Sunday, 20 December 2015

Westernisation?

With the advent of technology people have access to all know about every type of culture. In my country of residence, India, westernisation is always a very popular debate as to how, we're forgetting our culture, our values and imitating the west in every aspect of life. I don't completely disagree with this view, considering we do have a lot of circumstances where we've adopted a lot of practices of theirs, some of them without even knowing as to why.

However, my problem is never with the moderates, but those who go to the extreme levels of patriotism, blaming every single problem of country to westernisation, be it position of women in the society, crimes, alcoholism (well, it has existed from the time of Indus valley civilisation), unemployment, food habits, poor quality of graduates, or some even go to the extent of saying that if we stick to our own culture, we need not face all these problems.

So, I come to the question - what is culture? I'd take the exact definition from Oxford dictionary, like I've been doing in my previous posts, for this purpose:

'The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society'

As seen above, these are mere customs and ideas and social behaviour changes with time. During the current information age, it is senseless to expect somebody to adopt a practice without being asked as to 'why?' and the mere reason that it was followed by the forefathers no longer holds good with most people today, for instance, I have dismissed so many practices of the family simply because I found no logic in it or because the same is no longer relevant today, considering the technology changes and changes on account of zeitgeist. My approach towards culture and ethics have always been that I don't care about its place of origin, it is only a question of whether it is right or wrong or whether it is ideal or not and if the answers to these questions is yes, I incorporate it no matter what.

I've been often accused of being one of those highly westernised and someone who has forgotten the culture (even though those who accuse me of the same, a significant majority of them haven't done half the reading I've done to arrive at my conclusions); for the simple reasons being - the English language, attire, the books I read, food habits, my atheism, etc but then, for me individually, these are minor issues and I'd handle these minor issues in this post by keeping myself as the example.

English - I agree, I do speak English as my first language, think in English, read books only in English but then, that is how the circumstances are and I have no hesitation in admitting the same. India, being a country so diverse needs a language to connect them all and English is what is providing this connection. Personally, I've lived in almost five different places in the country each of them being culturally and linguistically different and the only language that connected us all was English which meant, learning English is not exactly an option. Moreover, embracing English is not just an Indian trend, more and more countries are embracing the language to ensure the objective of achieving the global village (be it Azerbaijan or Slovakia, neither being British colonies). And for everyone's general information, I can communicate very fluently in two other Indian languages, being Tamil and Hindi but I agree to the extent that in either of these languages, I can't do literary reading and to be very honest, I have never had the need to and people learn only on a need basis.

Attire - I agree with this point that there are people who blindly copy the west in this aspect with schools imposing ties which are totally unnecessary but then beyond a point, clothing is purely a personal choice, personally, I find myself most comfortable in a western casual attire than the Indian counterpart and not because I wish to copy the west; and that doesn't make me 'anti national' in anyway. It is ultimately a matter of personal choices and at present, it so happens that many have views similar to mine.

Food habits - Brits love Indian curry, Indians love European food, people love to try what is not ordinary to them and this is just a global phenomenon and I don't understand the hue and cry over it. The idea that western food is the reason for obesity is a reasoning I find to be very childish and just a means to pass the blame; all cuisines have healthy food and junk food (including the Indian cuisine, several Indian fast food); if any, what needs to change is people's habit as such and blaming westernisation for that is nothing but escapism.

Religion - Another popular accusation - people are looking towards the west and forgetting their religion; well, I'm accused of this too, because I quit religion, in fact, at a very young age, but at that age, I wasn't exposed to too much western idea either, it was just that I didn't get satisfying answers to questions raised out of my inherent scepticism and a lot of people are in a similar position as to mine and it is really unfair to blame it on westernisation. In fact, I actually don't see what is the harm in people quitting religion, after all it is personal choice, the ideology that you choose, nobody bats an eye about people becoming communists or leaving the ideology, I fail to understand why this is an issue.

Moreover, I very often find historic references or even pre historic references citing how liberal the Indian culture was and the current state of affairs is solely on account of western affairs. I shall not go into how things were in the historical context but then, I am someone who prefers to live in the real world and in this real world, if the state of affairs with regard to something is better in West, rather than comparing the situation to be better than what it is in Saudi Arabia or North Korea, it is better to embrace the policy or at least, demonstrate how it was better in ancient India and embrace the same but ultimately don't be averse to change citing cultural reasons. The current trend of blaming westernisation is a mere escape route for all the wrongs in the society by those who don't want to take any corrective action. 

