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This research paper explains the several factors which are behind the cultural penetration of west in Pakistani Elite society. It discusses how culture has become a bond that ties and differentiates the people of various society, region and community together. The research will give awareness to the people of our society about conserving Pakistani culture; about how it plays an important role in making them united and unified. It also identifies the different segments which are behind the increased globalization that has penetrated the western culture in Pakistani society, especially through media, lifestyle, language and family systems.
KEYWORDS: Culture, Globalization.
THE CULTURAL INCURSION OF WEST
IN PAKISTANI ELITE SOCIETY
The term culture has been used by various philosophers since decades. Raymond Williams claim it to be “the most difficult word in English language” The word culture has different meanings to evaluate human activity (Williams et al., 1976). Culture means to cultivate (Harper, 2008). Findley and Rothney describes it as, systems of symbols and meanings that even its creator contest, it lacks fix boundaries that are completely in flux and they interact and compete with one another (Findley and Rothney et al., 2006). All these authors describe it of being system of symbols that have blur boundaries. The bottom line is that how do we recognize them as those symbols? The answer to this is provided by Williams who say they culture is what is embedded in music, scriptures, literature, lifestyle, painting, theatres and other related things (Williams et al., 1976). These symbols are somehow alike in all the cultures. Due to rapid globalization and interaction of the past, these dimensions influence one culture or the other. This study will discuss the impact of western culture on Pakistani culture.
Cultural penetration is the incorporation of other culture and language into one’s own. Cultural penetration can take the form of general attitude as well. In this study, the focus is on the Western culture penetrating inside Pakistani Culture. Western cultures have been influencing other cultures worldwide. This is so because people equate Westernization (adoption of Western customs) with Modernization (adoption of scientific development). Westernization can be defined as a process whereby societies adopt the western culture in matters of trade, machinery, political affairs, finances, law, standard of living, diet, language, belief or morals. Westernization had an enveloping and fast influence across Pakistan in the last few centuries.
This ever increasing era of globalization has increased the power of western culture in Pakistan, amongst the rich especially because of their easy contact with the western foodstuffs, media and other products. Many western food chains can be seen in the major cities of Pakistan. Western dress has become a symbol of status and honor among the youth and the business industry. Families no more share the family time together they use to in the past; rather they are more cautious about their privacy. Obsession with English is the major issue. People who read and write English very well can hardly understand Urdu. Even those who cannot speak English, try doing so as to look stylish.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The study identifies the factors behind the cultural penetration of West in Pakistani Elite society.
It has been observed that people of Pakistani society feel pride in exercising westernized culture and tradition. They are being deviated from their own cultural norms and are adopting a more westernized approach. The main role played in increasing such behavior is because of the media, which is spreading the norms of the west. Pakistani society’s lifestyles, family relations, dressing, education has changed drastically and is not what it used to be some years back.
1.3 Purpose of the Problem
The study targets the characteristics which plays a significant role on the influence of western culture into Pakistani culture.
1.4 Research Question
What are the main factors behind cultural penetration of west which are influencing Pakistani Elite society?
1.5 Justification of the problem
The study can give awareness to the people of our society about conserving Pakistani culture; about how it plays an important role in making them united and unified. It can help people to understand the urgency to preserve Pakistani culture by providing a documented form of material that highlights the good and bad effects of adopting western culture. Fundamentally, culture makes use of artifacts and rituals to pass on notions of identity, which is observed to be missing in the Elite class of our Pakistani society.
1.6 Scope and Limitations
Due to limited time span and shortage of research tools available the research was conducted only by the help of BBA and BSSS first and second year students who targeted the questionnaires on the elite class of Karachi.
Culture is the awareness of traditions, ethics and way of life of a group of people. It is represented through various customs and traditions, arts, literature and costumes. Culture exists in different forms in different parts of the world. The surroundings greatly influence the lifestyle of people in that region, indirectly shaping cultures. (Manali Oak, Nov 15 2008). In Oak’s et al., (2008) article she states that culture is the one common link that connects people of different religions or communities together. The traditions a group of people follow, the events they celebrate, their attire, food and above all the cultural beliefs they share, bring them together.
Cultures are affected by people who accept its change and who resist them too. All these cultural ideas and beliefs for a matter of fact can change. Communal argument and the developing technologies give rise to changes within a society by altering social dynamics and advancing new cultural models or giving way to them. These social shifts are accompanied by ideological models and other cultural variations, for instance, people observing western cultures through media and then exercising them in their lives.
Most prominently, western influence is observed to be seen in the Pakistani elite society. Their complete lifestyle and mentality is of the west and they, in no manner represent to be Pakistani. It can be seen clearly that how Pakistani elite class is discouraging their own culture to adopt modernization. (Dr Manzur Ejaz).
The influence of west on the elite is basically being transferred through media. Media is playing a very vital role in portraying western culture, which is seemingly very attractive. Media is an agent of socio-political, cultural and economic change in our age and can strengthen or destabilize a society. The elite families of Pakistan can afford to live such a life which is full of westernized culture. They are moving away from their own culture (Muhammad Abbas, 2003). Muhammad Abbas et al., (2003) stated that it’s high time to fortify our socio-cultural practices. Our values are being invaded by the west through Cable TV. Media should lay their role in constructing faith and pride in our wonderful past, our values and the way of living. We have glorious norms and social strata which ought to be preserve, strengthen and encouraged. He emphasized on the fact that media can remove the negativity from Pakistani elite class because they are in transition. Their lifestyle is changing because of media and education and this particular change needs to smooth the progress in a positive manner.
