that I don’t but I am an educated person who is not easily swayed by the ads in the TV no matter how easily the junk folds and can be stowed away. I work in the sun and sweat and am not concerned that my skin is dark but there are millions who start to think less of themselves because of the TV ads. They are simply ashamed being what they are because that is what those shampoo girls with shiny hair are telling you.
This is where it starts to have an adverse effect on the culture of people. People who are generally speaking nice to others, gentle and compassionate to elderly, sensitive to their surroundings and do not make noise or disturb others, who are kind and helpful to strangers and who are hospitable now are slowly being transformed into insensitive, narcissistic, careless, vulgar, noisy, indecent, unkind, immoral and apathetic people thus shedding their good values. They lack self respect and feel insecure.
It reminds me of the missionaries who told the African women that they should wear clothes that cover up their breasts because it is the proper thing to do. So the women who are naturally bare breasted and are not conscious of it start to cover up and stink more in the process. Some wore wire bras that cut into their flesh and made scabs that got infected but the missionaries pushed their agenda relentlessly to “civilize the natives.”
The media does the same. It pushes its agenda of making people more civilized in the name of capitalism as if the people were not civilized before the TV or radio.
Now I see the pernicious effect of this constant assault on the values of people in the way people behave towards others. Their culture taught them to be nice to others all the time and not some of the time when it suited them but now it seems that each man is for himself and hell with the rest.
You see it when no one gives an obviously old and ailing woman a seat in the bus or train. You see it when some people bully their way into a line where people are patiently waiting for their turn. You see it when someone cuts you to get into a parking lot and shouts insults when you get there first. I see it in the way the immigration clerks at the airports look at you with contempt and ask impolitely the purpose of your visit and how long you intend to stay and want to see how much money you have on you.
I see it in students showing disrespect to their teachers and elders. I see it in people who pass by or watch while a woman is assaulted in public and do nothing. I see it in people who loot the belongings of a person who has an accident and bleeds to death but do not call the police or hospital.
This is how a culture degenerates and changes people.
I am told that in Scandinavian countries, no one locks his doors because there is no crime of thievery. People pay what they owe and show respect to elders and raise their children with good values they themselves practice.
There was a time when most countries were like them where honesty, hard work, selflessness and care and concern for others was normal.
Now we are in the struggle for survival and have forgotten the nicer things in life called values because now it is the greed for money and material well beings.
May be I am old fashioned but does greed and avarice make a people noble? Does immorality in the name of expediency, cheating and lying make people great? Do crooked politicians who get elected using hate as their mantra lift a country to a higher level of moral standards where they themselves fail so miserably?
Culture is what defines people and shows what is noble in them. A degeneration of any culture anywhere is sad because the improvement of living standard at the cost of such degeneration is regrettable. It is like a loss that can never be recuperated.
I think I will go and live among the bushmen of Kalahari in my next life. They are noble people and have figured out long ago what is evil and avoid it like a coke bottle.