Someone asked me after reading the previous entry in this blog whether music could really sooth people into calmness thereby preventing them from violent engagements both in the public and private domains. I thought it was a very good question. Indulging in a work of art of any kind on the one hand could be soothing and on the other hand it could be sublimating the baser emotions. Transcendence of existence is an integral part of enjoying any kind of art. A person could look at a painting for a long time and then go out and stab a person. Hitler is reported to have done exquisite drawings and designs but that did not deter him from harbouring thoughts of genocide. He was all the more keen to refine the aesthetical expressions of and by the people through the weeding out of the degenerate kind (of any art). All the despots favour cultural elitism and promote very decorative and seductive kind of art. Charlie Chaplin in his illustrious movie, ‘the Great Dictator’ lampoons Hitler by making the protagonist and the Hitler look-alike, Adenoid Hynkel enjoying various sessions of music and even posing for a sculptor, showing keen interest in modern technology and so on. Legends say that while Rome was burning Emperor Nero played his lute. Dostoevsky, the greatest of novelists was a gambler and had gone through several dark phases in his life. Jean Genet, whom Sartre had called ‘Saint Genet’ was a petty criminal with homosexual tendencies.
Hence my claim of making the society tolerant and non-violent through art or turning the majority of the people into pilgrims of the religion of art and culture perhaps could look like standing on flimsy ground. However, a second thought on the same issue makes me go back to the same claim and say with an amendment to the original statement that a tolerant society could be possible provided people voluntarily take interest in cultural matters and more and more cultural activities come up in our society to capture the attention of the people. Distracting the majority from the seductive entertainments provided by television and other media though look a little impossible at this stage, I would like to believe that is not improbable at any stage. Though it would take time for the majority to step on the tracks of culture (interestingly, most of them would vehemently say that they are the real ‘consumers’ of the contemporary culture), over a period of time, by making people aware of the charm of culture, we could organically change the society into a very tolerant one. For that first of all people should drop the guard of beliefs of all and any kind. They should unlearn all what they have already learnt or they already believe in.
All the beliefs are habits rather than tried and tested factual understanding. And most of the beliefs are blind too. I would say even the quasi-moral, quasi-ethical and quasi-scientific beliefs also could be blind and superstitious provided they become so stubborn about their ‘truth’ value. It is rather ironic that in a globalized world where the varieties of human beings, habits, customs, cultures and religions are recognized beyond doubt, there are efforts to homogenize the world using economics as the levelling factor. If the economic condition on a global scale could assure dignity to all the human beings irrespective of their religions and nationality, social status, gender and education etc, then we could accept these efforts to homogenize. Unfortunately it is not the case. But the argument here is despite the homogenizing efforts, media has made at least people see and experience the varieties of life from different parts of the world. If that being the reality of our existence, it amounts to childishness and stupidity if someone or some group says that their value systems are unique, their religion is right, their world view is all encompassing therefore everyone should accept that as the prime truth. If there are people elsewhere, if they are dressing differently, eating differently and behaving differently we should realize that our religion or our nationality cannot be the only one. The very acceptance of this fact would make a world really tolerant of differences and dissent.
Interestingly, we have reached those level of stupidity that even after seeing the varieties in the world, we still believe that we are the only one and we are the ‘right’ ones. The moment we all decide to unlearn the blind beliefs including the religious beliefs that we have, we will be able to establish a tolerant society. How it is possible, is the pivotal question. To make it possible we have to go through the trial by fire. It is not easy to do away with our religious beliefs and our nationalistic sentiments as they have been the fundamental principles that have helped us since childhood in forming our personalities as well as identities. However, if we think that our births and belonging to a particular religion is just a cause and effect situation not a historical determinant, then the unlearning becomes much easier. We can be born to a Hindu family yet we can choose to become Christians or Muslims or Non-religious provided we are brought up in a climate that does not dictate beliefs and lets people realise that their birth and belonging were just chances but not historically determined missions. I often wonder had I been born elsewhere what I would have been doing now? To find an answer I have to go back to the generations that further go back to the evolution of human beings. My birth in a particular place to a particular family was a chance. If that lineage had chosen to be nomads I would not have been sitting in Delhi now and writing this. That means, our religions and nationalities are just chances and as we go on we have the ‘chances’ to choose and change. There is no historical determination that I should do certain things as either done my parents or by their parents and so on.
(In the name of god)
That means we could change our religion and nationality. In fact the fundamentalists often tell the secularists and the dissenters to go to another country if they don’t want to remain in the given political and social climate. But to change our religion and nationality one need not go anywhere else. One could live in the same place and evolve into a new human being. History of human bodies has scientifically proved that human bodies could withstand different kinds of pressures including torture by accepting these as habits. This view is applicable in the case of minds too. Using this finding, most of the governments either through punitive measures or through ideological teaching tame the human bodies and minds, and interestingly religion and nationalist sentiments are the two parameters that the government uses for gauging the integrity of its citizens. That’s why when a majority government with dictatorial tendencies comes to power, the majority moves towards its side through willing suspension of disbelief. Joining hands with the suppresser is a sort of reversed poetic justice. People start looking at themselves as sinners who, if they did not believe in majority religion and nationalism, fall less in integrity and citizenship. That’s why despotic governments use religious and nationalistic rhetoric as binding forces. It is a gargantuan task to change our religion and nationality. One does not need to do this by using physical markers instead one could do it using mental markers. Even while carrying a passport of a particular nation one could live many nationalities.
Homogenization aspired by global economy is a false cover thrown over the world populations so that the market forces while levelling out consumerist tastes and tendencies could create divides and schisms amongst the same populations in order to facilitate another market to flourish; the market of arms, ammunition and pharmaceuticals. A homogenized world automatically needs a homogenized currency. But the fact is, even if I am not an economist and I do not understand the complex economic theories, without a common currency, homogenization of taste will always create economic, social and political disparities amongst the consuming public paving way for economy caused civil wars, paving way for arms and ammunition markets. Most of the wars in the world are currently waged just for the sake of selling weapons. Analysis of different kinds has proved that the warring factions are propped by powerful countries either to keep the region destabilized politically or for simply creating a weapon market. Religion is a cover for economic interest as natural resources sharing no longer is a prime motive for many of the first world countries after post-post-colonialism. In such a scenario it is that difficult to understand the futility of upholding religion and nationality as a divisive ideology. The actual result of globalization should be seen in the actual victimization of the human lot all over the world. Sufferers do not have religion or nation; such identities are artificially created so that there could be permanent atmosphere of strife. When there is strife it gives political and ideological expediency.
(from Woodstock music festival)
Coming back to the initial question, whether listening to music or looking at any art form would eventually bring a tolerant society about, I should say that the question should be tackled against the above given context. Listening to music or looking at art or reading books is not just a way to tolerance; it could be one of the methods. The larger scenario informs us that the realization of the futility of beliefs is a pre-requisite even for the proper understanding and enjoyment of music, art and literature. One cannot read a piece of literature with an idea to hunt for the words with sexual connotations with an intention to censor those words. One cannot listen to music that would incite someone go out and commit rape. One cannot look at a painting and then go and vandalise a public wall. But all these are possible in an atmosphere vitiated by the unholy co-habitation of politico-religious forces. To prevent this we all have to unlearn what we have learnt. We have to unlearn our social mores and nationalistic sentiments. To do that we have to do a lot of learning about human beings. To do that we have to learn to feel about the other. Most of the time we all tend to see the trees and forget the wood; trees with separate histories are good so long as they make wood. Cutting of one tree makes the wood less of one tree. Each day we cut one tree and one day we would miss the forest altogether. We have to listen to the music to derive pleasure. Those people who incite the crowds generally play out the speeches of demagogues than the music of joy. The inciting music is always of religious kind. But the protest music though it makes people get up and stand for their rights never makes them to pelt stones at the police. A crowd from Woodstock will never break a mosque or a temple or a church. Music is a way to unlearn the beliefs because music does not have any religion or nationality.