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THE SEARCH FOR THE SELF: CULTURE AND ITS ROLE


Arunav Barua ruminates here the paramount importance of culture which moulds the character of a child and helps him choose a path affable not only to him but to the society as a whole.

If we try and answer this question, we are often faced with a dilemma, a dilemma that brings about an assimilation of all those factors that make up the self. Am I the words I express? Am I all the opinion and views I hold? Am I a derivation of my ancestors? The answer would be more sublime and undefined than we can comprehend. The very questions which we ask ourselves and all those things that lead to my thoughts, my habits, my routine, I believe, make up the answer to the question of th self. Our likes and dislikes also play a role in this.

       Asking questions is easy; it is in answering them where the real test lies. Let us explore this dimension further. First, our immediate environment surely plays a significant role in making up the self. The most important and pronounced role is played by our parents and immediate family. They give us our first views, our first glance at a world which even great minds have failed to define. We usually form our first opinion about the world from our parents and siblings. The views then formed seldom change with time. It is of utmost importance that we get to spend quality time with our family.

       Let us now look at a phenomenon that is prevalent in society, more accurately recent society, and Juvenile crime. Youngsters, hardly out of school, commit crimes that were unheard of in the past. Robbery, arson, violence have become the norm. All we need to do is switch on a news channel to see this sad truth in practice. The crimes were always there, but in the past it was seasoned criminals and not youngsters who committed them. What then has changed in society that at such a young age, these children take the path to oblivion. For surely when one takes the path to crime, he is negating his very self, overlooking the teachings of the parents, elders, and his community at large?

       Something, somewhere is wrong, and very radically so. The factors are myriad: parents not having time because of work, exposure to movies and media which glorify crime and change the minds of impressionable youngsters, absence of a pastime like reading or writing or even simply, gardening. What would you expect from the youth who have not yet matured to decide their ‘right’ from ‘wrong’? What then kept the youth of yesteryears from such crime or actions harmful to society?

       The answer lies in an oft forgotten word: Culture! Culture is the norms and expectations that society injects into individuals through interaction and experience. Culture may be different for different sects, different religions, different languages but the root of all culture is the same. The thin line that differentiates between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ is everywhere the same. It is our culture which makes us responsible to society. Now, was culture different in the past? Why then is the present lot of youngsters choosing the path of annihilation? Family bondages were stronger in the past, yes, there was more interaction then, than now. Aunts, uncles, cousins, were all more approachable and closer. Competition didn’t even touch children. Social functions and occasions were so much more important. Now, it’s your facebook account which holds sway. However much social media might give us, it cannot take the place of actual societal interaction.

       We learn from our elders or so it was, until, now we learn from the world through an exposure to both the sides of the coin. Good and bad. Internet gives us access to the two sides of the coin and raging hormones and youth may end up choosing the wrong side. One can see that we need to be more protective of our youth. Yes, everyone makes mistakes but they can be corrected, they can be re-taught, they can be moulded. The ones going astray are but youth who have lost their focus. We can always re-focus them. So, instead of making them miserable for making mistakes, let us look inside to see the cause of these mistakes. Have we given them a strong enough cultural heritage? Have we imbibed into them their self-hood? It’s no use blaming them if the fabric of society is not strong enough to shelter our children in a protective cocoon.

       Culture gives us a small measure of understanding about the right and wrong, it also tells us who we are. So ‘I’ am an answer which is defined by my environment, my culture, my likes and dislikes, my tastes, my choices and most importantly, my actions. Culture helps us choose the path we take—let us give ourselves that shield that protects us when we make mistakes, let us walk into the new dawn with our feet firmly planted on the ground and head held high.

                                                                                                                                               The writer can be reached at arunav_barua@yahoo.com

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