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Globalization and Poetry: Two Contradictory Forces!
by Prof. Shubha Tiwari Bookmark and Share

The word 'globalization' sprang from the economic world and slowly proliferated to all other spheres of life. The concept came from the developed nations to justify the expanse and reach of multinational companies. Globalization stands for open competition in market, liberal policies and free trade.

This phenomenon has immense implications. First and foremost, it has inherent structures of hierarchy. The 'center' lies with the west. It establishes the superiority of western things like advanced technology, money, cut throat competition, nuclear families, success at any rate etc. It sidelines Eastern concepts like joint family system, peace of mind, mutual trust, spirituality and the art of enjoying life. The race of globalization is blind. By impact, globalization swallows other cultures. It promotes one culture – culture of utter hunger, display, 'tamsik' pleasures. Globalization kills plurality. It finishes the romance, the mystery of life. Everything gets reduced to pay package, hotel living, canned MNC food, rapid technological changes and fast changing paradigms. Nothing remains certain. 

The problem in today's world is that everyone is uprooted and 'un-rooted'. We do not have loyalties like we had in the world of villages and clans. The globe has become a village. The whole world is ours but we belong nowhere.

If we think about it, we will find that the atmosphere that globalization has created is extremely cruel and un-poetic. Poetry relates to matters of heart. Whatever is noble, beautiful, lonely, targeted, vulnerable and sensitive is at once poetic. Poetry celebrates and salutes individuality. It upholds variation- from the set norms. But globalization does not allow variation noodles will reign; white skin will be adored; 'world's best fabric, 'world's best shoes' will dominate. Hierarchy is set. Poetry and globalization are contradictory forces. Poetry has no significant place in today's scheme of things. It has become an eccentricity. It is the 'odd' thing out. 

Today's global village, that is our world, has generated lots of pain and psychological trauma. Ours is a culture 'beset with the many ills of modernity........(with) a sense of oppression and a future utterly bereft of any vision of transcendent purpose...........' (1)

It is one of the basic instincts of human beings to have some 'transcendent' vision, some idealized goal. Poetry is one of the many tools that keeps alive this vision. Poetry keeps the glory of human existence intact. Poetry is the essence of nobility. When globalization reduces everything to mere 'bucks', poetry feels stifled. These are suffocating times for poetry. 

This city breathes me in and out.
Everyday the buildings crawl higher,
Concrete weeds breaking through the sky.
Their glass eyes blink hungrily,
their skin silicon smooth.
Slowly they stretch their long tentacles
towards the light.

Far below in the broken street,
the elephants step over small children
begging with puppies.
A baby held in a three year old's arms,
the cuteness of poverty.
Yellow flowers sold in a traffic jam,
the neon smudge of the street sellers' faces
great clouds of noodle smoke.

The massage parlours tumble over each other.
The chaos of cotton candy, t-shirts, Buddhas,
girls in tight skirts who trade in smiles,
fried insects, warm beer.
The blast of a song I no longer recognize.
Vast video screens, the shrillness of advertising,
a heaving wall of pure noise.
It sucks the air from my lungs,
this constant drilling through the dust
of a thousand buildings waiting to be born.' (2)
- Aoife Mannix  

This is the pain of the individual soul, the poetic voice within. The poet watches the glaring disparity between owners of sky scrappers and the begging three year old with a baby in the lap. The cruelty of the scenario is bold and mocking and so is the voice of the poet. These are the 'ills of modernity'. 

Every language has a background. Every language has a spirit of its own. When a language dies, the spirit also diminishes.

As suggested earlier, one of the impending dangers of globalization is monopoly not only in the commercial world but also in the fields of culture, language, food, living style, thinking, family structure, social and mental set-up. The world is heading towards utter monotony. The hidden and pagan cultures that enrich human experience with colour and imagination are being ignored.
Due to globalization, creative writing in Indian languages has ebbed. Languages are dying due to domination of one language. The beauty of sentences, the depth of emotions and the sincerity of utterance is difficult to achieve in an alien language.

When we say  or  we convey something entirely different from when we say, 'I love my country'

I feel like quoting Aoife Mannix once again: 

"She asks me why I don't write in my own language,
a question that would take several hundred years to answer,
but one that still wakes me in the night
as I feel my own tongue alien in my mouth
and wonder what else besides the words got lost. 

When history has you born speaking like a foreigner,
you cling to the magic of mispronunciations,
the awkwardness of vowel sounds.
It's not just tonal, its angry,
how a part of me wants my name to stick in their throat
and needs to believe that the music is still there
underneath the translation.
It's the sound of resistance,
The beating of feet on a wooden floor,
the spell of my story telling.
The echo of older voices flowing through the chanting
those special silent spaces beyond mere words.(3)
- Aoife Mannix 

The poet is saying that when words are lost, treasures of indigenous thought and identity are automatically lost. Every language has a background. Every language has a spirit of its own. When a language dies, the spirit also diminishes. Similarly, the line 'history has you born speaking like a foreigner' refers to the colonial period. We are suffering from the slave mentality. Today's poems reflect such pain. These poems are full of nostalgia for things that cannot be recovered and restored now. The poems express the vacuum that has been created by the current culture. 

