Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cloning culture

As Walter pointed out, Hyderabad airport is a good example of George Ritzer's concept of "Globalization of Nothing". Ritzer defines Nothing as generally centrally conceived and controlled and largely lacking in distinctive substance, while something is defined as generally indigenously conceived and controlled and possesses much in the way of distinctive substance. In other words, something is being one of a kind, and nothing is lack of uniqueness.

The airport has a "global" quality - undistinctive, uniform, like-anywhere-else airport. I often feel disoriented in such buildings. When standing inside any of these buildings, sometimes just for a moment, I try to remember where I am, which city? It was the same sense of déjà vu at the Hyderabad airport. As we entered it felt like the Turin airport and the inside reminded of the Paris departure area.

It is difficult to understand why Hyderabad airport should not look Hyderabadi. Why it should look like an European airport. The materials, the glass, even the so called ‘artistry’ of encasing the innards of the mechanical equipment in glass...

The motto of standardization is seen in airports, hotels, ATMs, malls, super-markets, metros, metro-stations, expressways, flyovers, traffic-lights, facades, billboards.... Even the models in the advertisements seem to look alike. We are now firmly entrenched in a look-alike, be-alike society. Our movies. Our soap-operas and reality shows. Our buildings. Our lifestyle. Our thinking, too, I am afraid.

I wonder whether we draw a sense of community and safety from within these symbols and motifs of the look-alike culture. We feel less alien. We are with the familiar, the understood. We are part of a larger machinery.

I guess with the fall of the many beliefs and systems, the current society is in a vacuum, in a limbo. Nothing has worked – the American dream, the maoist liberation, the communist revolution. The promise of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the ending of the Cold War has proven to be hollow. The liberation brought about by Globalization only tinsel in nature. Do we feel somewhere deep inside that this is not what we wanted? But are afraid to say it, face it? Or is it the bigger, deeper fear of knowing that we do not know what we want?

I would like to think that this not-working out is an indication that something completely different needs to happen. That this is not the path. I would like to think this might be the calm before the storm, the stillness of the turning tide, the pause before the wheel turns. The space where the idea is taking birth.

That the Substance is in the process of being formed, being defined.

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