By Mehreen Omer
Orientalism is essentially the perception that the Global West is superior to us and we are inferior to them. It is a cultural hegemony of the occident over the orient. It undermines our ability to critically analyze and understand things. By accepting this orientalist perception, we are legitimizing the ne0-liberalism and colonialism of the west as it was used to legitimize the colonize enterprise of the East India Company in India, as had been in many other countries. No one denies that globalization is predominantly a western idea.
Most people appreciate the efforts of the West to promote peaceful relations with the East. But few realize that all this comes at a price. They will only accept peace if there is a cultural and social integration between the Orient and the Occident. But they are in essence mincing words here. This cultural and social integration is not merely merging values of both the parties involved. But it is absolute authorization of the Occident and legitimate subjugation of the Orient.
Orientalism is narrowly defined as a cultural feature associated with the countries, peoples, or cultures of East Asia, but this statement chiefly hides the larger picture. It is also a sum of oversimplified attitudes of Western intellectuals toward the East, and in particular toward the Middle East. The reason why people fail to understand Orientalism in its entirety is particularly due to acceptance of western laws and the democratic system.
If one understands the process of westernization as the dominant force in the era of globalization but argues as if nothing in principle is wrong with the orientalist perception, he/she might need to reconsider if the referent that he/she is following is worthy of being admired. By adopting a holistic approach and understanding that the political, economic, judicial and social spheres are interrelated to each other, one should not be oblivious to the hidden but phenomenal failures under the rubric of glamour and development.
It’s no surprise that whatever the west portrays as trendy, the east follows it. Let it be reminded here that the west is not inclusive of the entire Europe or North and South America, but rather the Global North in which the United States and Britain are dominant. No one today denies the penetration of westernization in the global societies but what one does not understands why that is so. Certainly, the west has depicted it as being on the axis of development and modern civilization. It is not a coincidence however that the east has fallen pray to their perception and has failed to see what is behind the veil.
Is it agreeable that the one you are going to follow must be someone better than you and must be worthy of following? If yes, we may continue. What is the west we are all fond of? Under the garb of hi-fi buildings, luxurious cars, awesome houses, lies the worst sort of depression and hopelessness. They promote development as being a part of a multinational corporation, having a promising career and a secure future. But development is improving education, literacy, health, hygiene and environment. Unfortunately, many of these factors are rather completely ignored or not dealt with properly. After all, it’s the western perception.
As the world is moving on, people are becoming increasingly materialistic and individualistic. Values of altruism and self-sacrifice are becoming progressively rarer. All this lies in the heart of secularism and liberalism. Families are destroyed and lives shattered. Divorce rates are the highest in these countries and never wonder why. The children don’t know where to go and in order to avoid the negative atmosphere of the house, remain out most of the time. They are exposed to strip clubs and bars and since they feel so devastated already, they don’t mind giving way to their desires. This is the democracy of the west, and this is their society. Many of the people in the west seek to find a way out of this materialistic unhappy life they are entrapped in and look out for peace in spiritualism. New age religions, yoga and other spiritualistic cults are on the rise there. There is a complete hopelessness generated. Amazingly, people are leaving orthodox Christianity, and are either coming to complete spiritualism, or are leaving religion altogether. Resultantly suicide rates due to purposelessness and depression are escalating. Some people think that monasticism is the way out while others think the other extreme.
One of the most lethal weapons to promote social ideas is the media and it’s no surprise that the spread of media in every home has largely and indefinitely contributed to the change of perceptions in every home as well. Can anyone in their right mind possibly deny that the presence of electronic media has altogether created new values and shun old ones? Is it ludicrous to think that the most of the movies produced in the 21st century have shamelessly promoted fornication, porn, extra-marital relations, sexual harassment and abuse? Who in their right mind could possibly deny that the children are largely been exposed to pornography from an early age? In the age of globalization, every person, be he young or old tries to imitate what he sees on the television in one way or the other.
The media has been used to make objectionable ideas and values acceptable in today’s society. Who could once perceive of homosexuals as being not only so open about their nature, but also very proud of it? Being a gang member used to be somewhat a member of shame; but now, the media promotes “good” gangsters as bringing justice to the world by adding a little moral touch to it. At first the idea of the man having relations with anyone other than his wife seemed an insult to his family, now it has become a norm. One just wonders how did this paradigm shift happen and how did it take place in just a short span of time.