The day before yesterday I heard a lecture from my friend about why he despises those who criticise India for embracing the western culture. According to him, if something is better in another culture, why not accept it into our own culture and make it our own.
While I have no sympathies for the cultural fundamentalists, I don’t subscribe to my friend’s perspective as it is either. That probably doesn’t mark me as a liberal.
The thing is, nobody is really embracing the western culture because it is better (do excuse the generalisation, I am speaking for the masses). They do it because everyone is looking at those higher in the socioeconomic ladder and trying to imitate them. Various marginal process do exist which do not follow this pattern, but as I said, they are marginal, having originated mostly from compulsive nonconformists.
It’s like the defenders of Islam trying to project Islam as a civil and rational/decent religion by dissecting The Qur’an and other Islamic literatures. The point is, everything can be made to look good on paper; it is how a religion is actually practised that counts.
I am not saying Islam is all bad. I have quite a few Muslim friends myself, and they are terrific human beings. I think the Islamic values they were brought upon had as much to do as their upper middle class background to make them what they are, but I am not looking at them either as counter examples or exceptions. I don’t see them when I am looking at the masses.
Ending our digression, we come back to our mindless obsession for the west. For the youth, a vast majority of which comes from the middle class, defining their individuality amounts to classifying themselves according to the entertainment products they consume, and where else to turn but the west for the best?
We imitate the west because we see it as the stronger than ourselves, because of its economic and scientific progress. Adopting the nuisances of western manners and lifestyle, however, won’t make us as strong as they are. We can never inherit their ideas by imitating them. We have to earn it ourselves.
I am reminded of what the protagonist of R N Tagore‘s Patro O Patri had to contemplate. He refuses to marry the doll whose whole life orbits around Hindu religious rituals. Consequently he leaves home after a heated argument with his father, who pronounces that blind faith is better than intelligence.
He goes out into the world and makes money and a name for himself. The doors to the society of urban high class ladies, that had once seemed inapproachable, now open up to him. He is soon disillusioned, however. Those sophisticated high class ladies turn out to be mere westernised versions of the Hindu doll, orbiting their own western versions of the centre of the world. If the Hindu kid couldn’t live with the slightest slip in the details of her rituals, these other kids couldn’t forgive a mistake in dinner table etiquette either. They had merely substituted the rituals with table manners.
In the end, I guess I just don’t care. The public is dumb. Let them do whatever they want to do to occupy their time. We could fuss over it if we wanted, particularly if somebody paid for it, but all of it is a sheer waste of of time, just like this post. It all boils down to the lower intelligence of the masses, and there is nothing we can do about it but wait for it to grow up!