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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 108 | March 1, 2009|


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Valentines Culture
Can we afford it?

Md. Anwarul Kabir

THERE are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine's Day. However, the most popular story on the origin of Valentines Day comes from the time of the Roman Empire, under the rule of Emperor Claudius II. Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular military campaigns. Claudius the Cruel, as he was known at the time, was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that Roman men did not want to leave their loves or families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.

During this time a Christian priest named Valentine came to defend love in the empire. Valentine began to secretly marry couples despite the emperor's orders. When Emperor Claudius was informed of these ceremonies, Valentine was sent to prison where he remained until his death on February 14 in the year 270. Since then, in order to pay respect to St. Valentine, some parts of Europe have been observing February 14 as Valentines Day.

However, wide scale observation of this day in Europe and USA with festive mood had been traced in 19thh century. Later due to globalisation, since the last half of the 20th century, across the globe Valentines Day has been playing an important role in stimulating the mind of young generations of almost all societies. In Bangladesh, the veteran journalist Shafique Rehman, in early 90s of the last century took first initiative to introduce Valentines Day to the young generation of the country. In fact he has popularised this special day through his famous weekly magazine Jai Jai Din (now defunct). Since then, other media (both electronic and printing) of the country have been working for instilling the 'spirit' of Valentines Day into the psyche of the young generation. The essence of Valentines Day lies in preservation of marriage institutes as we have noted in its origin. The rationales behind initiating marriage institute are manifold and some are identified as: a) to regulate the sexual practice b) to provide appropriate identity to the offspring c) to fulfil the psychological needs of individual (by nature people cannot stay on his own and h/she always looks for company) d) to inherit the properties following the family tree. e) to preserve the traditional society with families as fundamental building blocks.

It may be noted that in all societies, the marriage institute has its firm footings in religious ethos. In western countries, the marriage institute has already been collapsed in massive scale perhaps due to decay of religious values along with other economic reasons. However, many researches on western society on this issue have revealed that due to absence of sound marriage institute, individuals and the society as a whole are suffering from different sort of adverse consequences. At present no or fragile marriage institutions fail to create persistent family unit in the western society. This explains the phenomenon of increase of mentally disordered adults and psychologically handicapped children at alarming rate in that society. Statistics suggest over the year due to collapse of marriage institutes, the number of single mothers in the west has increased dramatically. This, in turn, has created imbalanced social structure. Observing this turmoil situation even at the state level, the policy makers of those societies have adopted different policies in line of the slogan, “Back to the basic” with a view to recreating the lost family values.

Essentially Valentines Day could have played a significant role in preserving marriage institutes in western societies. But unfortunately, in practice, people there are celebrating Valentines Day being deviated from its actual spirit. The western societies have redefined Valentines Day in their own way. To an average young member of the western society Valentines Day signifies a special day for the couple who may or may not have any commitment for marriage. Exchanging gifts, eating in restaurants, going out, enjoying free sex (without any marital bondage) are the salient features of valentine couples. In a nutshell, at present the way of celebrating the Valentines Day the western societies follow encourages setting up a shallow short term relationship between two individuals of a couple.

Valentines Day (including other special days) can be viewed as bi-product of consumerisms. In the developed countries markets promote the observation of special days for its own interest and Valentines Day is no exception. Even in our country to attract the clients from the new generation, some mobile phone operators are promoting valentines culture by introducing special offer. Unfortunately, here in Bangladesh, many members from the new generation, specifically those from the upper and middle classes have embraced valentine culture imitating the western society without realizing the possible adverse implications of it on our society. Blind imitation of this distorted cultural aspect of the west without assimilating in our context will jeopardise our future course of the society. Our marriage institutes, brewed out of our own cultural and religious ethos, have been nurturing our long cherished family values. So, we should give a serious thought on the long term implication of intrusion of valentine culture in our socio-cultural fabrics. After all we don't want to see the collapse of the marriage institution in our society as it is in the west. So, sociologists, policy makers and above all the media concern should come forward and ask their consciences whether we should promote the intrusion of this alien culture to our own cultural arena or not.. We need to ask ourselves, “Can we afford the valentine culture?’

Md. Anwarul Kabir teaches Computer Science at AIUB. He can be reached at kabir@aiub.edu

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