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Happy Holidays?…. Bah! Humbug!

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Now that the holiday season is over, can we now say, “bah! humbug” without disrupting the self-hugs that many multi-culturalists are giving themselves?

In my previous post I had written about the 3 layers of culture we learn to negotiate. That was actually a very simplistic way of looking at culture. Let us introduce a level of complexity. Imagine that this individual moves to a culture where he is an outsider—perhaps is an immigrant, a globe-trotting professional or just part of the constantly churning global population?

For instance, she is a Hindu ( albeit, a laid back Hindu) in a largely Christian but also substantially mixed racial, religious society. Suppose she claims a participant’s stake in the Christian traditions?

So how many flakey layers of cultures can there be?

Multicultural Poster and Posturing

So here is this multicultural poster that I happened to see a few days ago. It said, “Happy Holidays” and had a whole list of festivals so we could wish everyone a happy holiday season. By the logic of the politically correct multiculturalists either we all celebrate or no one does.

So the poster starts off: Hanukkah(24th Dec), Christmas(25th Dec), Kwanzaa(26th Dec); so far so good. Trying very hard, the poster manages to find Pancha Ganapati ((21-25 Dec) for the Hindus….

On Being Told What to Believe

“Pancha Ganapati? What is this?” I ask myself. I am of the laidback, agnostic, non-ritualistic variety, but nevertheless a born Hindu. So I investigate. I google.…Ooops! It does exist! Here is a link and lots more, if anyone is curious. So apparently someone decided that upset Hindu children should get gifts like other children around Christmas time. Knowing that Hinduism gives you the license to create /invent gods and festivals, I cannot argue. But I am convinced that Pancha Ganapati is actually a retail conspiracy. Expectedly, in the next few years India and Hindus worldwide will switch over to Panch Ganapati of instead of Diwali or Dusherra because that’s right in the middle of the shopping season.

Or, is this some humbug from the militant multiculturalists who want to tell Hindus what they should be celebrating?… Because they need a Hindu festival to fit into the “Holiday season”?

Then, I look at the poster further. For the Buddhists, Bodhi Day(Dec), Yule (Dec 21) for the Pagans, Omisoka for the Japanese, St. Nicolas Day, Chinese New Year, St Lucia Day, Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Three Kings’ Day and for the Muslims, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Notice how the multicultural logic is breaking down. If the list is by country or by religion, is the poster not missing a few? If the list by the month of the year, Eid al-Fitr is almost 6 months off.

Paying for Being Included

These sentimental well-intentioned folks have to be told to stop being so belligerent about inclusiveness. Not to be included is better than being included on someone else’s terms. The multiculturalists are taking away my freedom to my beliefs, and trying to give Christians a guilt complex they do not deserve. If I wish someone, “Merry Christmas” and if the person happens to the same to me, I am not offended. I do not become a Christian, I do not celebrate Christmas, but I party.

Does anyone have a problem with that?


The Three Layers of Culture

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In one of my earlier posts, I had suggested that culture operates at 3 levels. It is the personal, the familial and the communal/national. We shift into anyone of these roles automatically. And this is what I had meant by the term Cultobot. A cultobot is one who has automated certain types of cultural responses Cultobots mechanically negotiate communal and familial cultural responses while fiercely guarding their personal cultures.

Personal culture

For example the teenagers of the previous post, who are as universal (similar) as human beings on earth can be. But this happens only when the teenagers are interacting with their computers. This is their personal culture—shared on an unprecedented scale—the culture of ultra-modern technological beings of a radically globalized planet. When these teenagers become professional, they easily shift to the conventions of global corporate culture and become the LinkedIn professionals.

Family’s culture

It is when people are in their family environments, the culture of their upbringing surfaces—for example a family’s love of music, self-questioning or agnostics, atheists or believers, laid-back or complacent individual of all shades: Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhists and many, many others.

Culture of the community and the nation

And then there is the culture of the community and the nation: extremely dynamic, prone to expansive generalizations, error-prone, dependent on the political flavour of the day. And, yet like the furious water raging in a river, still has stubborn land in its bottom. To each community and country its distinctive culture

So, paradoxically, in a huge crisis of disconnect, 16-year olds cultobots, rediscover the hijab –very often online and alone in chat-rooms and fly off to marry ISIS fighters. They do not at all go to their parents or communities for clarifications.

Or if the virtual world is too much out there, and the real world not quite enough, a 100 people will stand in the middle of crowd of 100, each single person alone and looking down into their phones and tablets.

And then the physical world (of bricks and mortar, snow and sun) around us all becomes a hallucination and a mirage.

