Western Culture Will End The Indian Right

Gori Chamdi’ Effect, translation: ‘romanticization of white people’. This term gets thrown around a lot whenever the impact of cultural globalization and Anglicization is discussed.

It isn’t altogether surprising; 250 years of British Raj (Rule) tend to have that effect. It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that Indians tend to emulate ‘The West’. Our psyche has been perverted to consider ‘westerners’ God’s gift to the Earth.

This doesn’t just stop magically stop on August 15th, 1947; the systems in place are all designed by Europeans. The Indian concept of ‘Gurukul’ is nowhere to be seen; thrown out in favor of European education. Schools require students to wear uniforms in keeping with British sensibilities; shirts and shorts.

The young men and women who are products of these institutions much favor suits to ‘Kurtas’.

I don’t begrudge them this; indeed I’m one of their number (I’d much rather watch Avengers: Endgame, than the Ramayana re-run). The cultural aspect has more, I suspect, to do with increasing globalization (Thank you, internet.) and the reality that western culture offers the one thing we want: freedom.

If you have access to all the world’s cultures and traditions at the push of a button, needless to say; you’ll have an opinion as to which is best. When the overwhelming desire is freedom (something that India fails to provide); to do, say and be whatever and whoever you want, is it really so surprising we gravitate towards America?

Andrew Breitbart, an American political pundit, once said, “Politics is downstream from culture.” True, but what he didn’t consider, was that American culture is in no way limited to America. Go for a walk in a playground in India; you’ll hear kids talking about Eminem and Captain America.

What the Indian right seems to be willfully ignorant of is that an Indian can watch the same movies and television shows, read the same books, listen to the same songs, and talk about the same things, as an American.  

American politics is decidedly determined by American culture, but the culture is no longer American; it’s global.

And while this trend is currently limited to a statistically small, English speaking and economically privileged elite, that doesn’t mean it won’t grow, and have long term electoral impact. Globalization, increased access to technology, and English education are going to have their way.

Shashi Tharoor is a perfect example; the man is immensely popular amongst millennials.

He’s extremely fluent in English (let’s not get started on that perfect accent of his), he possesses social media savvy and understands millennial culture. He’s like us–Who cares what subsidies he wants or doesn’t want?

Some proportion of those supporters could probably talk at length about his policy positions. The vast majority though, couldn’t. They don’t favor him because of some policy minutiae; they like him because he’s relatable.

Our polity is increasingly following an American model; the popular culture will continue to align with the left (As evidenced by the reaction of Bollywood’s young cohort to the Anti-CAA protests), and the Hindu hegemony will grow increasingly unpopular with the youth.

Admittedly, the changes required for this transformation are in their infancy; but they are here, and they’re not leaving anytime soon.  

The Indian political tradition is ripe for such change–a left-liberal party (Congress and The Democratic Party), and a conservative nationalist party (BJP and The Republican Party)–the shift of political paradigm will be swift and unstoppable.

Culture is the engine that drives politics. The cultural synthesis of young India is mostly Anglo-American. Lament this all you want, howl at the moon if you so please—it won’t do you any good.

When I’m done bingeing Netflix and walk into the living room only to suffer my senses being assaulted with news of cow vigilantism or anti-Muslim violence (oxymoronic, but you get the point), it isn’t political thought that drives my anger.

I’m not outraged at the affront to separation of Church and State that banning cow slaughter so obviously is. I’m not outraged that the pluralistic ideals of democracy are undermined by religious bigotry. I’m outraged because of my cultural sensibilities.  That culture is deeply enmeshed in liberalism, and a laissez-faire worldview. That culture considers freedom paramount.

That culture is better.

None of this is to say that we should do away with all Indian culture; throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. It’ll come down to the difference between what societal judgment finds good, and what it won’t. It’ll come down to the difference between nationalism and patriotism; my country always, or my country when it’s right.

My country is right many times. My country gave the world the number ‘zero’. My country also suffers from extreme poverty, a stultifying education system, a non-existent healthcare infrastructure, religious bigotry, fascistic silencing of dissent.

‘Gori Chamdi’ Effect is certainly a real thing. The systemic devaluation of Indian culture and simultaneous placing on a pedestal of western culture by a racist British Raj is also a reality. But an out-of-hand dismissal of any and every attempt to emulate the West serves only as a cudgel to silence any criticism of India, and conflate real solutions to real problems with anti-Indian sentiment.

It is a smear, nothing more. I can be a patriot and find my country wanting in certain areas; many areas in fact.

My country must improve. My country can, and will improve.

But it won’t be politics that causes that improvement. It will be the culture.

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