There used to be times when poetry changed the world, dethroned kings and inspired revolutions. It is no longer so.

Globalization has basically resulted in mental conflict. The comforts of modern life are alluring. But the loss is also heavy. Globalization has become a necessary evil. It is a dragon we ourselves do not want to get rid of. We all know and realize that we cannot go on exploiting the natural resources for ever. We also know that there is a limit up to which we can accelerate the pace and stress of life. There has to be a limit to success. There have to be reins over ambition. 

We all know how important families are. We know that the rate of insanity is increasing alarmingly. We know all this and much more. But we are helpless before the skyscrapers, the multiplexes, the MNCs. None of us can give the call like Rousseau once did, 'Return to Nature'. We are slaves to the comforts of progress. This dual craving of soul gets full expression in today's poetry. We want to return to the roots and we also want to enjoy the pleasures of sophisticated living. 

Society bestowed dilemma;
Dilemma I present.
By this the Jnanis- knowing ones,
Get a glimpse of their 'non-knowing'
Each lines speaks in contradiction to the preceding!
Is it really so? Or
Does it seem so?
Let preachers ponder:
Is their's the only way?
Is life only temple?
Is life only tavern?
Is there any difference? (4)
Chhote Bharane 

Life has become more questions and less answers. 
The problem in today's world is that everyone is uprooted and 'un-rooted'. We do not have loyalties like we had in the world of villages and clans. The globe has become a village. The whole world is ours but we belong nowhere. I think it is our collective psyche of thousands of centuries in which we enjoyed settled and secured lives that haunts us. We are scared to go back to nomadic ways. It is true that advancement in technology is not synonymous with sensitivity. Our savage instincts are very much at the fore. The poetic soul does not want to leave the world of chivalry, magnanimity, love, sacrifice and beauty. The globalized soul craves for instant gratification, quick success, fast revenge and short- term relationships. This is the paradox of modern life. Poetry is to feel the beauty of nature, innocence, childhood, loneliness and struggle. Poetry does not come in a ready -made two minutes package. Poetry is not manicured. Poetry is not hiding savage instincts. Poetry worth being called poetry is pure, honest and sincere. Poetry can be in words. Poetry can be there in deeds. Poetry can be there in a person. One has to be true.
The problem with today's world is that everyone has become diplomatic. We all lead correct lives. We have mastered the art of showing a perfect face. W.H. Auden correctly writes: 

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint...
He worked in a factory and never got fired...
Policies taken out in his name proved that he was fully insured...
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigid ire.
Our researchers into public opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went...
Was he free? Was he happy? the question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. (5)
W.H. Auden     

This is the life that most of us are living – absolutely show cased, absolutely dry-washed, starched and presentable. As for as going beneath the surface is concerned, Auden has already declared that the question is absurd.
Honestly speaking, I don't think that today those who are writing poetry or those who are reading it attach much importance to it. There used to be times when poetry changed the world, dethroned kings and inspired revolutions. It is no longer so. Traditionally, much value is associated with literature, especially poetry. Umberto Eco calls literature an 'intangible power' and says, '.... literature keeps language alive as our collective heritage...literature creates a sense of identify and community'.(6) But today, it does not appear that people take things in earnest. The world is governed by huge economic powers. The voice of the poet is frail before the cacophony of the globalized world.
We may say that the conflicts and melancholy of modern life find full expression in today's poems. But at the same time, this expression has not been able to change much. Poetry does change individual hearts but the larger scenario seems to be beyond the poetic powers. This, of course, is not due to any fault of poetry or poets. The reason is the reign of falsehood. We do not want to look what we are. There is immense pretension. Everything is false- love, admiration, fame, success, and money. There is purposelessness. I wish to quote a poem written about a very famous actor.  

He arrived in style, to the delight of the press,
The paparazzi, as usual, were complimenting his dress
The crowd exclaimed, 'He's so fair!'
And then they added, 'We love your hair'. 

The man blow kisses out of passion,
To the people who adored his fashion.
 He stood tall amongst all like a player,
And everybody there, admired his hair. 

A women jumped from the crowd,
She wanted to marry him, she screamed aloud.
She also said they'd make a great pair,
And yes, she loved his hair. 

Finally, when the actor reached his home,
He wept like a child when he was alone.
 He touched his head, remembering the crowd's jig
And lastly he removed his wig (7)
- Tanmay Tiwari  

We have all become this actor. This is what civilization has done to us. Forces like globalization go on dwarfing the individual. In the end, the individual becomes a mockery of himself. Poetry upholds the individual. Poetry raises the stature of the individual, transcends his soul and unites her/him with the  super soul. May be, some calamity, some revolution, some ruin, some renaissance will awaken the blind civilization to the relevance, beauty and might of poetry. Till then, let us keep the flame of poetry alive. 


