Aping the West

DIVERSITY, be it cultural, linguistic or geographical is to be deemed as a sign of beauty and exuberance in the plan of creation, to be celebrated and to be seen as a testimony to the transcendent source from which it emerges. Each culture, civilization, society is a closet unto itself with aesthetic and ethical merits of its own. But the modern world, living under western dominance and celebrating the values of the Euro-centrism has come to demean and diminish the beauty, glory and the merit of cultures and civilizations which are not Western or which do not tailor themselves to the size of the Western cloth.

In the wake of post colonialism, a subtle and tenacious form of cultural imperialism has come to survive in the erstwhile European colonies and the natives have more and more preferred shunning their own culture and legacy in favour of borrowed Western and European modes of thought and life, without giving a slightest thought to the consequences of this aping attitude and without taking into account the richness, intricacy and subtlety of indigenous cultural matrices.

The white man’s supremacy has been etched so deeply into our thoughts and acts that, as most of the thinkers say, civilization has come to be synonymic the West and the rest of the world is imagined such as if it has no cultural and civilisational merit. This is not withstanding the fact that recent and impartial studies show that the West, in its development, has relied heavily on the East and what modern world defines as progressive and emancipated West owes much to the people it now deems as barbarians and wanting in  civilizing crusade.

There is certain confusion, which if left unmet will lead us nowhere in this debate of Westernization of Eastern cultures. Muhammad Iqbal, the poet philosopher of the East who had a firsthand experience of living in the West and experiencing all that it has to offer in full diversity forewarned his Eastern fellowmen that the glory of the West is to be traced not it its music and nudity, but the commitment to learning a vow to conquer the forces of nature. He wanted his countrymen to imbibe this western spirit of adventure, the spirit that cleaved the heart of atom and conquered the space. In the East and more so in our Kashmiri context, people are overawed by the halo surrounding the Western civilisation and are mistaken to believe that in mimicking the Western style of dressing and dining, we might equal them in their scientific, academic and literary achievements. No worse misunderstanding or hallucination can be thought of and our we needed to understand – the sooner the better that if we really want to ape West in its progress, then it has to be attained by following its scientific spirit, meritocracy, democratic values and the values of soul and mind which are really worth imitation and may lead to the real emancipation and enlightenment.

There is another and more pervasive tendency whereby one, driven by the sense of inferiority complex, is drawn to the point where his hatred for his own culture and tradition develops into alienation. Seeing the scientific and technological ascent of the West, one is, at times, led into the belief that we are culturally and traditionally as much backward with respect to the West as much we are in matters of science and technology.

This false consciousness leads one to give up his inherited values, mores, paradigms and perspectives on life and culture and he surrenders sheepishly to all alien influences. Let it also be reiterated that cultures and civilizations have always learnt and imbibed from one another and there is nothing to go against it or to reject this tendency wholesale.

The civilisational gradient, to quote M.M Sharif, has decided the direction in which ideas and ideals flow from one civilization to the other. But historically, this learning and imbibing has always been in matters deemed positive and fruitful.

When nations and cultures copied other people blindly, not were they only scolded by contemporary seers, but this blind aping hastened their decline and evaporated their traces from the world. Nobody condemns, nor one should, the absorption of Western and modern values into our vernacular fabric, but in this process, an alarm needs to be raised whenever the fabric is itself in danger.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • The author is a Srinagar based columnist 

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Amir Suhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist

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