Saturday, 6 September 2014

How The Golden Rule Trips Up Right-Wing Thinking

An Indian friend sent around a link to a videoclip showing British schoolchildren chanting Sanskrit hymns at Buckingham Palace.

I'm not sure I could pronounce some of these words!

His accompanying comment, a swipe at Indian liberals, was this:

At a time when pseudo-secularists in India are moving away from Hindu traditions in the name of being ‘saecoolaar’ (sic) it is heartening to see other countries embrace it!

Speaking for myself, I see no evidence to support fundamental Hindu beliefs like reincarnation and karma, and it makes no sense to me to follow mindless ritual in the name of tradition. I also find that as I grow older, far from mellowing, I'm less and less tolerant of hypocrisy and bullsh*t. So of course I felt compelled to respond.

I wrote:

Interesting. I wonder how patriotic nationalists in Britain look upon the influence of foreign cultures on their children, and whether they consider those who allow their kids to imbibe such influences as pseudo-liberals and "Manu's children" [The Indian right-wing likes to call English-speaking Indians "Macaulay's Children" after Thomas Macaulay, who introduced English-language education to India]. After all, there is a proud Judeo-Christian ethos that is native to Britain. Why should the British majority accept "Manu ki aulaad" as equal cultural torch-bearers in their country? [The Indian right-wing coined the term "Babar ki aulaad" (progeny of the Mughal invader Babar) to refer to Indian Muslims.] On the contrary, all immigrants to Britain should consider themselves culturally Judeo-Christian, right? [The Indian right-wing believes that Indian Muslims and Christians should consider themselves culturally Hindu.]
See the parallels?

There are people of every culture who want others to respect it and adopt elements of it, but do not want to adopt elements of other cultures because they are cultural "impurities". That's standard right-wing thinking, which JK Rowling has portrayed most insightfully as the Slytherin culture of "pure-bloods" against "mud-bloods". Call me "secular" (and spell it as creatively as you like), but I just find this kind of thinking laughable.
The Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have others do unto you") is a fundamental basis for morality that predates Christ and Christianity. It is a reciprocal basis for treatment of other people that is virtually the definition of fairness. The cultural jingoism expressed by the right-wing of any society contradicts the Golden Rule. It holds that "others must respect our culture, and we welcome it when they adopt elements of our culture because it validates our belief in its innate goodness and superiority, but if members of our society adopt elements of a "foreign" culture, that is bad and unpatriotic".

I see right-wing thinking as hypocritical and stemming from a sense of cultural inferiority, because a culturally secure person would be open to accepting positive influences from other cultures and adapting themselves accordingly. One of the reasons why the English language has thriven and grown from strength to strength is because of its willingness to adopt and assimilate foreign words. Languages that have striven to remain culturally pure seem clumsy when describing new concepts (e.g., the French term "
toile d'araignée mondiale" for the World Wide Web).

On the one hand, it's disheartening that a rather intolerant, bigoted, culturally exclusive kind of thinking is beginning to be expressed even by members of the educated classes. But on the other, sunlight is the best disinfectant, and it is better that these views be openly aired and debated rather than remain an underground ideology of the resentful and disaffected.