Thursday, 8 December 2005

On Culture and Liberalism. Part 1

This is a world in which geographical distances are fast being reduced and a world which is becoming 'smaller' in a very real way. It is remarkable that this process has not - in general - made different cultures and races more acceptable to more people. On the contrary, it has resulted in more people being insecure about their own identities because of the unexpected proximity to a large number of others. Exposure has resulted in increased paranoia rather than increased open mindedness and acceptance. This is a strange, unfortunate and unexpected phenomenon the causes of which I will try to explore in this article.

The crux of the matter lies in the subtle but powerful distortion that has crept into the modern left liberal definition of the term 'open minded' . It has come to mean not just that one accepts and appreciates other cultures and civilizations but also that one must suppress one's own culture and civilization in order that one might not inadvertently 'offend' others or make them uncomfortable. Once one has accepted this, it is not a very long distance to "since its difficult for everyone to be comfortable with everyone else's cultural identities, everyone must suppress their own identities so that everyone is comfortable."

It sounds perfectly preposterous when stated that way, but it is what the current definitions of 'equality under law', 'open ness' and terms like 'the global village' etc imply . It is only to be expected, under such circumstances that there will be an opposite reaction from conservative religion with sees in these ideas a possible erosion of its power and field of influence. The insecurity naturally felt by human beings towards anything new is definitely heightened and accentuated by this quite senseless idea that being open minded implies being able and willing to hide one's identity. The idea, as one can immediately perceive, is quite absurd. If one enforces - through deciding what is 'politically correct' and what is not - a degree of uniformity among the public, that does not make them more open minded, it merely removes the need to be open minded.

These ideas have been taken to an extreme by the communist philosophy which denies and seeks to suppress (note the inherent paradox there, Communism is littered with them) any and every expression of individuality. Much of liberal philosophy has is roots in or has developed parallel to and has had close links with communist and socialist thought. A lot of the most disgusting tenets of communism are extreme extensions of ideas that are commonly considered 'progressive' and liberal.

A reasonable and possibly more acceptable definition of a healthy liberal or open minded society would be "A society whose members can accept and appreciate without prejudice people who are different culturally and racially from themselves, and do not feel the need to modify their own behaviour in order to appease anyone else."
The last clause helps allay any fears that conservatives within the society might have about interaction with aliens, and thus in effect, furthers the cause of diversity and liberalism not by suppression but by consolidation and strengthening of indigenous culture. Also note that 'assimilate' does not imply (as it seems to do in modern terminology. A melting pot of cultures is where everyone loses their cultural identity !) that the newcomers mix and 'fit in' culturally with the existing populace, rather it implies that they are integrated into the socioeconomic as well as political fabric of society without having to modify their behavior significantly. This is possibly what the definition was, and doubtless formally still is to many people, but it has been modified in a very fundamental and powerful yet subtle and hence more dangerous way by distortions and mutations caused by extreme left philosophy and ideas.

I have in essence implied that liberal thought, through the corruption that it underwent and the disfigured form in which it exists today has contributed heavily to the rise of religious and cultural extremism all over the world. Whenever a way of life is threatened or is perceived to be threatened, the people who follow it will naturally stick to it more than ever, view outsiders with suspicion and any suggestion of change with hostility.

Not all of what is said above applies as it is to India. In India there are further complications and nuances involved in the evolution of 'secular' thought (its a word that has completely lost its original and intended(?) meaning in our country). I will deal with the Indian scene in the next post, and maybe further develop ideas expressed in a slightly unorganized manner in this post.


Kelvin said...

Yes, the world is getting smaller. I have dropped in, all the way from down under in New Zealand. There will always be "divisions" within the world, no matter how small it gets. I always say "There are no strangers in the world, only friends you haven't met

Anonymous said...

granted, most of what you say makes sense, but sometimes it just isnt feasible. Society today demands compromise sometimes sacrifice even, the extent is all we get to decide . I'd give "marriage" as an example but why open another can of worms.
maybe some other time