Friday, July 2, 2010

So, what is bad taste anyway?

   Two women at the party: One of them says, “Aww.. Look at his girlfriend; she makes me think of my grandmother”. The other one says. “Yes, you’re right. Your grandmother had the aura of a queen!”

   I remember the first time I made soup. When I tasted it, I almost felt like throwing up. I told my family that it was a disaster, so we’ll have soup another time. My mum tasted it, just to make sure it was bad enough to be thrown out. And, hello! what does she find? “It is great. Why did you even think it is bad?” And that was the first time I noticed this funny thing about ‘taste’. My whole family relished the soup and my sister totally loved it while I suffered alone.

   In fact, the reason the words ‘choice’, ‘taste’ and ‘preference’ exist at all is very simple- different people have different likes and dislikes. So, what is bad taste anyway? You will often hear women at weddings saying, “The bride doesn’t seem very sophisticated, I don’t like her choice of the dress”. For God’s sake, you don’t have to! I mean I want to hunt down the person who first used the phrase, ‘good taste’ or ‘bad taste’, whichever was said earlier and I would really like to know what his taste was like. Was it something everyone in the world would necessarily like?

   I have known this very well-read veteran biologist who knows all about genes, differences in human behavior, taste and preferences, the diversity of species and about the many ways in which our ecosystem depends on this, precisely this thing called diversity. I have also known him to criticize anyone, almost anyone who caught his attention for their bad taste! I wonder what his years of study have taught him. He, and for that matter most of us, have failed to grasp the one thing that makes this world so beautiful- diversity.

   We have these snobs trying to explain to us what good music really is. To me, it is something that pleases my senses. Say we have a child who is blind and is a beggar; a not-so-gorgeous woman gently strokes his head and gives him a coin (he can count the number of coins and all are assumed to carry the same value for logical simplicity) and another woman who is close to being a beauty queen rudely throws two coins at him. Who does he think is beautiful? The first one for sure, because all that he can perceive with his four senses is good. So, why do the percepts from our fifth sense (vision) alone have to carry so much meaning when we have four other ways of perceiving things around?

   We have different colours because different elements have different properties and when those basic elements combine they give rise to even more interesting colors. The reason why all this should bother me has something to do with the more far-reaching consequences of this. There is innovation because people’s tastes vary and evolve. The tiger likes the deer for a meal while the elephant prefers bananas, only because everyone and everything on this beautiful planet has a meaning, a reason to live, a role to play, all of them have to exist, in fact co-exist. We have people who like coffee and people who like vodka for the simple reason that they mean, not just choices, but livelihoods for many people. Had there been no Hindus, who would appreciate the work of sculptors and pay such huge prices for their work? Many of them would possibly die of hunger. God has made us this way. He wanted people to have different preferences.

   What might seem fun to wear- to me- maybe the biggest fashion crime ever for my sister. What I might love to eat may make her puke (it does, sometimes!). I hate pets and my best friend loves them- like literally, luvzzz them. Again I hate simulation games and he luvzzz them. But all this happens for a reason- co-existence! Game designers have to co-exist with fashion designers.

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