Mukarram Sultan Sahu - Last week I watched an English television serial in which a young girl committed suicide leaving behind certain self recorded tapes justifying her action. Somehow it captivated me so much that I ended up watching all 13 episodes. I was enthralled by the intriguing script and the beguiling plot of the story and wondered how it put into perspective a world apart from ours. The television drama was presented in a manner evocative of an exhilarating western lifestyle and culture.  It took me a while to come out of its occult as I begun to look back at my time in United States. I questioned myself …..  Was it really a true portrayal of that society and culture? It was not the first time some foreign content had made me curious as to the authenticity of its representation of the society I was once a part for a short but insightful time. 

The social, economic and racial variations are the threads that weave the fabric of a society. The social value system, traditional wisdom and cultural norms provide the framework that holds it together. These values create and shape everything from how a society raises children to how it governs the people, from social behavior to the code of ethics they follow.  Within a given society these values and norms are so intertwined and deeply rooted that any adulteration may as well be considered an anomaly. If some foreign ideas are interceded without creating a certain amount of flexibility it might lead to a chaos resulting in a much more polarized society.

In the age of globalization, television and the Internet has created a flow of information and interconnectivity that has rocked the cultural values of many societies. Media has become a very powerful source of entertainment as well as a tool of shaping opinion of the youth.  Whether it is the pleasure of identifying ourselves with exciting people while subconsciously living in an alternate reality or just escapism from real-life problems, we do get hooked to these emotionally charged stories, recognizing the feelings and emotions we do tend to adopt their perspective even if it is a fictional narrative.

From comedies to reality shows, from sport events to latest musicals, from science fiction to real-time movies, there is very little doubt on an increasing cultural preeminence of western values.

In a country like Pakistan the society is divided into two contrasting groups, underscoring an implicit social apartheid. A part of this society which has been exposed to liberal ideas and attitudes, they are much wary and are much immune to such cultural shocks, as they can relate to it   as a daily routine in their educational institutes and social circles whereas there is a vast majority who have a limited exposure of this “Westernized” version of life depicted on television and social networking websites. In quest of earning solemnity and being ‘westernized’ they opt to watch English movies, serials and plays. Previously, they were never exposed to such a contrasting culture and now they are watching stuff that is even a ‘dream’ for many young Americans. They may assume that what they see, hear or read is common, safe, and acceptable. As a result, they may be exposed to behaviors and attitudes that may be overwhelming as well as difficult to comprehend. At the end of the day, they start comparing their lives with those shown on the screen and start to live in fantasy and in a utopian state.  Consequently, these young boys and girls have to face massive blows both morally and socially. It will be safe to say that this is one of the major factors in the recent surge in delinquency, drug addiction, and suicidal attempts in our society.

In today's world, where “cultural imperialism” is a contested subject, where globalization does not necessarily translate into  homogenization, where complex and reciprocal nature of interactions between competing thoughts and ideologies have resulted in a world  where cohesion and fragmentation coexist, one cannot opt out of media influence and global vision. One must realize that a line of equilibrium is much needed. One must draw a line between a natural progression of things emerging out of new technologies bridging cultures and by-product of deliberate human choices that fragments the society. One must be cautious in handling the information so much so available at the click of our remotes. Ideas and ambitions culminating the minds of young boys and girls drift them far away from the realities of life and upon realization it is an enormous flood of frustration and hatred. It is the main cause for increasing an anti social drift in our society. If one consider learning western culture and values are necessary then a realistic approach should be adopted involving a systematic exposure to western culture through education, books and activities at a much younger age so that they can decide between reality and fiction. It should be considered as a prerequisite for digesting a high potency dose!

Writer is a former cultural ambassador of Pakistan in United States of America, under U.S Department OF State and Alumni ,Global Ugrad Exchange program Fall 2016.