I always wondered why people questioned the utility of subjects that taught people to act more like humans. I knew that those who have utter disregard for arts and humanities are the ones who really need to study them. What’s so embarrassing to learn about the existence of your own species? Why so much disrespect for humanity?
In a country like ours, where the majority lives hand to mouth, we know why earning becomes so essential for survival. To pursue one’s dream of travelling, learning something one loves, doing a job that utilizes one’s talents and not helplessness, is a matter of privilege and an option available only to a few. A significant fraction of the population doesn’t have alternatives to decide on a career. But why is earning associated with only a few kinds of professions and not the others? What kind of blocks have we constructed in our minds, and confined ourselves to that have created a divide between different professions/talents and assigned them values in degrees? (Same can be said of emotions)
Such ideological blocks have driven people to distance themselves from things that demand more than just cognitive intellect, require them to be one with nature, undergo transformations and not be limited by definitions. It has robbed them of their leisure and forced them to behave more like money-minting machines. Music, as a career, is a no, no – Everyone loves listening to songs but thinking of music as a career is looked down upon by the majority. Comedy? Not at all. The same goes for all forms of fine arts. Subjects like history, sociology, philosophy, political science, anthropology, psychology, etc. are exposed to similar dismissive ridicules. So when someone or an institution does give you a chance to do all of these things, and to some extent feel at par with ‘others,’ isn’t that amazing?
I remember the number of times I had to confront the questions of relatives, friends and older people as to why I opted for Social sciences after college (the best of all decisions that I have ever taken), and what good would I get out of it. I was more sad than angry and realized that those who condemn such subjects should be reading them even more than others to realize their innermost prejudices, chagrin for sensitivities, inclination to choose careers that showed a higher cognitive intellect and lesser time to reflect on the world, and it’s intricacies. In short, according to them, whatever makes you feel like a human, is subordinate as compared to what keeps you ‘busy’ and is more ‘productive’. Because leisure, introspection, and creativity are only for the good-for-nothings, right?
However, I think the pandemic of 2020 is cataclysmic enough to show us, humans, a mirror of our brutal selves. When the world is cracking down and trying it’s best to stay stable, (despite the wounds left open by the swords of capitalism) it is because of those beautiful outputs of art, literature, music, rhythm, dance, subjects like history and philosophy that I, and perhaps, a lot of people in the world are keeping their heads and holding onto silver linings. (Vaccines are going to take time)