Culture: The Big Excuse for Everything

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Cultural variations have always been a very convenient justification for every type of human behavior. The argument thus far is that a definition of culture, based on history, heritage and religion is still the norm, and it should not be so. This is trying to race a Ferrari or a Lamborghini with the wheels of […]

A Firefly in the Forest

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It has been a long break from this blog and the world is none the worse for it….! But fixing the world anyway is not the agenda here.
In a forest is full of fireflies, does one tiny firefly ask itself, “ What should I do with my tiny lantern? Why should I glow? Am I adding any light?” And then it remembers its name, ‘firefly’.
That little spot of shiny light is its nature.
The agenda in this blog is similarly personal, to light my lantern and leave it out there in the forest. It is possible someday, someone will take away my tiny lantern and return to me a bigger one.

The plan is to post at least twice a month.

More than ever, culture is still our shared concern. There is violence in every culture. Individuals can be violent in every possible ways, and mental imbalances are understandable. But if groups like ISIS resort to something as extreme as beheadings, what is one to make of it? Granted that it is about politics. But then, why do they go back to religion and culture to find its validations and justifications?

Why is culture such a convenient tool?

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN TODAY: Summarizing the Issues

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As globalized members of the internet community, we have  lost touch with the bio-rhythms of our unique locations.  We follow global fashions and share global concerns. By implication, we have lost touch with our immediate communities, our neighbourhoods, our streets and lanes.

Our issues may  no longer be immediate and local. We might raise funds for Somalian children—which I cannot argue that it is not a worthy enough cause.  The implication of our de-localized concerns is that we have also lost the sense of shared culture that comes with the feeling of belonging to a particular, specific and a locationally-defined community, which by definition is rooted in tradition, religion and inheritances.

To go back to one of the one of my earlier arguments, now more than ever culture can no longer be defined as a shared inheritance. Culture has moved to the personal sphere.

And, don’t these new practices of culture demand a redefinition of culture, and by implication also of multiculturalism?

Thus, to summarize the argument thus far:

Thesis 1: Humanism is bigger than culturalism

Thesis 2: Technology has redefined our social interactions and our sense of community

Thesis 3: Identity is no longer rooted in culture, community and religion. This is what it means to be a technobot

Thesis 4: Consequently historical issues have lost relevance as also have historical debates about multiculturalism.


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The short term, the temporary, the unsustained, the ephemeral and the fad define  the cultures of our times.

It is not our faults—it is the fault of our ages! Things are changing too fast and even 87 year old grandmothers have to learn to facebook. Keeping up with changing technology takes up too much time. Switching on the TV can be a relearning process every few months—unless you are a 5-year old—in that case you are born with a “reboot/update/relearn/” mental button.

To cope up with this, we as a species are responding with short attention spans.

Nothing can interest us for too long. We are no longer capable of reading a long passage. Listen to music or watch –short attention span—it is the immensity of the range of things that can distract us.

Never has the Now been so important as today. Is it surprising that tradition cultures are loosing their role in out lives? How much of our times everyday—10%, 5% or less do we spend on practices/ activities that we have inherited from our ancestors?

Is it surprising that YouTube with its new minutes of videos is the perfect cultural medium for us? Guess how many people have seen Charlie Bit My Finger on YouTube?

Or Psy’s Gangnam style—that supreme example of random popularity based on curiosity about how supremely bad/good is bad style + confidence that comes with total lack of self-evaluation.

I admit it is so bad that it is extremely good—just like Sarah Jessica Parker, that classic example of beauty that is extremely ugly and ugliness that is extremely beautiful.  These are categories all by themselves and a lesson.

A conclusion about the culture of our times:  We cannot handle the constant flow of brilliance, smartness, merit and genius. So, the best way to be really good is to be really bad.

Resetting the Time Zones and Bio-Clocks: What it means to be Human today

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Once upon a time, people use to rise with the sun.  The night sky was for poets and astronomers. Everyone else would be in bed. Today, I might talk to my best friend who lives on the opposite side of the earth; or my job demands that I match my working hours with a country half way across. Or I could be between 14 years to 24 years if age. I just cannot sleep at night.

And yet I do not remember what the night sky looks like. Not only because all our electricity lights up the sky, but also because time zones have become blurred with the life that has shifted over from the physical to the virtual. Night is the time when I live, work, entertain, interact and socialize.

Larks are evolving into owls. And evolution being what it is, sometimes it slows down. In this case, it has taken is less than 25 years for this very fundamental change in our habits and cultural practices.