The Battle closer Home

Mijito Chishi

The progressive culture heralded by globalization has conspicuously entered our households and the individual. There has been enough rhetoric on globalization per se but it is the attendant ‘progressiveness’ that has been of concern. With all the advancement around us, have we as human beings really ‘progressed’? That this matter is too large to capture in a single frame is true, but it is worth a discourse or a thought.  The speed of technology is incomparable and the possibilities infinite. Where we are today could never have been a part of the human mind a hundred years ago. There were- and still are- predictions galore about the future state of affairs but they’ve almost always fallen short of reality. This technology has been of immense good and is still being harnessed to be effective in critical areas like governance, crime and security, public health etc. While no question can be raised on the effectiveness of technology generally, there is reason to question the place it has been given in the household. 

Since the arrival of television and cable TV in our land in the last two decades of the 20th century, it is startling to see how lives have changed in about 25 years. One friend, at the sight of young boys dressed in flashy, ‘hip-hop’ clothes said, “We grew up watching Doordarshan but they have MTV and Vh1.” Though his comment was said in  jest, there was an element of truth in it. As young people grow up, they are influenced by the things surrounding them in a large way and by things they come in contact with everyday. Television programmes, soaps, movies, music and the Internet are shaping young minds today and what they see, they want to become. Most parents would agree that their children spend much more time on the computer and television than they should. Other meaningful activities take the backseat, like reading for instance. There are homes where children either watch the Cartoon Network or play computer games during their free time and no third option. While these activities are not in any way bad in themselves, they cannot replace activities like reading, quality family time, discussions and even laughter. 

Reading has to be given a renewed emphasis among young people if we want to see our land inhabited by men and women able to think, reason and give ideas. This is not to say that others can’t do the same otherwise but that reading gives a broader and better perspective of any matter. In this day and age of information and technology with everything within our reach at the click of a button, reading must be reemphasized. With technology, everything is visually attractive and readymade before our very eyes and this is how television claimed priority over books. The short-cut way seems to be the way often taken without the realization that the creative and imaginative ability of our minds have been seriously impaired. There are very few among the youth in our society who read regularly and that is a tragedy that many have taken for granted or not noticed. Non-availability and easy access to good books remains a wedge and legitimizes the excuses of young people. It would be apt for the government and civil society to look into this in the immediate future and make stronger efforts to inculcate good reading habits among the youth. For instance, upgrading libraries or making new ones with quality material and spacious reading rooms, organizing book fairs on a large scale with specific emphasis on children, literary festivals, subsidizing entrepreneurs willing to invest in quality book stores etc. Of course, these are only a few ideas and the intellectuals would have better ideas.  

Many have also been opining on how the TVs and computers have not given enough free time to people to spend time with their families. All of a sudden, time spent on television and computers are not a part of the ‘free time’. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong about a computer or a televised programme but it becomes so when it starts eating into every bit of our time and thus becomes a priority item in our daily schedule. Many children come back from school and immediately switch on for back to back cartoon serials. In this era of globalization, cable TV networks have seen the avenue for profit and now there is no dearth of cartoons and soap operas, coming from every corner of the world, making sure we are hooked on to our television sets day in and day out. Some of the popular soaps take the crucial evening time slot that originally belonged to a time of family prayer, eating together on the dinner table and sharing various thoughts and ideas. Similarly, video games keep the young hooked on to the computer and the ‘family time’ creates the perfect prelude to a good night. These instances are not made up but are narrated and discussed by many concerned people, both young and old. As we move into the future, there is a need to take a step back and return to the family, spend time with older folks and learn from them like our forefathers did. Their knowledge and experience is priceless. 

A natural corollary of the above mentioned points is discussion and laughter. It may seem trivial, if not absurd, to talk about this in an article that began with globalization. But the fact is that many people today give very little or no time for discussions and discourses. Lesser and lesser time is being spent on meaningful exchange of ideas in a life that seems to move faster by the day. As a result, there is plenty of room for misunderstandings and gossip and there are enough examples. Now discussions and arguments are not one and the same, the latter being the characteristic of weakness and insecurity. It is a known fact that most of the great minds of yore spent quality time in debates and discourses that all the more enlightened them and we enjoy the resulting legacy till today.  In the midst of all this, we would do well to also lay back and laugh a bit because life goes on and because we only have so much time to love and to laugh. Time seems to get lesser by the day. Someone once said that too much of seriousness and intensity can break our backs. Enough time has been allotted to fights and arguments, and a bit of laughter could do wonders. 

So, in the midst of loud claims of ‘progress’, have we really? Yes we have, if we look at the developments around us and the way technology has become all pervading. But introspection would do well and perhaps we can be aware of our society and our households which globalization has reached very subtly. Our mimicry of the West will prove costly if we turn a blind eye at the seemingly petty matters.