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Homogenizing Culture

Krishna Chaitanya

By Vassilis G. Vitsaxis
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1977, pp. 97 and 47 plates in colour, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

Kitsch and homogenization have been two important techniques used in the reduction of the person to the mass man by the mass society of today.             Kitsch means that products of mass culture in which the aesthetic and intel­lectual work is done for the recipient, making him a passive recipient rather than an active discoverer. Homogeniza­tion is the steam-rollering of values to a fiat plane of sensationalism. Dwight Macdonald has an amusing yet signi­ficant study of the now defunct Life which clarifies what happens here. The same issue will contain a serious expla­nation of the dangers of atomic energy followed by a disquisition on Rita Hayworth's love-life; an editorial on Bertrand Russell and photos of sleek models wear­ing adhesive brassieres; nine colour pages of Renoir paintings followed by a picture of a roller-skating horse. ‘Somehow these scramblings together seem to work all one way, degrading the serious. The final impression is that both Renoir and the horse were talented’.             Even a serious approach may end up in similar consequences through an un­happy juxtaposition of topics, prompted probably by the unconscious influence of the ambient mass culture. It is not cer­tain that this book on Indian myths has escaped the risk.             Today, myth is no longer considered to be the befuddled, superstitious religion of the other man; it is being recognized as an imaginative sensing of the deeper verities of existence. But the myth is often many-layered and can yield mean­ings to the profound or to the popular sensibility. For a deeper probing of the meaning of Indian myths, we need to go to Danielou or Mircea Eliade. Vitsaxis has chosen to give an .account of the popular traditions. It should be added that the stories of Rama and Krishna have been delightfully narrated.             The unfortunate juxtaposition has been the popular illustrations. It can be readily conceded that a study of this cate­gory will be useful. But it has deviated from the popular illustrations of the rural areas, with their rough vitality, and has been influenced more by the glamorous pulchritude of men and women in cinema hoardings and glossy calendars. An interesting feature is that the book has been illustrated by ordering the re­quired number of prints of these pictures from the trade. Authentic basic material for research is provided here. Such re­search should throw up sociologically valuable data, but ...

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