|Tuesday, 15 July 2003|
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Arts and civilizational decline
Do or do not the Arts have a humanizing impact on the human consciousness? This question has been debated down the ages with very convincing arguments being put forward in favour of the positive role that Literature and the Arts could play in character-formation among particularly the young.
On the other hand, equally convincing arguments have been formulated in defence of the position that the Arts have had little or no role in the formation of moral character and in the fostering of humanism. Some very artistically-inclined and "cultured" peoples, for instance, have figured prominently in the World Wars and in the unleashing of bestiality on fellow humans.
This is a complex issue to which simple answers, apparently, cannot be evolved. However, there is no gainsaying the fact that artists and men of letters have been in the forefront against the forces of inhumanity.
This was the case, for instance, in France at the height of the Second World War. Writers and thinkers of the stature of Jean Paule Sartre were at the helm of the French Resistance to the invasionary, anti-semitic forces. Likewise, Bertolt Brecht, an artistic icon of Germany, used the medium of drama to expose the forces of oppression and inhumanity in the middle decades of the last century which witnessed the horrifying ravages of the two great World Wars.
Even in the case of contemporary Sri Lanka, we are glad to note that a number of eminent artistes and men and women of letters are at the forefront against the seeking of peace through war.
What sparks off these thoughts in us is an observation on the importance of the Arts in the development of the human personality, made by a provincial education official recently, at an Arts festival conducted at Maharagama Central College. He also commented that the traditional Arts are virtually blacked out of our TV screens.
The reasons for these serious limitations in the dominant artistic media are plain to see. In a culture given over to commercial and materialistic values, high culture and even a liberal education take a back seat or are even completely jettisoned.
May be, the Arts have not achieved all that they are capable of achieving over the decades, but there is no denying their efficacy in ushering in balanced personal growth. One who has savoured the Tragedies of Shakespeare and the poignant tensions in our very own Guttila Kavya, for instance, is likely to come to terms with the ravages of human experience faster than one who hasn't been exposed to these undying poetic gems.
We, therefore, need to think in terms of broad-basing our system of education and to removing the current, narrow focus on Commerce, Science and Information Technology.
An ideal, liberal education would give the secondary and tertiary level student the opportunity of studying these subjects as well as one or two Arts subjects which would enhance his sensitivity and creativity.
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