Benefits of Western Culture

By Tomazinho Cardozo

Today’s generation, particularly the youth, are all out to ape the Western culture. It has become a craze among the youth to have a lifestyle like that of Westerners.

No doubt that this is an impact of print and electronic media on our generation. The elders in the society state that our generation has become a slave of Western culture. Some of the orthodox minds go still further to stress that the Western culture takes our youth to a wrong destination and that the strange behaviour of our youth is due to the ill effects of Western culture.

There is no reason for our elders to accuse the Western culture for the ills in our society. Every culture has its positive as well as negative aspects. Our own Indian culture too has good and bad sides. Therefore whether it is Indian or Western culture, it is the duty of every individual to make ‘use’ of it and not to make ‘misuse’ of it. Today’s youth are misusing the Western culture because our elders, educationists and reformers have failed to make our children understand the importance of our Indian culture.

I do not agree with the opinion that the Western culture is ruining our youth. This is absurd. The Western culture, not only in our country but throughout the world, is responsible to a great extent for bringing about development and change on social, economic, educational, scientific, etc, fields thus helping humankind to move towards progress. If one glances into the past, we find numerous examples where Western cultural ethos has helped to remove superstitions, fallacies and disastrous acts from our own Indian culture. Some of the examples are:

In the past, the marriage ceremony used to take place in the temple. It was only a religious ceremony. It had no value as far as law is concerned. Due to this, many a time, women were at the receiving end mostly when the husband died and the question of right over the properties among the family members arose. The Portuguese in Goa and Britishers in the rest of India introduced ‘Registration of Civil Marriages’ and lawfully strengthened the institution of marriage. It provided security to women particularly to widows.

Indian culture encouraged child marriages. At the time of birth or during the childhood itself, the parents of children used to decide about their marriage. Even today this happens in some parts of our country. The boy or the girl had no option but to marry to the person chosen by the parents when they grow up. There was no opportunity for the boy or the girl to choose their own life-partners as per their wish. The British Government introduced a law banning child marriages in the country. Yet another evil from our tradition was removed.

When the husband dies, the widowed wife had to compulsorily immolate herself on the husband’s funeral pyre. It was called ‘Sati’. This was a most cruel act and nothing short of a murder. This act was against the norms of all cultures. The British government introduced an Act banning ‘Sati systems’ in the country and stopped the murders of innocent poor widows in the guise of ‘Sati’. It provided respect and security to all women in the country.

A married couple had to live together forever even if there was a conflict between the husband and the wife. Such situations arose because of illicit relationships, infidelity, childlessness, right over properties, etc. There were no legal provisions for the husband or wife to separate and live an independent life. The Western concept of ‘Divorce’ was introduced in the country thus giving an opportunity for the husbands and wives to separate legally and live independent and honourable lives.

Today we observe a number of ‘inter-religious’ and ‘inter-caste’ marriages in our society. This is becoming popular day by day in our country only because of the impact of the secular nature of the Western culture. This is also a big boost to our country’s vision of ‘unity in diversity’.

All the happenings stated above are the gifts of Western culture to our Indian culture. Western culture has not only removed many evils from our society but also made concerted efforts to bring in equality among all people of the country. This is because we have selected and owned certain Western cultural ethos which is beneficial to our social atmosphere. Therefore instead of saying that Western culture ruins our children it will be appropriate if we guide our younger generation with what to choose and what to discard from the Western culture. And this responsibility lies with the parents, teachers and elders in the society.

Therefore let us not blindly target the Western culture for all the evils that raise its ugly heads in our society. It is the people who have to accept or reject cultural aspects of any culture to be adapted to our way of life. Thus there is an urgent need to strengthen the foundation of values system in the lives of our younger generation so that they are capable of accepting the positive aspects and rejecting the negative aspects of any foreign culture. Hence let us not blame the Western culture for all the adverse happenings in our society. Let us not forget the immortal words of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. He said, "Let all door and windows of my house be open. Let the air of different cultures of the world freely move through my house. But let my feet be firmly rooted in my own soil because I do not wish to be blown off by that air."