Western civilization is widely considered the pinnacle of human achievement and thought in today’s world. The West claims to be the custodian of human knowledge and the guardian of ideals like liberty, equality and democracy.
But beneath the veneer of modern refinement lurks a vastly different picture. How the cream of Western society views itself and other people across the world, tells us a lot about the hollowness of these Western claims to cultural & intellectual superiority.
Jennifer Lawrence, the American actress who starred in the hit Hollywood masala film ‘Hunger Games’, recently made some controversial remarks regarding sacred rocks in Hawaii, on a British talk show ‘The Graham Norton Show’ broadcast on BBC –
Jennifer Lawrence proudly disrespecting sacred culture pic.twitter.com/AtTmSiK9Kg
— NANA JIBRIL ? (@girlswithtoys) December 9, 2016
“There were … sacred … rocks — I dunno, they were ancestors, who knows — they were sacred,” said Lawrence. “And you’re not supposed to sit on them, because you’re not supposed to expose your genitalia to them.”
She went on to talk about how she used the rocks for ‘butt-scratching’. The chat show host, other guests and audience are in peals of laughter as she describes how she wedged loose one such sacred rock while using it for ‘butt-scratching’.
Not only does this actress disrespect Hawaiian "pagan" culture – what is shocking is how the others cheer & the crowd claps. Pathetic https://t.co/UHmq993PKJ
— Sanjeev Sanyal (@sanjeevsanyal) December 11, 2016
After facing a lot of flak on social media, Lawrence has come out and apologized ‘if I offended anyone’. Incidentally, she had narrated the same story in 2013 as well.
But Lawrence alone is not to blame here – she is just the symptom of a deeper malaise that afflict Western society – the notion that the West is somehow inherently superior to other beliefs and cultures across the world is deeply ingrained in the Western psyche.
If one observes Western movies, TV shows, cartoons and different forms of pop culture, one will observe a thinly-veiled contempt for ‘pagan’ (non-Christian) practises & beliefs such as idol worship, sacredness of earth and nature, meditation etc. Fellow Abrahamics like Muslims and Jews are accorded slightly more respect in the popular Western imagination, as they are considered to be followers of a ‘proper’ religion i.e religions with a prophet and one central book.
The West is yet to properly acknowledge and atone for their genocide and cultural annihilation of entire civilizations and cultures like the Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, Native Americans and indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, Fiji etc.
Pagan/idol worship basically everythn othr than abrahamic traditns ridiculed…mocked.That's their way of making it 'uncool' @girlswithtoys
— Maya (@Sharanyashettyy) December 11, 2016
@girlswithtoys there is no concept of mutual respect .shame on these low minds who are making fun of others belief . what a hostile env.
— Gupta_dynesty (@diwanshugupta1) December 10, 2016
The natives of Hawaii are Polynesians and White settlers arrived there in 1778. Many would be surprised to know that the Kingdom of Hawaii achieved the recognition of its independence as a sovereign State in 1843 under an indigenous King, but was later annexed by USA and remains under illegal occupation by the United States of America to this day. U.S. Army, Marines, Navy and Air force sites today make up 20% of Hawaiian territory.
From sacred rocks of Hawaii to ‘idol worship’ and other ‘superstitions’ of Hindus and other hell-bound ‘pagans’ – these are all characteristics of ‘uncivilized’ people as far as the average Westerner is concerned.
This is why challenging the West’s self-serving Universalism and reversing the gaze on the West through a non-Western lens, as Rajiv Malhotra describes in his seminal book ‘Being Different‘, is so important. The world needs to learn how to preserve difference with mutual respect – not with mere “tolerance”
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