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Today's world is living because of Europe and America Astonishing though it may seem, the bare facts do prove this. If Thomas Edison had not invented electricity, where would the world have been today? Most of the major discoveries were made in Europe and America and the world thrives on these inventions. Parallel to these technological advances came an era of slavery and colonization. The "under developed blacks" became tools of the "white ,civilized Europeans and the Americans". What is the impact of these historical events that have happened since 1500 A.D.? Technically and culturally the world is westernized. The rest of the world sees everything through the eyes of the western world !!
This essay tries to present few reasons on how the world is westernized and why the natives of the third world, whether it is Africa, Asia or Latin America, are so submissive to western way of life, even at the cost of forgetting their own rich traditions. It is based on an article by Paul Harrison and the emphasis is laid on social and cultural aspects.
Paul Harrison , a free lance writer based in London, writes in his article, " the westernized world ", which is a part of his book, " The third world ". He argues, " The under development of the third world and its people cannot be compartmentalized, if it is to be fully grasped. It is a total situation in which every element plays a part". The nations of the third world are very dissimilar, but still, there are some similarities. Harrison uses the concept of third world to examine these dissimilarities.
Harrison narrates a real life experience. A traditional opera, shown in Singapore is watched by the elderly people and the children only. The youngsters, he was being told, found it too old fashioned. They preferred western music to this old fashioned opera. The youth of any third world nation, has a passion for "something that is western". This could be clothing, music, entertainment shows, or every day habits and styles. “ The mimicry extends to architecture, industrial technology, approaches to health care, education and housing" write Harrison.
The nations of the third world have their own identity, which is unique in many ways. Why then do they forget their own identity and develop a never ending obsession for western way of life? Why is everyone following the European way of life, even at the cost of killing their own cultural and traditional values? “It is the most pervasive example of what historians call cultural diffusion in the history of mankind”, comments Harrison.
One of the major reason for such submissive mentality , is colonization. Europeans never were and are ready to accept that " native cultures could be in any way, materially, morally or spiritually, be superior to their own". Fuel is further added to this fiery mentality by Pauline Christianity which leads them to believe that the " benighted inhabitants of the darker continents needed enlightening", observes Harrison.
The European style of colonizing not only implemented political and economical imperialism, but one new dimension was added to it, and that was " cultural imperialism". The elite class of the native land was easily a victim of the missionaries which sprouted like mushrooms into the colonized world. They succeeded in making them their own agents to rule amongst the natives.
A prominent reason, yet an indirect one, underlying the submissive nature of third world people is " what sociologists call as reference group behavior ", writes Harrison. He adds, " this happens when some one copies the habits and the life style of a social group he wishes to belongs to, or be classed with, and abandons those of his own group".
The genesis of a feeling to be a "white human" lies in the racial discrimination, by the whites. Almost all leaders of the newly independent states have been humiliated by the whites, If the blacks have to prove that they can be civilized like the whites, " it could only be done by succeeding in their terms and adopting their ways" writes Harrison.
Turkey, China and Japan were never colonized, but yet they also provide ample proof of being westernized. The problem of such countries lies in the fact that they have to succumb to the military supremacy of the west.” The beating of these three powerful nations at the hands of the west was a humiliating, traumatic experience.” Writes Harrison describing the position of these countries, “ For China and Japan the encounter with the advanced military technology of the industrialized nations was as terrifying as extraterrestrials", he adds, " Young Turks grew up with a mentality that they can take on the western countries only if they adopted western culture, institutions and even clothing." Similarly China also had no option but to " learn the superior technology of the barbarians to control them" was stated by Wei Yuan. Japan was also, "forced to open its doors to western goods in 1853. They had to rethink fast in order to survive” states Harrison.
One important aspect which Harrison has also missed out while discussing this topic at length, is that barring exception of Mahatma Gandhi, there has been no third world leader who had advocated social and cultural independence also. No leader except him had induced the element of "cultural self pride" in the minds of masses. No leader has denounced the western "way of life", and put it in practice in his own life. He sat in the round table conference in London, with his traditional Indian dress " dhoti" despite being called a " half naked fakir" by Winston Churchill. It was said that the " sun of the British empire will never set in India", but it had to !! Few more such Mahatmas would surely have prevented from the third world becoming so westernized.
Racial discrimination, European superiority complex coupled with element of never accepting others as superiors, cultural imperialism, reference group behavior and lack of a leader who advocated social and cultural freedom also, are some of the reasons why the third world has become westernized. Non colonized nations had no option but to accept the military supremacy and start adopting new technologies.
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