1. Kakkar, Sudhir, 2001. The Essential Writings of Sudhir Kakkar. New Delhi: OUP, 339.
2. Mannix, Aoife. 2007. 'Construction' in Asian Journal of Literature, Culture and Society. Assumption university, Bankok. Vol 01 No. 02 Oct 2007. 75.
3. _____________.78.
4. Bharane, Chhote, 2005. Dilemma. New Delhi: Clarion Books. 109.
5. Auden W.H. 1990 An Un known Citizen' In R.K. Tongue and Shiv K. Kumar ed An English Miscelany. New Delhi: OUP. 171.
6. Eco, Umberto. 2005. On Literature. London : Vintage Books. 2-3.
7. An unpublished poem 'Actor' of my son, Tanmay Tiwari   

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July 11,2011
More by : Prof. Shubha Tiwari
Views: 11824      Comments: 6

Comments on this Poem Article

Comment so thoughful article. thank u madam

10/25/2017 00:00 AM

Comment dear dr.shubha tiwari,
just wonderful paper.
you have very effectively exposed the lies that hide behind our smiles. yes, now people take pride by counting the no of friends on fb or whatsapp- but, the test of the strength of such relations
will make them cry in a corner.
our all relations, smiles, hugs and shake hands are nothing but 'moves' towards securing financial enrichment or status upgrade.
authenticity and sincerity have meanings only in dictionaries.
we have everything and yet a sense of nothingness wraps us.
i accidentally tumbled upon your blog, but unexpected accidents offer more joy than a cool headed plans to get the expected dose of maximum fun.
thanks for your lucid expressions.

nanavati devang
09/18/2014 00:00 AM

Comment An intelligent , realistic and philosophical flow of ideas very worth reading and pondering about. Thank you.

Pili Pubul
10/11/2013 00:00 AM

Comment If poetry is a commentary on life, it is not so much a reaction to the reality of globalisation, but the reality of human experience within globalisation. That is why it can never overwhelm the influence of globalisation, each one of us a microcosm of this in his daily life, as you illustrate so aptly, but simply state the case of personal experience within that context. And in stating the personal experience, poetry can tend to be flat and melancholic, and those who read it gaining consolation, and a certain aesthetic pleasure, from murmuring, 'That's true!' - for the truth is always pleasurable, seeing that it is what life is identified with. Our passion for life is a passion for the truth: it guides our every step, it identifies. Globalisation itself is for its very working as a system a solution of the truth, it sustains modern life. The rising of the cities, and the culture of efficiency, of fast travel and fast food, of dominance of market forces deciding the price and availability of commodities, of wealth creation, these are all based on truth that sustains modern life. Since it is as an expression of the truth that poetry accedes to the experience of fulfilment, globalisation as a resultant of seeking the truth, seeking for the solution to life in the modern world, is itself a form of poetry, and one can, for example, thrill at its complex systems and technological wizardry as an expression of its life-sustaining truth. The way in poetry is to put forward the truth of experience, but more, as a revelation of life, and one that transcends the contextual reality, since that is the truth solution of globalisation that breeds melancholy and despair in those rendered antipathetic by its signposts. We need not wait in expectation of some golden dawn: it is here, now; it is in expression of the truth that is synonymous with life, as has always been the case. But what truth is this that seems beyond poetry's parochialism?

What you do not mention is the role of faith in God in the world: none of the poets quoted mention the presence of God or spirituality; and this is significant, for it is this that makes them so hopeless and flat, qualities transformed into an aesthetic. Indeed, God or the spiritual, in terms of expression of truth, is very widely considered irrelevant to modern experience. True, there are those who still derive all their hope and fulfilment from belief in God, and make application of their faith in everyday experience, but they are often artistically mawkish and their truth sullied by overtones of superstition and fanaticism. If God is mentioned in a poem, it is associated with 'Oh him! - ' Yet, if we define God as the truth itself, surely life, in all its stages an expression of truth, finds its sole fulfilment in God; and if poetry is an expression of the truth, it must find transcendent expression in the transcendent experience of God that fills our daily lives from moment to moment, rendering life meaningful, instilling hope and joy at all levels of human society, whose only password is thanksgiving. In truth, thanksgiving is the highest expression, if we describe it as poetic, possible to man, since, ultimately, the totality of glory is God's. Here again, there is no golden dawn other than the dawn of each day, and our transcendent poetic experience must be within this reality, or we wait in vain. I conclude, quoting your inspired words: 'Poetry raises the stature of the individual, transcends his soul and unites her/him with the super soul.'

07/23/2011 00:00 AM

Comment Can't help admiring your flow with ideas! The poems that yuo've chosen are also lovely!

Shruti Bidwaikar
07/12/2011 00:00 AM

Comment Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

Prof. Shubha Tiwari
07/12/2011 00:00 AM

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