An unsettling awareness that everything goes topsy-turvy and a worrying reversal of values and worth grafts on to age-old wisdom, in this age of Kali Yug.
Fair is foul, foul is fair, ignorance prevails over truth, arrogance struts around, simplicity and humility are looked down on, superior minds are silenced, mediocrity is given red carpet treatment, might and prosperity are granted undue power and so on.
A major question that should be raised is the relevance of a Ministry of Culture in the country. What is its contribution to the promotion of culture? Not surprising that ministers are not interested in museums, fine arts, paintings, sculpture, music or anything which refines the minds of people. Given that a number of uncultured politicians sit at the Assembly and direct the affairs of the country, how do you expect them to promote various forms of culture for the benefit of the public at large? Jumping on the bandwagon of politics to inflate personal bank accounts is much more exciting than investing public funds in projects which do not bring immediate huge profits and juicy contracts for politicians’ collateral gains.
Gearing minds and hearts towards what makes people more civilized and refined is a long-term project which ultimately brings social and economic gains. Arts in its different forms enlightens, arouses positive emotions, gives joy and renders us more humane.
Unless government officials see the benefit beyond the sole interest of collecting taxes from museums and exhibitions, there is little hope of propelling artistic creativity in various forms, exhibitions on history or paintings to a higher level and create public awareness to attract crowds. Good films are not even imported here, God knows why. There is no policy to subsidize artists, arts, grant special tariffs to students and elderly people as is the case in advanced countries. Instead, the authorities go and eat gadjaks at inaugurations without even having the decency and the curiosity to step inside and enjoy an exhibition.
There is no shame in hiring foreign nationals who are more experimented in the promotion of culture. They should not be the ones who beg for funds. On the contrary, the Ministry should look out for talents and hand out public funds and encourage cultural activities. The spiritual sickness that has been spreading over the years is not surprising, neither are the foul language and uncouth manners in public places, nor are the selfish and reckless driving on roads, killing elderly and innocent people, the boorish and insensitive behaviour among even educated people. It is high time the public demand proper measures to be taken for serious investment in culture.
Some time back an incident on the public beach of Mon Choisy reminds us how some people feel entitled to more rights than other citizens for reasons known to themselves. A man had the guts to drive his car right on the beach and park it on the sand two metres away from the water!
So as I happened to be there, I went up to him and asked him to remove his car from the shore and park it in the right place like everybody else. He stared back defiantly; his wife, a woman of some weight looked blankly while two preteen girls (probably his daughters) looked on. The exchange went on in French. ‘Quel exemple donnez-vous à vos enfants ?’, I took him to task. .Eventually, he did move after I insisted and warned that I would call the police, though he got excited and inflated his chest and yelled back: ‘Vous savez qui je suis moi ?’, which he repeated twice threateningly, boasting about loads of money he has and that he didn’t care about paying Rs 2000 fine to the State. People standing by observed that if there had not been a change of government, the fellow would not have budged.
This incident reflects the unhealthy mindset that inhabits some people who base their worth on connection, power and money. It reminds us of the most unfortunate ‘Ou kone ki mo ete mwa ?’ This is why we badly need an effective cultural upbringing in this country at all levels.
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Shaping the destiny of the world
A week ago French television showed its nationals, who were rescued from the mountains mostly by Indian helicopters after the terrible earthquake in Nepal, landing at the airport in Paris and greeted by a minister as if they were heroes! The stranded tourists were too happy to be alive, never mind seven thousand Nepalese lost their lives, and for whom they did not have a word of sympathy, neither was there any feeling of gratitude towards the Indian army. As if the lives of people hailing from rich countries had more value, and their rescue by foreigners was the most natural thing around. It all lacked decency and restraint.
On the other hand, one might wonder why Qatar needs to purchase more than two dozen Rafale planes from France, if the latter has made due assessment of the use of the planes in the light of present and future geopolitical strategy. It is no secret that Arab nationals living in the US massively opened bank accounts in Qatar in the aftermath of the 9/11 2001 attack in New York and US dollars kept pouring into Qatari banks. Qatar has hence been purchasing whatever it lays its hands on in France. As for countries like France, competition with other arms sellers of the world relegates all other concerns.
For the time being, Qatar has joined the Allied forces in bombing IS fighters in Iraq and Syria. Given the deeply entrenched anti-western rhetoric gaining ground in the Middle East countries, however, whatever be their present stance, French authorities might be caught by surprise and they would have to endorse responsibility for failing to foresee that the current lucrative business of fighter jet sales might backfire against France itself in the future. One must be naive not to take stock of such a risk. Just as the infernal trio in Libya, Britain, France and the US wrongly believed that Libyans would welcome them as saviours after the coup against the late Colonel. Right now, reaping of huge profits overrules unfortunately every other priority of foreseeable national security issues.
If anything, conflict zones and hot spots in the world are a blessing for the armament industry in the West. Openly or behind the curtains, the strategy is to keep antagonism alive so that no other superpower blocs would emerge and western domination would enjoy happy years ahead. India feels obliged to spend billions on Rafale planes instead of other sectors which require sustained development.
Deliberately, the US makes sure that Kashmir and Pakistan remain a thorn in the flesh of India, and the Xinxiang bogey raises its head occasionally to undermine China. The US keeps oiling the machinery of Pakistan’s military by pouring in billions of dollars. We hope that India stays on its guard and is wary of any so-called friendly cooperation with any of the western powers. Self-centred political interest knows no bounds. As to the Arab countries, not a single one of them responded positively to India’s request to condemn Pakistan-sponsored terrorism at the UN for the past years whereas Israel offered its support without India asking for it. It might look like Israel should be a more trusted partner for India’s security in the circumstances.
Liberal Arab intellectuals constantly denounce the US double standards in claiming to fight against terrorism and its self-centred dealings with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, a hot-bed for radical ideology. Algerian anthropologist, Malek Chebel also warned the likes of intellectuals from Geneva not to be self-proclaimed enlightened guides of Arab masses from the cavern of Plato in Europe and thus confuse young people with double speak in suburban areas. He went on to state that the idea of the Great Caliphate or the Ottoman Empire belongs to the past and cannot be revived.
In the light of the recent celebrations of the First World War, a war which was supposed to end all wars from a western point of view, it is just mind-boggling that no lessons have been drawn from history up to now. So-called primitive people in far-flung spots of the world might break into laughter upon seeing the capacity for killings and the ferocity of wars in civilized countries. In fact, waging wars, destruction and reconstruction are part and parcel of western ideology of capitalism. It appears that since both China and India have no imperialist past, it is they who should be entrusted with the task of ensuring peace in the world, not customary warmongers.
It is a tragedy for the world that countries which enjoy economic prosperity and military power but which blatantly lack wisdom, feel entitled to shape the destiny of the world.
* Published in print edition on 8 May 2015