Historically, certain cities rose to prominence over others of the same nation primarily for three reasons – 1) geographical size, 2) abundance of natural resources or proximity to trading routes and 3) because of their historical and cultural legacy. Thus there is some veracity in the author’s claim that cultural traditions are preserved in cities. However, it is equally true that some cities are predominantly economic and financial centers, and not the ideal lens with which to view the wont of a nation. While in the latter case it might appear that the author’s argument is weakened, it is my view that even these cities have a critical role to play in preservation of the ethos. At the same time the government cannot be absolved of its responsibility simply by concentrating on the major cities
It is true that the culture in major cities around the world has become variegated and can best be called cosmopolitan. However, the pride that the denizens of a nation have in their culture vouchsafes its continuity. World cities like Paris, New Delhi, Beijing are all examples of cities which despite external influence have a distinct cultural heritage which they are known for. These cities have always had a rich history which perhaps was the main reason of them rising to prominence. The influx of people from all parts of the country to these major cities also adds to the cultural Diaspora resulting in a kaleidoscopic effect for anyone wishing to get into the nuances. Maintaining these rich cultural databases requires money, and while there could be other sources as patrons, receipts from tourism – the primary source of funding would be the government.
While the mores and traditions are less diluted in smaller cities, they themselves are unable to attract patrons and the artisans are often seeing langushing. It is the marketing prowess, infrastructural development and facilities of the larger cities that help establish the country on a world stage. From the government’s point of view these are also sound financial investments to make as the returns are reflected in increased tourism and thriving local economy, adding to the nations GDP and HDI. This exponential income which is generated can then be redirected to smaller cities where the means of subsistence are fewer. Little wonder that culture has become one of the most potent marketing tools utilized by nations these days.
On the other hand, most major cities are already self reliant in terms of the resources at their disposal. They have a prolific economy and do not require government assistance except for some overlooked sectors. However the smaller cities relying primarily on local produce and consumption require funding for various activities. The threat of inadequate funds on cultural degradation is twofold – 1) in absence of a sustainable means of livelihood, artists move to more lucrative career options and 2) with the youth migrating to bigger cities for livelihood options, transfer of cultural heritage from one generation to another would be contained. It is also often seen that government funding are deployed into extravagant marketing activities in large cities, however a proportionate benefit to culture is not witnessed. E.g. Common wealth games – money allocated for extravagant opening and closing ceremonies as a gateway into India’s rich culture but little to no benefit was witnessed.
In summary, major cities if not natural cultural hubs, often act as the marketplace for culture and tradition and hence cannot be undermined and overlooked by the government. However in many cases the source of the country’s ethos is actually the rural cities and it would be essential to nurture the source for the stream to be long and mellifluous.