Showing posts with label Power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Power. Show all posts

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Cultural Studies: Media, Power and Truly Educated Person

Short Lessons on Cultural Studies

It is nearly impossible to define Cultural Studies in definite terms. It is difficult because the concept of Culture itself has been made ambiguous. The pendulum of the definition of Culture ranges from Matthew Arnold's idea of "perfecting what was best thought and said" on one extreme to Raymond Williams and the likes of poststructuralist who would love to define it as "everyday life as really lived by one and all, including common-men".

The second problem with Cultural Studies is its scope of study. As it aims to transcend all disciplines and breaks the difference between the high and the low, the elite and the popular culture, it encompasses almost everything under its umbrella. This makes it confusing and the student / teacher with lesser ability to dig deeper in the artefacts to connect it with the 'discourse', sometimes, fails Cultural Studies.

Thirdly, as Cultural Studies reads 'power' with critical insights, it makes the students / scholars 'politically incorrect'. This also makes it difficult for CS to survive in the academia where 'political correct' and 'right-wingers' are in majority.

However, it is but sure that the study of Cultural Studies in incomplete without the study of 'Power'. In addition, as in our times, 'Media' is the tool to control the perceptions and the subject, the Power makes extensive use of Media. All forms of media. Print, radio, TV, electronic, digital, social.

Moreever, the critique of Media studied under Cultural Studies gives an opportunity to provoke our thoughts to understand the how power makes use of media. Here we will see What is Power and how power makes use of media. Watching these videos may help us read power, understand media and thus make us truly educated person.

First of all, let us understand 'POWER':

This video help us understand where power comes from, how it is exercised and how can one read and write power.

Political Power & our sense of judgement:

Do politics make us irrational?

Can someone's political identity actually affect their ability to process information? The answer lies in a cognitive phenomenon known as partisanship. While identifying with social groups is an essential and healthy part of life, it can become a problem when the group's beliefs are at odds with reality. So how can we recognize and combat partisanship? Jay Van Bavel shares helpful strategies. [Directed by Patrick Smith, narrated by Addison Anderson].

Secondly,let us see what Noam Chomsky has to say about Mass Media. He gives “Five Filters.” 
1. Media Ownership
2. Advertising
3. Media Elite
4. Flack
5. The Common Enemy

One must read these filters in detail to understand how power makes use of mass media to create the illusion of Democracy. Click here to read about it in details.

Chomsky and Herman’s book offers a surgical analysis of the ways corporate mass media “manufactures consent” for a status quo the majority of people do not actually want. Yet for all of the recent agonizing over mass media failure and complicity, we don’t often hear references to Manufacturing Consent these days. 

This videos explains this - 'Manufacturing Consent'. 

It seems that the media theory and criticism like Chomsky’s, or the work of Marshall McLuhan, Theodor Adorno, or Jean Baudrillard (all thought provoking critics of Culture), has fallen out of favor in a 140-character world. Never-the-less, we can understand our times in a better way with their cultural lenses.

Well, if this interests you and if you are hungry to know more, watch this amazing debate between Michael Foucault and Noam Chomsky on 'Human Nature and Power' (1971):

In ’71, at the height of the Vietnam War, the American linguist and French historian/social theorist appeared on Dutch TV to debate a fundamental question: Is there such a thing as innate human nature? Or are we shaped by experiences and the power of cultural and social institutions around us?
40 years later, you can find the classic debate on YouTube. If you need subtitles, make sure you turn on the captions function at the bottom of the video. Thanks Open Culture for this.
Lastly, Cultural Studies makes one truly educated person as the students cultivate the habit of questioning one discipline with the findings of another discipline; as the student unlearn what specific disciplines taught, and more importantly, it it teaches controversies.
However, it is enriching to listen what Noam Chomsky thinks about truly educated person. Watch this video:

Here is the highlights of what he said in this video:

  • The core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and create constructively, independently, without external controls.
  • A true education opens a door to human intellectual freedom and creative autonomy.
  • It’s not important what we cover in the class; it’s important what you discover.
  • To be truly educated means to be resourceful, to be able to “formulate serious questions” and “question standard doctrine, if that’s appropriate”…. It means to “find your own way.
Thus to conclude, in this series of short lessons on Cultural Studies, it seems this is enough to understand Power, Media and what it is to be Truly Educated person.

