19 September 2006

Sub-cultural viewpoints

I guess, today, very few countries in the world can claim to have a 100% homogeneous population in terms of cultural purity. Even Iceland, an island nation with a population close to 300,000 people, has Nordic and Celtic origins going back to the days of the Vikings; not to mention a smattering of immigrants from various parts of the world. Perhaps a Polynesian island would prove this axiom wrong. For, to maintain cultural purity, a tribe or a nation would have to be ‘untouched’ by tourists or immigrants or invaders – or the media.

Cultural or ethnic differences are bound to exist in populations of countries. India is a prime example of this, being endowed with her ancient tribes (the Adivasis), a debate over Dravidian-Aryan roots, and a history of invasions – both political and economic.

Whether we monitor ancestry and language (which is difficult enough for India), or complex variables such as self-identification and ethnic individuality in the age of globalisation, cultural diversity is a fact of life. A fact, that is forever changing, as migration between (and within) countries, national populations, and interracial marriages are increasing. Add to that the spread of global and MNC brands, and we have a new economic and socio-cultural order. And then, there’s the Internet. The fact is, new identities are forming everyday on shared relationships and socio-cultural experiences between individuals and groups of people… all over the world.

Within this changing world lies a host of sub-cultures: racial, religious, political, professional, popular, physically-impaired, environmental, social, historical, traditional, gender, genetic… the list is endless. These are groups of people, centred on an ideology, claiming some point of difference from the others, and from what is considered to be the mainstream population and culture. All these groups feel marginalised at some point or the other, expressing a loss of dignity and of their civil and political rights. They feel their contribution to the mainstream cultural movement, as well as to the economy and society, is underrated and often goes unrecognised. This feeling, sadly, is true in India as it is in the United States or anywhere else.

However, the mainstream population is not always sympathetic to these sub-cultural viewpoints, even if the governments of these countries are. The mainstream regards these sub-cultural viewpoints as politically motivated, with little to do with culture or civil rights, and responds with its own rhetoric: Are all sub-cultures equally valuable to a nation? Are they all worthy of our support? Do they deserve special treatment? Do they all deserve inclusion in our mainstream cultural movement? If these sub-cultures are given equal status and included in the mainstream cultural movement, would they still continue to function as sub-cultures?

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