Pakistan's Popular Culture: A Push Towards Political Unconsciousness

Pakistan's Popular Culture: A Push Towards Political Unconsciousness
Jannat Mirza is claiming to have been offered a role in the drama Parizaad, Murtasim is representing the face of the infamous patriarchal structure in Pakistan and a debate of changing personalities while watching Barbie and Oppenheimer are some hot topics in the popular culture of Pakistan – which is erroneously connected to the culture of masses, while a layman is struggling with the chaotic condition of Pakistani society. This is a society engulfed with a floundering economy, political instability and social disruption. However, in the realm of popular culture, the focus seems to be on trivial matters like playing a role in a drama and buying coffee at Starbucks.

Popular culture in Pakistan encompasses various aspects of society, including cinematography, the drama industry, social media trends, and a particular segment of fashion. It revolves around micro-level aspects like a "reel culture." Overall, popular culture reflects the consciousness and symbolic lexicon of a society's journey. Crucial points around which it revolves are art, cinema, the drama industry, and fashion.

Recently, Amazon Prime released a Spanish movie, Culpa Mia, which revolves around the relationship between a step-brother and sister and portrays a deep love between them. Netflix released the Obsession series, depicting a secret affair between a girl and an expected father-in-law. In the context of Pakistani society, dramas like Mere Pas Tum Ho and Tere Bin are trending. The collective preferences in society form the episteme, representing the totality of societal thoughts. This connection to totality refers to the moral order, collective conscience, and the discussions across different social strata.

Today, fashion is significantly influencing the minds of the youth, encapsulating the absurdity of trends. Fashion undoubtedly plays a role in expressing individuality and forming identity, but excessive focus on trends can lead young minds toward burnout. George Simmel, in his famous essay on fashion, emphasised its role in connecting people through sociability. However, making it the central focus can lead to an identity crisis in the youth, a phenomenon seen in contemporary Pakistan, where traditional clothing like 'Shalwar Kameez' is losing its essence due to changing fashion patterns. While eliminating fashion entirely is not the solution, being solely fixated on trends may cause concerns for the younger generation's future.

A self-centered approach that neglects others can lead to societal disintegration. History has shown that social disintegration creates political unconsciousness and instability in politics. The example of the Mughals, who flourished in various aspects of life but ignored social integration, leading to their empire's downfall, serves as a reminder of this dynamic.

Society's disintegration is a repairable process, driven by both social change and the weakness of collective consciousness. When the structures of society recognise the issue, efforts are made to mend the damages, but political unconsciousness often remains a stumbling block.

Herbert Marcuse, in his book One Dimensional Man, critiqued modern-day culture, addressing consumerism, technological advancements and social control. While he pointed out the institutionalised mechanism of selling desires and trapping individuals in a cage of materialism, he overlooked the importance of political consciousness in individuals.

In the present day, individuals may find themselves entangled in various societal elements, but understanding political consciousness is crucial. In Pakistan, many young people blindly support Imran Khan due to charm and popularity, without critically assessing his politics or engaging in meaningful dialogue. This phenomenon represents the political unconsciousness of today's one-dimensional man. Marcuse highlighted cultural aspects but failed to comment explicitly on modern agency.

Historically, popular culture has been a medium for people to address socio-political issues. Voices like Bob Dylan's have resonated with the elites and marginalized communities alike. Alexander Solzhenitsyn's writings continue to inspire resistance against oppressive state elements. In the past, Pakistan had a culture of simplicity, compassion, and dissent, but the present situation is marked by disillusionment and denial. Populist forces have instrumentalised popular culture for their political gains, leading to political unconsciousness. To address this, there is a need to reclaim dissenting voices, refine art and foster a stronger political consciousness in Pakistani society.