The High and Low


The High and the low

Scholars claim that culture is an ‘objective venture after man’s perfection’ and that having culture meant to ’know the best that has been said and thought in the world’

Some would claim that goes without saying when it comes to ‘high culture’.

In the culture of the elite, the well educated and established this is believed to be ‘high culture’. High culture is seen as a form that is not appreciated by the generation of the twenty first century. It focuses much more on ‘thinking’ art forms such as opera, ballet and orchestras.  Critical perception is key. This demands concentration. I can just imagine myself gradually slipping away in boredom whilst a stage artist sings her hearts out in a language I don’t even understand. This type of culture over the ages has been imposed upon the public by means of education systems such as Universities, courses in fine arts and drama. Those who can afford to have access to the luxury of these institutions often fall under the radar and play little role in shaping the agenda.

People like Sibongile Khumalo have broken he racial conventions around high cultured activities

Contrary to public opinion high culture is full of boundaries and social expectations, of how one should act and think. It leaves little room for self expression. Lacking the space to be artistically creative and expressive in a form that allows the viewer to fully comprehend the artist is prevalent. People do not have the comfort of pondering over what the artist was trying to depict during their ‘ballet’ performance that is savoured by the rich, some of us have to work for a living.

On the opposite end of the spectrum the elite would view ‘popular culture ‘as an opponent. This movement was thus seen as the comforter trend for the lower class or rather the working class and dates back to the 1960’s.

This culture gave way to entertainment which was not only understood by the masses but also as a form of distraction from their everyday lives. Representing ideas , perspectives, attitudes, images and other experiences of the ‘informal’.

 That ever changing discomfort zone of being the everyman. Mass media did play a big role in making this form available to the broader public, thus forming commercial icons that the ‘ordinary’ could look up to.  Names like the Beatles and Elvis fall well into this mould. With it (media)( being influential among the masses it helped determine the mood of classes. Even though it cancelled out the deep realities of the world it was a form of entertainment at family leisure times. Television programmes such as cartoons, soap opera’s and movies fuelled much needed escapisim form things like Pass laws and Richard Nixon. I don’t comprehend how it’s viewed as being a dumb –down form of ‘high culture’, I view it as, light hearted, entertaining and more importantly understandable form of expression. Some things make infinitely more sense when said in simple ways as opposed to layered and utopian ones.

People like Napo Masheane might not be the most pleasing but the are very intellectually and aesthetically insightful

Perhaps the most important development from this was that it made the masses aware of their buying power.  It made more people aware that public opinion did not depend on the mood of the elite. People began to express themselves and create their own trends, they became artistic in their own right. Then the creation of language was given life, with the basic English that is still spoken today, shifted to terms like ‘ howzit’ instead of ‘ how do you do’ and sign languages of response ( thumbs up) instead of a prolonged conversation on the weather. I call this genius and time saving, pop cultured people are fast thinkers!

With things fast moving and ‘informal’ language taking over, people are now  deemed as uneducated and lack deep thinking skills. The mass media output now diluted with generational simplistic, unreal and superficial preferences claimed as an ‘art form. Commercialising this ‘art’ form through music videos, reality television with no moral sense, offensive language depicted in movies and excuses for fashion with no style, oh and politics, I need not go there. All these are a complete misrepresentation of the truth of pop culture.

John Lennon is perhaps the perfect hybrid of pop and high cultural appeal

But all is not lost. There’s a rise of ‘pop’ intellects. Since music is one of the biggest influences in cultural behaviour, enlightened artists are injecting a more positive display of genres like hip hop and rap. These university graduates like Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique tackle political, social and educational issues faced by youth today.

Cartoons are becoming more educational such as Boondocks, which address real issues in an entertaining and humorous way.

With that being said, there were great thinkers then and even more so now and popular culture shouldn’t be seen as mentally unstimulating but instead as a unique form of intellectual expression that more people can relate too.

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