The myth of a glass house

The onslaught of the so called ‘moral police’ seems like a new phenomenon. It’s never been so widespread. We had dress codes imposed in colleges; dance bars were shutdown; night clubs were invaded by policemen; and not to forget, the Khushboo controversy. All in just a year’s time!

“Our culture is in danger — it’s the western influence!” conservatives would say. Well, may be — but the western influence has been there since ages, in movies, music and fashion (R.D. Burman songs and cabarets by Helen). So probably there is another angle to it:

Families nowadays are nuclear, which has decreased the number of social constraints on the individual. With economic liberalization, youngsters now have more options in terms of jobs, and therefore enjoy greater financial independence. Moreover, unmarried youngsters, who live away from their families, tend to experiment a lot (live-in relationships are common these days). A cumulative effect of these factors is causing radical changes in the social structure. And this change is what makes conservative radicals nervous. They want to preserve culture. What bullshit!

Einstein had said “the only constant in life is change”. This philosophy is embodied in Nature itself. Going by the theory of evolution (my apologies to people of the book(s)), selection and reproduction are accompanied by crossover and mutation. While selection helps in getting the best out of existing alternatives, mutation(change) helps in exploring better alternatives – thus improving the overall race. This concept has been successfully applied in optimization applications in the form of Genetic Algorithms.
In short, resisting change would lead to stagnation or may be deterioration.

In the same light, cultural change is advantageous, and nowadays inevitable. So instead of adopting a negative attitude, these neo-conservative-radicals should highlight the positive aspects of traditions (analogous to selection in genetic terminology) to help make a better society. I wish Shiv Sena and DPI would understand this. *sigh*

(Still not bored of this garbage? Read on.)

However, as the conservative radicals tighten their grip over metros, Kolkata has somehow managed to maintain its liberal outlook. An Indian Express report elucidates:

In India’s suffocating metroscape, the once conservative capital of West Bengal is a breather. Behind its new towering malls and globalised facade, Buddhadev’s Kolkata is not as ruthless about public norms. This is the city where, in 2003, an organisation called LOVE (Lovers’ Organisation for Voluntary Exhibition) demanded hassle-free spaces for lovers. Rupak Manush, a member, says, ‘‘LOVE wants to build a love movement. We want a sex education love park in Kolkata, which will be free of bullying by the police.’’ The organisation even went to the extent of organising a ‘‘kiss protest’’ at a Kolkata Municipal Corporation park. Compare that to the uproar that Tamil Nadu’s former screen goddess Khushboo caused by airing her personal views on pre-marital sex last week. A political outfit called Tamil Protection Movement forced her to apologise in front of TV cameras.
Kissing and hugging are common during the annual Gay Pride March in Kolkata, the only city where such a march has been organised over the last three years. The weekend deadline for nightclubs is 2 am and 4 am with special permits. Intrusive policemen are still rare. Sumit Bhattacharya, a former member of the jazz band Orient Express, recently went back to a new, hip Kolkata. “Outside Someplace Else, the bar where we used to play, I saw drag queens waiting to enter,” he says. Item girls from Mumbai and occasionally even dancers from Dubai are regular weekend fixtures. Sometimes, press photographers are allowed to photograph dance sequences early in the evening, leaving the late night for the crowd.

Who knows – Kolkata’s days might be numbered as well.

Is our culture a glass house? Is it that fragile? History is testimony to the resilience of our culture; countless cultural invasions have taken place – our society has absorbed all of them. Our culture is not rigid, nor is it fragile. It would continue to absorb and evolve towards betterment. Though this process continues to be hindered by irrational resistance.

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