Saturday, April 9

‘In the throes of transition’

The joint family system hasn't broken down and never it will, although roles of the component individuals will change.

Our society is in transition; so are all the institutions attached to it. The same is true of the family system. We are seeing changes taking place all around us, and we are becoming part of it, both knowingly and unknowingly. Fauzia Saleem Alvi, a lecturer at the Department of Philosophy of the University of the Punjab, believes that media, both print and electronic, has a lot to do with the present state of affairs. To her, an age-old adage ‘seeing is believing’ seems to be holding the ground more strongly than ever before. She said:-
"The family system is an important element and one of the main institutions of any society. Any variation in this system is going to directly affect a change in the social fabric of all the societies. On the other hand and at the same scale, it influences the development of the human beings and their personalities immediately and simultaneously.
"We are going through a transitional phase. Since 9/11, one can see a visible shift in the social values, as there is a constant thrust for a change in the old sense and sensibilities. No need to mention the forces behind this phenomenon! Look at the various ‘material’ developments around and our attachment to the superficialities, which are visible in all tiers of the society.
"There is a dire need for the analysis of the empirical realities with a strong will to take control of the personal and national biases. Our present social set-up is hugely influenced by the world system. One can see the unilateral force influencing not only the government rather individual’s life too. Due to this, now the outlook of the society has changed.
"Here one sees the society being controlled and regulated by unilateralism. In this context, the media has been playing an important role in promoting a new value system, which is not just changing rather transforming in a huge way. Now individuality is being promoted and made bigger, which in turn is adversely affecting the ‘nucleus’ of the family system obviously. Contrary to this, people led an essentially centrifugal life earlier. Now this is changing.
"A sociologist understands the society through Structural Functional Approach. To us, the very existence of a norm in any society or a system is because of its functional utility. This is applied every where and at every time. So in the present scenario, this openness and doing away with the much-trotted values is utility orientation. The thumb-rule is: What is essential for existence and easy to practise, do it.
"Remember! When any country or a nation rules the world, it tries to inculcate its values upon the rest of the world. Whether it were the Muslims of the 6th century or the present America, both powers followed the same principle. So the US is making all-out efforts to transmit its culture across its borders to all the countries. Look! This globalisation and the transition attached to it, has shown its effects on a country like China and it has also become part of it. Culturally, it is no more isolated in the comity of nations.
"In this thinning out of the joint family system, the second important factor is that of the individual needs and ever-shrinking sources of income in the face of tough competition in all areas of work and ever-increasing price tag put on the living. Now everyone must go for work, especially both husband and wife in order to sustain themselves and their immediate family.
"The exodus from rural to urban, which is never on the decline in Pakistan, is another substantial factor in the changing of the family system. Interestingly, men, who come to metropolises to study, never like to settle in their native towns and do jobs their fathers do. In the same vein, their parents rarely join them in the cities. It has given rise to small units, both in villages and cities.
"The joint family system hasn't broken down and it will never although roles of the component individuals will change. Like wife's side has totally transformed. Though role structures have altered, but a strong indicator of the family system being intact, is that the parents are still main decision-makers.
"On the other hand, the authoritarian dominance is a hurdle in the existence of any system. It will not remain the same for a quite long time, as the traditionalists perceive, who hold the values of ancestors and try to adapt themselves to the existent social norms. However, any drastic change is not that acceptable and will face a strong reaction. You cannot impose a specifically formatted cultural stamp on any nation. If a cultural change is not endorsed by the society, then there is always a strong protest, if not by the whole society, then at least by a section of it.
"Economic factor is of huge import in the context of the change in the family system. ‘Material’ is affecting our day-to-day living.
"We don't have indigenous role-models. That is why, we are always in one or another transitional stage all the time. Education can be the only stabilising agent though both internal and external factors will keep on affecting our psyche and social outlook." – Interview of FAUZIA SALEEM ALVI

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