The elite families in Pakistan live a life closely similar to western families. for example the concept of family is different in west as compared to other Asian countries. Most western families consist of parents with average of 1-3 children. It is very common that parents are employed full time and are at work while their children are at school or daycare facility. Same is the case with Pakistani society. The children are now use to of living alone and independently without their parents at home.
S, Venier (2004) stated that the American culture moves through every communicating medium. English as an international language for trade and politics is the strong tool for transmission of western culture. As English makes it way becoming a global language, it also becomes clear that although the forces driving the language and culture differ greatly but the two cannot be separated.
Journalist S.M Hussain states that due to the increasing globalization; it is difficult to predict the impact of western culture on eastern cultures lifestyle in the future. Due to all of this Pakistanis have opened themselves up.
Scholars in Pakistan admit in Daily Times Monitor (2008) that the extreme westernization has swept Pakistani culture. The extended family system, a feature of Pakistani cultural society has died away, especially amongst the elite classes who are exposed to American culture and now care more about their privacy. The young generation now seldom cares about their elders. Meal choices changed from Rice and Chapatti to KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Huts. Traditional drinks have switched to Coke and Pepsi. They feel pride in speaking English than Urdu.
Dr. Ahmed Rashid Malik (2009) states that perhaps it is some colonial chip we are carrying on our shoulders, which focuses on us to acknowledge the western culture as cool and hip. Perhaps, we are still so much in awe of the white men that we cannot even see their faults and our own virtues.
It is not as if it is just one area of the city that is affected by this, day by day it is seen that the entire place divided into little elite clutches of people is affected by this westernization. The influenced drive the latest cars, chatter away on their latest cell phones and wear designer Italian clothes, no matter if they do not even know how to pronounce their names properly.
Hence we are a race of people with a culture that spans generations of grandeur, yet we want to throw that all away for just a small place in our minds that resides as pro-western elite. (Hussain, S.M)
3.1 FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS
This study describes the important factors which are playing a significant role in bringing change to the mentality and lifestyle of the Pakistani elite society. 75 questionnaires were filled and analysis was concluded. The sample size was of 75 persons, out of which 34 were female, representing 45.3% and 41 male who are 54.7% of the total population. The age is dispersed from 18 to 62. Majority of respondents lie in the age group of 20 to 26.
Respondents agreed that media is playing an important role in bringing western approaches. They justified that family relation is the segment of life which is affected the most by western culture.
It has been proved that western incursion does exist in the Pakistani elite society.
People of elite society are in many forms and segments of life adopting western ideology.
There is a crisis of self identity prevailing within the people.
It is revealed by the research that educational sector is the least affected segment of life by the western cultural penetration.
The greatest change brought about by the western incursion is on the lifestyle of the elite Pakistani people.
It is exposed after the research that family values are at stake because of the cultural penetration.
Individual ambitions and benefits are more prioritized over mutual goals.
“Urdu” being the national language is undermined and English is given more encouragement officially and unofficially.
American lifestyle is commonly believed to be the most fascinating and appealing lifestyle, which is taken as most trendy and popular.
3.2 RECOMMENDATIONS AND SOLUTIONS
As it is revealed to us that western cultural penetration exists in our society, there lie some responsibilities for us to undertake. Since it has rooted underneath the surfaces so immensely, it will not be easy to remove it from the society in a short span of time, for it requires much of hard work and struggle from everyone.
Firstly, it is the job of the parents of our society to give correct guidance from the very beginning to their children so that they learn to appreciate their own culture. It is very important to differentiate between the cultures and to accept what is ours and like it from within.
Secondly, all the educational institutions must also encourage their students to celebrate the national and traditional customs and festivals, rather than celebrating foreign ones. These institutions should also try to preserve the true value of Urdu as our national language. They must struggle to maintain the level of Urdu in the eyes of the students and to make them understand that it is good to speak English but Urdu must never be forgotten.
Thirdly, the responsibility lies in the hands of each individual. Every one of us should encourage and appreciate our own Pakistani culture and should feel pride in doing so. We all should try to make people the importance of being under the label of one’s own culture and country.
As media is approached by everyone, it plays a very important role in portraying our culture. It should promote and preserve Pakistani culture in all the ways possible. Media should discourage the portrayal of those programs which in any way harms our culture.
When lifestyle is considered, it is good to be advanced and technologically developed but we do not need to adopt those segments of lifestyle which deviate us from our culture and religion. Because one can only look best in exercising own culture and lifestyle.
To cope up with the identity crisis, it is important to make the victims understand that following others just for the sake of fashion is no good to anyone. One should always be confident about his/her own talent and abilities and never under estimate oneself.
It has been observed that the elite society in Pakistan are opposing their own culture and are more interested to follow western culture in their daily life. This can be called upon as western cultural penetration, which is slowly eroding Pakistani culture unnoticeably. This is referred as a problem because in the cycle of the society the new traditions are set from the upper social class and then followed by the lower social classes. Therefore it is very necessary that the elite class should be very conscious towards this social issue and takes care of what they think as culturally acceptable tradition.
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