Popular culture and the human condition

Arvind Iyer has a wonderful post at Nirmukta arguing that tales of shared ancestry or the threat of a common enemy are not the only way to unite people around a cause. Popular culture can also do that.

There was this Japanese tv series in the early ’90s, Oshin, which is affectionately remembered by people all over Asia.

What makes people even of warring nations forget their differences while watching this show, is not just a single dialogue like the impassioned imploring of the conscientious army deserter Shunsaku Anchan2a that “War is not the answer” to resolve differences. The forgetting of differences is thanks to some reminders which suffuse this show’s every episode in both their everyday settings and their unsettling moments, reminders of the essential sameness of the human condition regardless of borders.  This cultural product which people of a divided world together recall with fondness, is an unsung triumph of secular humanism in its own right. This series can be thought of as a resource for the secular humanist project of cultivating ‘educated feeling’3 and complementing Reason with Compassion.

Like the last book of The Iliad, or The Winter’s Tale. The example that occurred to me when Arvind alerted me to the post was Northern Exposure. There are more. You got any?


  1. Beatrice says

    I loved Northern Exposure! It was very popular here.

    Hm, maybe The Good Soldier Švejk (link), at least for Europe.
    (despite being about war, I don’t think it goes under “threat of a common enemy” category. It’s a parody, decidedly anti-war)

  2. Michelle says

    We had Oshin in Australia too! It was so well loved that people used to beg SBS (our national multicultural broadcaster) to play it over and over.

  3. asquith says

    Unless “The Ledge” counts I don’t know, but I must say that’s a superb post. I am going to send it to all concerned.

  4. says

    Back in the 90’s when I was really into Anime as a hobby, back when it was actually very difficult to acquire, one of the motto’s of the big anime conventions was “Peace through shared popular culture.”

    I’ve always thought that was an awesome sentiment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *