Movies and television programmes are two of the most widely circulated mass media worldwide. As such, they influence viewers in a variety of ways, some visibly defined and others less so.
Sagun a tenth standard student likes to show off his hair style like that of Fernando Torres, a footballer from Spain who sports faux hawk hairstyle where as Kabindra likes to build up muscular body like Biraj Bhatta, a Nepali movie star. Similarly, there are several people who are influenced by different people presented by the mass media. Doesn’t it simply prove that the movies and television programmes can be the strongest media to influence people? In addition to the entertainment, can these media play some social role to address some grave problems? Let me be specific and discuss about how these media can be helpful to address some problems in our everyday urban life.
Among many problems in chaotic city of Kathmandu, traffic management on the roads is getting more and more challenging to the concerned authorities. The roots of the problems could be explained like narrow streets, absence of parking lot, lack of footpath for the pedestrian, inadequate public transport, and these bullets of the problems roll on to form a lengthy list.
It is said, authorities are trying their best to make the traffic smooth with the available resources. Despite the attempts, everyone out in Kathmandu roads has observed that our traffic management is quite messy. Now question arises: are every metropolitan in the world do have similar hitch and glitch like here in this town of Kathmandu? Records show that it’s not like that. In fact the traffic management of Kathmandu, if we compare with the capital cities of any other countries in the world, ours is terribly rudimentary and haphazard.
The number of vehicles on the road is ever increasing. Therefore, it is sure that the traffic management will surely get more and more complex in coming days. Of course, deploying trained and efficient traffic managers (traffic police, traffic volunteers, metro-police), installing modern monitoring system (CCTV), improvising the infrastructure (overhead bridges, widening roads, underground subways) may help in some extent but unless the city-dwellers and the commoners on the road really become aware about the traffic system nothing will work for sure.
I haven’t seen much attention paid to make general people really conscious and mindful. This is very imperative. Urban life, everywhere in the world, is full of hustle and jostle. People also in this metropolis are always in a rush so they don’t really care about the traffic rules to be obeyed and basically they never give a thought of following the traffic rules because in their personality it does not make a difference. When seemingly cultured looking urban individuals are not reaching the zebra cross or people attired in official dresses of courts, colleges and hospitals are trying to reach the other side walking across the road just below the over-bridge nonsensically, what type of role-model they demonstrate to our tender aged school-goers or to the new-comers to the town from countryside?
Philosophers like Plato, Montaigne, Rousseau and sociologist like Talcott Parsons have laid immense emphasis in theories of socialization that all learning, bad or good, happens through socialization. Socialization is simply inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies. It may provide the individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society. A society develops a culture through a plurality of shared norms, customs, values, traditions, social roles, symbols and languages. And, another sociologist Robert K. Merton asserts that individuals compare themselves with reference groups of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires. That means the role models in the society play important role to influence, teach and groom young people. A survey made in the UK illustrates a fine practical example of socialization through role model. According to the survey of teachers in the U.K. conducted in 2008 by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers young people frequently chose “role models” from celebrity culture such as David and Victoria Beckham or Paris Hilton and emulate their appearance and manner.
Now, to relate the discussion with our traffic problem in Kathmandu, should this problem remain forever in Kathmandu? No way, it should not at all. Can’t these socialization and role model theories provide us with some concept to improvise the traffic muddle? Why not to use the mass media as a means where it has a vast impact on people of urban areas and rural, as well? Now days, as the researches and surveys have proved like that we have read above, young people pick up their role models from television programmes or movies and they like to follow them. So why not to use such traffic awareness and culture via movies and television where the protagonists are in some way the role models for the traffic rules? Similarly, if the talk-shows with the celebrities include chat regarding traffic rules, definitely it will give some positive impact to the fans to an extent.
So why not to think from different sociological perspectives rather than only focussing right on the road with more administrative and technical aspects?
If every civilian is a police-not-in-uniform, it is the duty of every civilian to be a role model to make an ideal society. And, the stars, leaders, celebrities who repeatedly appear through mass media and who can be the ideal prototype to the public mass do have certainly much greater role to play.
Nepal is as the cross road of experiment. Why not try this experiment which has no dire side effects at all? If we are successful with the traffic management we can replicate for managing other problems, as well.
Like on the road, our traffic management is at the T-junction. Let the green light be to the improvisation of the present chaos. Dear civilians, leaders, stars and celebrities can we do it by acting as a role model? As Marx has said, “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” It’s time to change now.
Gaurav Pokhrel (Author)