The Bad, Bad West!

If I had a penny for the times I have heard people blaming every single problem on the West, I would be a millionaire!

Starting from credit cards, teenage mothers to joint families breaking up – blame the West. Every culture has its own drawbacks and its own positives. Surely, our culture has its own problems. Why be so blind to those and blame just the West.

People talk about credit cards as if they are the most evil invention in the world. To be honest, I use credit cards, and have not paid interest even once. It is a great convenience, helps in so many ways. I don’t have to carry cash everywhere. And my card also gives my cash back. Just as any tool, it can be used in both – Β responsible and irresponsible ways. So why blame the poor credit card for all the problems? Then again I wonder, why people in the wonderful east are so bothered? After all, our culture is the one which has ‘so much to teach the West’. Surely we should be the ones to show the Evil West, how their evil inventions can be used so well rather than shunning them?

Western culture breaking up joint families is another thing we get to hear so much. I can’t help wonder if some people are blind(and deaf as well). While joint families might work for some, it just might not for others. Why does it have to be the norm? Can’t people decide what works for them, without being condemned for it, or being told off for aping the West?

Credit cards are just another form of loans, aren’t they? Money lenders have been part of every culture in this world, I believe. Haven’t we all heard stories with money lenders in them? What was so different about them? They lent money, and charged people for it. In case of credit cards, we don’t incur charges, unless we don’t payoff the money in time. Loans are much worse – then, again, loans are not really a western thing, is it?Β I grew up in a time where credit cards were unheard of. Yet, I have heard of people making unwise financial decisions and facing a tough time. So who was to be blamed then?

As for teenage motherhood, IHM has said everything about it here.Β And anyway, after living here for 8 years, I am yet to meet those teenage mothers we hear so much about in India. Where, where are they all hiding? Poor me, I expected to see them at every corner!

Nothing about the west goes without being blamed. I have heard people saying that schools are useless in the West. Imagine my surprise when I find wonderful schools, where children do learn a lot- contrary to what I had heard!

And then of course, there is the convenience factor. The West believes in convenience, while we, we believe in hardship – even where it is not required. I can’t figure out what is wrong with convenience? One lady told how it is going to be very easy for her to relocate to India because she does not even use the microwave(as opposed to people like me who like to use conveniences, you see). Somebody, please tell her that we do get have things like microwaves in India πŸ™‚ Of course, it is sacrilege to use conveniences, Indian food has to be cooked the way to was cooked 500 years ago, for it to be authentic, you see. No ovens, no food processors, no microwaves – all influences of the evil west. Only lazy people use conveniences, and of course the west is full of lazy people, who do not look after their children, or cook proper meals. Funny, isn’t it, especially when some of these people are happy to be living abroad, while pretending to look down on all aspects of the West.

Parenting in the West is another topic that I am too afraid to even get into. It will take me a whole post, and some more to talk through that.

We are returning back to India next year. I get two reactions. One, talking about how great a decision it is, how my child would be saved from the evil influence of the West, and the great things about living in our culture. The other one is about how difficult it is going to be. How everything is bound to be bleak, and how we might regret it.

The truth will probably be somewhere in the middle. Yes, we might love it there, but might face some new challenges. Some aspects of living in India might delight us, while some might take some adjusting to. Yes, we might miss some conveniences that we have here, but might love other conveniences there. Just the way it was, when we first moved here.

One thing I wish I could tell such people is that people make bad financial decisions every where, people are lazy in every culture, things go wrong even in families who have had no western influence whatsoever. We are all humans, after all. we make mistakes, we may or may not learn from them. No culture is perfect, and no culture is totally imperfect. We all have our imperfections, and our strong points. If only we could pick the positives, learn to adapt and balance our lives, and live life the way it works for us.

PS: On a side note, I just completed reading ‘Growing Up Osama’ by Jean Sasson. It is about Omar Bin Laden, Osama’s fourth born son, and his first wife Najwa Ghanem Bin Laden’s memories of their life with him. One of the things that came to mind while writing this post was that Bin Laden had a similar phobia of all things Western. He believed that Westernization was the cause of evil, and forbade his family from using basic things like the refrigerator – in places like Saudi Arabia and Sudan! It is a fascinating book.

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29 thoughts on “The Bad, Bad West!

  1. πŸ™‚ What can i say to this. So true what you say I think people back home like the idea of blaming it all on the west. When back home they are far more advanced in almost every sphere then here ..

    I know! I don’t understand the need for the blame game, you know.