The point I am coming to is the point that all these choices that I've taken is a personal choice and none of them had anything to do with trying to imitate the west because I felt they were superior (a feeling which I shall never have). Culture is not proven theory like science that it can't change with time and it is better we embrace changes by taking the best across all irrespective of the origin. The person who I am today is a mixture of my Indian upbringing and an influence of several other cultures across the world based on whatever I've read, and from the people whom I have met and I shall continue to update myself about cultures across the world for I am a citizen of the world, and that shall be my primary identity. Let us stop finding petty excuses for our problems, look at more serious issues and develop ourselves and the society for a better tomorrow.

Have a nice day,
Andy

PS: Don't target me for my 'western' diminutive

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Gory Glory?

From a very young age, we’ve been indoctrinated into developing patriotic feelings towards the country where you’re born and are always told that ‘One day, you must make your country feel proud about you’. Well, fair enough, I’m not opposed to that in principle, either but then, how should we achieve it?

I don’t know how it became that way, but then, only people belonging to two lines of profession are considered as those who bring glory, one being sports and the other being the armed forces. A victory in sport makes the whole country gaga; ‘Xyz does the country proud’ would be the repetitive headline across papers for the next few days. While I understand that it is a great personal achievement, I fail to understand as to why people go around saying ‘I’m proud of my country as I hail from the same country as Xyz’. If you take inspiration from Xyz, use the resources provided by the country which Xyz could exploit and achieve the success and manage to replicate the same or go a step further, I’d agree with the pride but mere pride on account of sharing a passport, I find it to be utterly pointless.

The second point I am coming to is – who exactly brings glory to the country? I’m not denying that soldiers and sportspersons don’t bring glory to the country but the idea that I reject is that these are these are the only two professions that does bring glory to the country. In my opinion, what really drives a country is a group of committed individuals who play their part with absolute dedication in sincerity, starting from the clerk working in the office of the head of state till the head of state.

We glorify sport a lot, let us go to the most commercial sports which are usually played by a team and let me take the example of the world’s most widely watched sport – football; there are varied roles; the role of a goalkeeper or a defender seems lousy from afar or at least, not glamorous enough but if they don’t perform, the team is going to get screwed and same with holding midfielders and central midfielders. Akin to the real world where we seem to glorify only soldiers and sportspersons as bringing glory to the team, the status as legends go only to those who get all the glory, usually the forwards and the inside forwards but then, the one who win is the complete team, Paolo Rossi wouldn’t have got the glory if not for Claudio Gentile and Dino Zoff.

The whole point that I am asserting is, the football team example could even be taken to a macro level, and the politics of running a country is also a team game which has roles much more than the eleven roles in a football match and each role is important to steer the country forward and yes, the ones who bring the country forward ultimately are every member of the populace, starting from the all and sundry till the one who performs the role of getting all the glory. However, the attitude right now seems to be like, how in football, it is deemed as sacrilege if you say anything against Ronaldo or Messi, similarly, you can’t say anything against those who’ve been glorified, even constructive criticism is condemned. After all, a successful economy is the one where most individuals (all is practically impossible and utopian) perform their role to precision, similar to a team in a sport.

The point I am trying to make is to not stop glorifying those who’re into the aforementioned activities but then rather answer the question that I initially asked as to how you make your feel country proud about you; the country has every reason to feel proud about you so long as you play your part properly, you get the share of the glory too. After all, once a team wins the world cup, every member of the squad gets the medal and similarly, every person who has elevated the country to the position can feel they’ve done the country proud and need not be envious about those who are gifted enough to bear the flag.


Have a nice day,
Andy

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Playing right into their hands?

Would the flag continue to wave at Brussels for long?



Disclaimer: I haven't had the time to read too deep into the subject, and the post is solely based on whatever I've casually read till date, I shall post a more detailed article on the subject when the reality is nearer.

