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Greenlandic anorak not hoodie: What we can learn from Kielsen about preserving cultural heritage

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By Ishan Kukreti

Culture is the bedrock of human psychological makeup. Apart from forming attitudes, beliefs and even preferences, culture gives a person an identity, a sense of belonging. Humans as social beings have culture as their default settings as they explore the world and try to make sense of it.

One of the biggest price paid for globalization, perhaps bigger even than the financial price, is the erosion of culture and a sense of inferiority. This issue has been raised time and again with the advent of globalization and opening up of economies and has been best surmised by MacBride report of UNESCO, called Many Voices, One World.

The problem of cultural erosion is global. The world is suffering from it. Recently when Greenland’s Prime Minister Kim Kielsen, attended a landmark ceremony in Brussels wearing the nation’s traditional outfit, the Greenlandic anorak, many thought that he was dressed in a ‘hoodie’ and many took offence. Many even poked fun at the wardrobe disaster of Prime Minister. In India, wearing a ‘Kurta’ undoubtedly makes one a ‘Revolutionary’ ‘ Poet’ ‘Politician’ or all.

The shift in people’s preferences is not just a social phenomenon. It has deep economic reverberations too. The indigenous industries not only suffer because of this but are trapped in a hopeless struggle to beat the west ( read US) at its own game. They face the choice between churning out cheap rip-offs of western products or shutting shop.

An aping of the foreign culture has strong implications for the man on  people too. For example, the rootless, clueless protagonists of the Indian authors abroad like Jhumpa Lahiri are not just figments of their creator’s imagination but as flesh and bone as the Tuesday-Thursday vegetarian buffs of Hollywood and McDonald’s.

The amount of western culture an average urban Indian young adult consumes in the form of movies, clothes, literature, even food is more than the amount ever consumed by his/her predecessors. Given the situation, it is no surprise that today’s India is divided right in two. One ready to bust out of the closet, kissing, smooching, merry making on the roads and the other ready to beat them back into the very closets they came out from, invoking gods of various attributes.

Blindly aping things has never been the way to develop or self actualize. Global exchange of ideas is a mutual process. As the French philosopher, Albert Camus has said, “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” the world today needs to understand cooperation.

As long as the global village has just one western voice, there will not be equality and prosperity for all. The two hemispheres of the planet have to work in collaboration like the two hemispheres of the brain to keep the body of humanity working just fine.

 

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