Friday, August 01, 2014

Cultural Inequality : The other problem in Singapore.

We are all obsessed with Income Inequality. Hardly a day goes by without some mention of the GINI index on the Internet.

But I think that technocracies engender a different kind of inequality.

Imagine a society where everyone aspires towards money-making professions. Most kids want to become doctors, lawyers, engineers or accountants. No one aspires to a profession in the Arts or Culture.

The concentration of smart students in Cultural or Aesthetic classes start to dwindle over the years as people start chasing the money.

The role of the promotion of Arts and Culture eventually becomes concentrated into the hand of the few remaining smart guys who chose a Cultural based profession or field of study.

I think we can employ some analogical reasoning to determine what happens when a 1% of the population control 30-40% of the production and dissemination of culture. We have hints from societies with too much wealth inequality.

It's not as easy to regulate billionaires. In the same way, NLB learned that pissing off a few writers and authors risk pissing off all authors who provide cultural assistance for their future projects. Even the Obama administration will eventually back down if they declare war big business and the rich.

If some cultural folks are good, they will become like Bill Gates. Bill Gates used his culture to fight hunger and poverty. A cultural capitalist can enlighten the masses with his products and cultural platform, promote more harmony and progress.

If some of these folks are evil, they will be just like Bernard Madoff. Cultural capital can label groups of people where none exist in the past, they can determine what's cool and what is not. If left unchecked, they can arbitrate your morals, bully you into submission, even control your thoughts because they understand teh power of words and media.

The solution to resolving the problem of cultural inequality can be derived from some solutions for wealth inequality.

Balanced education allows everyone to participate in a discussion without looking unsophisticated or stupid. Spread the cultural capital across larger sections of the population. Do not use the same old groups of people to promote your Arts and Culture, take risks with the younger and newer upstarts.

I also don't mean educating Singaporeans to take sides against each other in this stupid war.

Singaporeans need to know that it's dumb to import a Cultural War which comes primarily from Western countries. Ignoring the religious fundamentalist does not make you an immoral STD-laden hippie. Ignoring their Rainbow coalition does not make you a heartless bigot.

Taking a position for things to just stay the same and move on is not copping out.

Neutrality and apathy can be a valid position

Suppose you do not agree with me, I am fine with that.

At the end of the day, let's agree on this - Financial capital can potentially be a blunt instrument to bludgeon your adversaries, so can Cultural capital.

Singapore's emphasis on professional qualifications has concentrated Cultural capital in the hands of a few, some are social liberals, others are religious zealots. The price we pay is the deluge of propaganda that is bombarding your social media to take a side.





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