As Indians, we have grown up hearing hymns about our rich heritage and culture, and more often than not we buy into the idea that to be a true Indian is to always glorify your culture.
No matter how many centuries of atrocities, discrimination, and subjugation have been instilled in that culture; we are expected to revere it with pride. What follows this pride is a false sense of superiority associated with one’s history, and that naturally involves looking down upon other cultures.
It is important to remember that practices of various cultures are largely relative to one another and none is superior to the other. There are certain customs that our culture has which may appear strange or even preposterous to others and vice versa; for instance, the Eskimos have legitimized the practice of killing their infants (mainly females) if need be so, (something which was also practised in the Greek state of Sparta), now we might find this custom unlawful, to say the least; yet we cannot make premature judgments unless provided with a clear context, the truth of the matter is that the harshly cold living conditions of the Eskimos do not permit them to have a larger population and they are a people that require males with brute force to guard their community, they act this way out of necessity rather than hate; as a matter of fact, they are coherently protective of the off-springs who make it through.
To clarify, I advertently condemn infanticide and female feticide and this is in no way a justification for these heinous acts. This was just to throw light on the ethical concept of cultural relativism, which among other things preaches us to be tolerant of other cultures, even when some or most of their practices may appear horrible to us, and dissolve this wrongful notion of superiority; especially when female feticide and infanticide has been a latent practice of the Indian heritage, not because of necessity but because of its own shameful gender biases and regressive nature.
There is no moral code in this world that can be declared universally right, therefore, to live in an illusion of cultural perfection is as ridiculous as changing city names to ‘go back to our roots’; Point being, even cultural relativism stomps on its own foot when it humours the claim that to have the moral high ground you need to follow the code of your culture homogenously, when it is a well-established notion that there is no objective right or wrong even within a specific culture, regardless of how loved it is by its people. Cultural relativism forbids a culture-independent standard of right and wrong and thereby hinders our sense of judgment.
In the pursuit of a cure, one must be aware of, acknowledge, and accept their ailments. For instance, had those few people not recognized that Sati is a problem that needs permanent rectification; we would still be practising it without hesitation because this is how the normalization of gruesomeness unfurls in a society.
It will always amaze me how our culture takes pride in things that should be forbidden such as the restrictions imposed on women during menstruation and shame in things that are natural, such as menstruation itself. The topics that should be talked about more get hushed down in a box of stigma and the consequences are graver than anyone anticipates.
Do you think men’s feelings would be repressed to this extent had we normalized their tears? Do you think acid attacks, rapes, and sexual assaults would be so common, had we educated people about consent and acknowledged male privilege? Do you think honour killings would even exist had we given love a higher place than one’s destructive pride? I think it would make a world of difference when and as soon as we stop the unnecessary exaltation of culture and betray its savagery by calling it out instead of staying silent. Remember- to condemn certain practices of a culture is not to condemn the whole culture itself, but to help in the evolution of a kinder and potentially more accommodating society; something which the world desperately needs.
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