Saturday, May 26, 2018

Alchemy of culture therapy

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Almost in every high level international talks mutual cooperation for curbing terrorism or extremism, a global problem, is discussed, bur root cause remedy of the problem and its cure is seldom taken into account. Tremendous potential of the soft power of culture for constructive and cathartic interventions towards moulding the mind of people is lost sight of. There is thus a need to ponder on the same.

During moments of extreme socio-ethical crisis matter of fact solutions get the upper hand and cultural intervention is very often overlooked. It remains an immediate necessity to address the tangible muscles with lethal tools than the intangible minds operating the muscles. But sustainable solutions never come that easily and call for mending the minds with subtle drives.

In the past culturally vibrant Bengal has invariably risen to the occasion to provide irresistible aspiration, inspiration and direction from the leading light of ever flowing cultural heritage, be it during partition of Bengal, undivided India's freedom struggle, language movement or Muktiyuddha. There is obviously a crying necessity to raise reawakening war through cultural interventions.

The present crisis can be directly attributed to lack of sincere adherence to glorious Bengali culture.  It can be fairly concluded that the misguided men have been deprived of adequate grooming and firm grounding in enormously rich Bengali culture due to socio-political and historical reasons. So they could be easily swayed away amid broken values by superficial, non-sustainable ideology and mindless fanaticism. Such incredible degeneration should have been impossible in the land of Lalan, Tagore and Nazrul had they been allowed to enter their heart.

The reason is not very far to seek. We have shown them to confuse quality of life with glittering consumerism and position in society at any cost. Features of decadence and loss of values are looming large. Quality of thinking, feeling and aspiration for a truly fulfilled and successful life with universal values has vanished from the agenda of living.

Search for happiness in a wrong direction and lack of serious engagement with life, nature, neighbours, nation and humanity entirely lost sight of myopic vision. In short cultural bankruptcy and inner emptiness caused havoc and evil in the society.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman repeatedly reminded us that to build golden Bengal (Sonar Bangla) what was badly needed was golden character grounded in the spirit of patriotism, nationalism, non-communalism, liberalism and respect for humanity.

There is a crying necessity to revisit the said ideals at this time of crisis not as bookish ethics but as adopted principle of life. There is a need to educate the younger generation in that spirit developing interest in Bengali culture to prepare for enlightened citizenship. Transforming power of culture can induce that spirit much more than bookish academic teaching.

Generally, by 'culture' we mean performing arts and other manifestations of human nature.  Anthropologist E. B. Taylor offered a broad definition.  By 'culture' he meant,  "That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."

 To me, it is artistic orientation of life in its infinite manifestation and expression of aspiration for betterment of life and living with purgation of emotions in Aristotelian sense. Wings of culture soar much beyond performing arts and fine arts. It covers the entire gamut of human aspiration, expression, endeavour and contemplation for betterment of humanity.

From this emerges threefold purpose of culture, not very watertight and sometimes overlapping but distinctly different. Some cultural events are intended to provide fun and enjoyment as respite from daily drudgery.  Some have specific constructive social agenda to execute indelible emotional transformation inducing patriotism, passion for freedom, removal of specific social evil, introduction or abolition of certain custom, belief system etc.

 While some concern permanent human issues with universal cathartic appeal. Bengali culture contains God's plenty of either of these with deeper significance and a lot of transcending element for eligible recipients.

Culture does not develop overnight, nor does it strictly follow dictates of geo-political barrier. Bengali culture started developing more than thousand years ago in undivided Bengal with adequate influences from abroad and has been flowing with diverse enrichment and regional variations. Bangladeshi culture is essentially grounded on the same and we share, sustain and enrich the same culture which is indivisible despite having separate political identity.

We know how much inspiration and elevation of spirit could be provided by the ideals and songs of Tagore, Nazrul, Atupprasad and Rajanikanto during each national struggle. We know how appealing to us are the songs of Lalan, Hasan Raja, Mukunda Das and typically Bangladeshi folk compositions.

We know how effective are our songs, literature, stage plays and films in influencing our life. In fact we have a diamond mine before us to share with little application of mind and effort. We have never fallen prey to victimhood even of mighty adversaries but fought them with tremendous cultural drive.

Recently, we have seen wonderful treatment of generation gap and a dear solution in celebrated writer Humayun Ahamed's 'Shraban Megher Din' in which the truly educated heroine transcended the hereditary and environmental factors and responded to the call of humanity and transformed the mind of adversaries. Such examples should inspire the younger generation.

It is indeed a highly commendable move that some time ago National Theatre Festival had been organised by Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on the most relevant theme of anti-terrorism with the slogan, "This territory is for humanism, not terrorism." About 60 theatre groups from all over Bangladesh have taken part in this mega carnival.

 It proves beyond doubt that culturally vibrant Bangladesh is capable of culturally responding to the need of the time. The plays presented like 'Socrateser Jabanbondi' are overtly or covertly heralding victory of humanism over obstacles.

We have a prolonged history of deriving rich sustenance from a deep layer of culture. During our war of independence against the mighty British imperialism Mahatma Gandhi adopted truth and non-violence, two potential cultural tools to drive them away.  Akbar introduced cultural intervention in his Rajput policy to settle political turmoil. Ashok abolished warfare after perusal of gross violence in Kalinga war despite victory.

Lord Buddha widely travelled in India preaching against the basic tenets of Hinduism and succeeded in exercising tremendous influence.  During Muktiyuddha Bangladesh exhibited unique solidarity in diversity and bravely stood with tremendous cultural drive. Are these not enough examples of travelling in the cultural highway to concur humanity?  
Every act of extremism is fraught with an ideology, may be misplaced faith or belief system which cannot be removed with bullets. Rather, the more the application of force the more the belief system becomes impregnable and farm for mightier attacks in future. After all, brute force can never attain anything sustainable at psychological level. It waits for breaking at the earliest opportunity. 

So, misplaced faith or ignorant evil needs to be replaced only by proper faith and true wisdom. If wrong ideology can instigate the youth to sacrifice their life right ideology should very well induce in them the spirit of enlightened life and living.

Adolescent period is prone to falling in easy prey to several temptations and juvenile delinquency, environmental disappointments and adventurism. It requires right guidance with acceptable ideals, icons and transforming cultural interventions beyond superficial entertainments and devoid of unacceptable didacticism for their positive progress.

The rich heritage and valuable Bengali tradition can take them along a meaningful path in life and in that agenda family, environment, education, society and adequate orientation will have to take a strong initiative together. It has to be a combined constructive educational and cultural endeavour to achieve sustainable result beyond immediate suppression.

Apart from being responsive to the requirement what is needed is proper designing, and adequate implementation of a suitable constructive cultural curriculum for conducive psychological conditioning.

It requires a firm focus on the well selected objective, and creation of learning event on aesthetic lines for emotional transformation and not didactic education, as people are always keen to learn but they refuse to take lessons from cultural programmes. Moreover, the crying necessity is for emotional transformation for assimilation as driving force in life, and not intellectual learning as bookish knowledge.

The writer is a columnist
and HR consultant

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