Monday 22 August 2016

Wazir: Pawn's Story of Pawn's Revenge over the King

Wazir: The Hindi Film

The journey of pawn from powerless insignificant identity to powerful Wazir - an equivalent to Queen in modern game of Chess is not an impossible one. If it goes on moving ahead with persistence, perseverance, determination and diligence, it can metamorphose itself into powerful identity. But as it is not possible in each and every game of chess to see that pawn reaches to final home-square to gain the power of Wazir, similarly, in real life too, it is only in the rarest of the rare stories that it happens. There are examples like Dhirubhai Ambani, J K Rowling, Oprah Winfrey . . . the list may include many more who's who.

The story of such pawns turning into wazirs, or the story of rags to riches is a very famous and popular literary archetype (ref: Northrop Frye's The Archetypal Criticism). In popular culture, popular films and literature also, this trope is quite in vogue.

But this concept is not much loved by social reformers and revolutionaries. They are bitter critics of this fairy-tale-sort-of-story. They prefer to narrate things more realistically. They argue that only a handful of exceptionally capable and/or mainly lucky persons are actually able to travel the "rags to riches" road, being the great publicity given to such cases a natural Survivorship bias illusion, which help keep the masses of the working class and the working poor in line, preventing them from agitating for an overall collective change in the direction of social equality (Wikipedia). Some of the interesting books with the similar theme are:
  • Peña, Manuel. "American Mythologies" Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012. ISBN 9781409442745
  • Weiss, Richard. "The American Myth of Success: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale" Basic Books, 1969. ISBN 0252060431
These observations are quite true. The Hindi film Wazir narrates a story of the struggle between the helpless pawn against an evil King. Not all pawns are lucky enough to metamorphose into powerful wazir to avenge itself against the evil King. Most of them, standing in front row, fight against the likes of theirs, and get sacrificed in protecting the evil kings. If they are intelligent enough, they may open the gateway for Elephant (Rook) or Camel (Bishop), who in turn can checkmate the revenge of pawn. But that too is some thing happening in fairy tales. Realistic commentators or narrators or viewers may not get convinced with it. In reality, most of such stories remains unavenged.

At the same time, this film also raised important question against the idea of 'talent' and 'merit'. If one extraordinarily talented or meritorious persona (Wazir / Queen) over shadows innumerable 'mediocre' or average individuals (pawns), how far is it fair enough to sing the songs of talent / merit? The popular culture and society loves to sing such songs. May be because it gives them an illusory dream that some day they also will be meritorious and their talent will also be respected, and if it is not, the fault lies with them - they are not meritorious, they are not talented! They will not have enough confidence to tell their stories with confidence.  Bejoy Nambiar (Director), Abhijat Joshi and Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Writers) gave voice to the struggle of a pawn named Pandit Omkar Nath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan) against the talented politician who can blind people's eyes to become very popular with his language of peace and love, who in reality has strong connections with terrorist groups. Had it been not popular Hindi cinema, and has it been some realistic film, Pandit Omkar, like real Kashmiri Pandits pushed out of their homes to dwell in refugee camps, would have died an unknown death. But as it is a piece of feel-good cinema, he gets an elephant (Rook) to take his revenge. We see, in real world of human existence, millions of pawns meeting dead ends and lost in the oblivion from public memory as their stories rarely find an appropriate bard.

This film narrates the revenge story of one such pawn who reaches the final square to become Wazir. But that was not enough, he has sacrifice itself and make a way open for the Elephant (Rook) to rush in where even eagle dare to and end the game with checkmate. Kudos to Bejoy Nambiar (Director), Abhijat Joshi and Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Writers). The film is worth watching. Such thrillers are not watched without the presence of mind. It is normally advised not to carry the mind to the cinema-theatre to enjoy the films. But the watchers of this genre know it very well that they have to keep their minds on the toes. And as we watch with awakened mind, we start sensing at some point in the film - the secret which the film makers wants to keep. So, it is not a surprise when it is revealed. Yes, Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani (2012) had that secret, very well kept till end and did not allow the viewers to doubt it. Wazir is, surely not, Kahaani. But Wazir has master performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar. It has some very well written dialogues. Its ups is not only script, which has some loops, but it is performance and dialogues.The movies is worth watching.

It is well said:  

BE NOT ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the powerful with your white robe of simpleness.Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the soul.Build God's throne daily upon the ample bareness of your poverty, and know that what is huge is not great and pride is not everlasting. ~ Rabindranath Tagore