I recently read an article which said that for the first time, a majority of the British people favoured an exit from the European Union, in the upcoming referendum following David Cameron's promise if re-elected to power. The immediate cause stated for the change of mind amongst the public was the tragedy that took place in Paris last month and that is what made me confused, as to whether we're giving in to what the perpetrators of the attacks wanted - a weaker UK, a weaker Europe.

The present decade, post the EU crisis has seen a rise in support for the Eurosceptics, especially the UKIP, who despite managing to win just one seat, is in fact the third largest party in the UK by vote share whose sole ideology is an immediate exit from the EU. Post the release of the results of this survey, Nigel Farage might have been celebrating privately but then - are we, inadvertently giving in to the plot of the perpetrators?

Brexit is not a new subject and has always been a discussion where the trends have been similar to the Scottish Independence Referendum where a silent majority opposed the idea but the loud minority were a significant number (refer to my earlier post on Noise or Voice) and all that you need to swing it in favour of the loud significant minority is ONE event and that is exactly what the perpetrators of the Paris attacks perhaps intended - rattle Europe, cause fear and distrust amongst the member nations and the last of it, provide a fillip to the Brexit movement ultimately weakening the Union.

Britain is isolated within Europe and historically, they could use this isolation to their advantage by controlling the seas but in the present era, it is doubtful whether that can still work, but that apart, there are a lot of ramifications on a Brexit - for starters, a significant drop in GDP upto 3% is estimated owing to a Brexit and I am not going to dwell on this too much as the exact figures are always under dispute. As Obama said earlier during a Brexit debate, the special relationship with a strong UK in a very strong Europe and not otherwise and hence, the special relationship with the US is under threat with a Brexit in prospect. Moreover, from what I understand, it could also threaten London's position as Europe's financial centre, with the speculation that many companies possibly moving to other locations within Europe and also, there is also the question of the relationship with the Netherlands, Malta and Cyprus who have significant trade interests in the UK.

But before I go too much into the isolation part of it - there are very little answers to the question from the Eurosceptics as to what would happen post Brexit, if it were to happen, except the very loose suggestion from Nigel Farage that he'd increase cooperation with the non-contiguous Commonwealth. The question to whether this would just be an exit from the EU or whether this would imply an exit from the EEA as well and the Council of Europe / the customs union are questions that don't have very precise answers - would UK continue to be a de facto member akin to Switzerland and Norway or are they going to isolate themselves totally? If UK is going to stay in the EEA, I guess Brexit is a mere symbolism where there would be no real result except that probably, Farage would have moved a step closer to No. 10. Moreover, what about the other complications - the UK have themselves aligned to the Maastricht Treaty in every way possible and if the government wants to repeal that, how long would such legislations take, driving the very question on when a real Brexit can practically happen? I wouldn't even get into the debate as to which side should Cameron be on, for the campaign as, members of his party have been on either sides and if an exit does happen, what would a subsequent Labour government which is pro Union do post being elected to power, if it happens?

Let me not get too much into technical details for two reasons - one; whatever I know is only out of what I have read casually from the papers that I get in a distant land and two; the technical aspects are certainly not the core discussion at Harrods or Hyde Park, it'd be all about how EU is the reason for the Paris attack and how moving out of it would secure Britain from all possible attacks. There is also the popular sentiment that the Romanians and the Bulgarians would stop grabbing British jobs and the dole.

But then, with a Brexit - we're just going to show that we've just made ourselves vulnerable, there would obviously be chaos for a while when one EU 3 member leaves the union and of course, this is exactly the opportunity that the perpetrators are probably looking for and we've played right into their hands, by swinging in favour of the result they want which is something that we should avoid at all costs.

This is a time when Europe ought to be together, the reason why Paris could get back strongly was not in spite of the Union but because of the Union (I know that this statement is a rip off from Gordon Brown), with the cooperation from Belgium, Greece and other member states alike and the enemy is common, even for Britain and it is the perpetrators of the Paris attack and not the European Union. This is a time where unity is required, more than ever, not just in Europe but throughout the world and more countries need to come together than break away. May there be success against the perpetrators of the Paris attacks and may the success of a joint European operation bring kill the Eurosceptic sentiment.

Long live Europe!

Have a nice day,
Andy