    You jsut got ot open your eyes and see and True what you say i am yet to find one of those teenagers tooo

    πŸ™‚ So I am not blind – yet πŸ™‚

    and you going back home next year .. All the best I am sure you guys will do jsut fine there πŸ™‚

    Thats the plan πŸ™‚ Thanks! Hopefully!
    take care

  2. One thing I wish I could tell such people is that people make bad financial decisions every where, people are lazy in every culture, things go wrong even in families who have had no western influence whatsoever. We are all humans, after all. we make mistakes, we may or may not learn from them. No culture is perfect, and no culture is totally imperfect. We all have our imperfections, and our strong points. If only we could pick the positives, learn to adapt and balance our lives, and live life the way it works for us.

    So true.

    There were people who tried to scare my parents saying omg, you are sending your daughter to study abroad, she will fall into a live in relationship, have an affair, bring back a gora etc etc. My dad was terrified. Well I went there and came back without a hitch. And that shut everyone up.

    LOL! Such assumptions! As if a person as soon as they land here, jumps into a ‘live-in’ relationship πŸ™‚

    It’s just perception and generalisation. If you want to be well, you can be that sitting in any part of the world. If you want to go bad, you can do that as well sitting where you are. It’s just about YOU, not the world. And how prone to influence you are. Simple.

    It’s just about YOU, not the world. And how prone to influence you are. Simple. – You put it so well, Ash!

  3. This is a subject I could rant endlessly on.
    Another thing one hears is how the west is ruined because of Individualism – translated as everybody is concerned about their own interests. Could we be more hypocritical? A society that claims to live for collective good ((for the community, culture, society’s good etc) does not want to raise daughters even when the future joint families in that societies will have no one to shoulder their culture, honor, traditions, and bear them heirs?

    I know! A society which refuses to even let a girl baby be born, forget about raising her! And yet they talk about ‘collective good’! I makes me mad when I hear such stuff!

    Some Indians are vary of trying anything they are not used to, no matter how much these things improve their lives. Pressure cookers, gas stoves, washing machines, credit cards, microwaves, self reliance for women, jeans for women, air conditioners (!) – have all faced (some still do) resistance.

    And most of the things that make life easier for women meet even more resistence! After all they already have it so easy, how dare people come up with appliances to make life easier for them!

    The one thing modern and ‘western’ Indians took to with greatest of ease is the cellphone πŸ˜€ But one hears about even cell phones being banned for women!

    Oh yes! Women are weaker, you see, more prone to corrupt influences than the strong men πŸ˜‰

    So I guess the only thing Western we have accepted completely is Cricket πŸ™‚

    I think people have forgotten that it was a gift from the Western world πŸ™‚ Maybe the Senas should be reminded πŸ™‚

  4. Yes…every culture has its own share and varieties of problems.
    It is actually about how culture, or rather its people decide to solve the problem(s), which is important and not the blame game, which you have beautifully described in the post above.

  5. good,bad & ugly is a part of everything and everywhere! you pick what you wish to and you bear the results of your own choice…while picking up and option if it’s your choice then the repercussion should be your responsibility too ! period!

  6. I disagree a little here…..

    this economic recession didnt hit here in India first..and what was the trigger for this…..mortgage loans provided to people who couldnt pay…this is what economist are saying, not me.

    every country has good and bad but when majority does something wrong, then they are blamed as a bad culture.

    Its not that Indians have any less no of vices, but they are of different types.

    Credit card is not bad, but spending on your assumed income is…

    there is no point in aping or praising others blindly, beauty lies in distinguishing between good points and bad points and following only what is good everywhere…west is good in discipline, honesty and hard work, we must follow that, but family values and saving habits are better in India, so we must retain that.

    Every society progresses only if individuals think of a bigger good than their own personal gratification only..life is not to enjoy only…..

    • I do not think the situation is very different in India. Here the economy is still by far and large agricultural and industrial in nature, which is the reason people defaulting on home loans and not paying the credit card bills on time did not affect the economy as a whole. This does not mean that these things are not happening here.

      I personally know people who have pawned their house, and are now in deep trouble. I know people who have always just paid the minimum on the credit card bill, and the bill has soared to lakhs!

      Also, I would differ in saying that family values of the west should not be said to be inferior based on knowledge of movies….. if that was the case… we would all be dancing to Bollywood music in shimla and mussorie.

  7. Some good points made here. Although I have never experienced life in India, nor anywhere in South Asia – the problems you highlighted do extend far beyound into Asian families living in the UK.

    As you said in relation to credit cards – people have the ability to have them or not, be responsible or not and so on.

  8. I totally agree to each and every word written here… I just could not stop nodding my head all through out… I have hear so many people blaming the west for so many things be it credit cards or the changing attitudes of teenagers or any other drawback but then i think apparently it boils to personal choice and individual decisions… No one is forcing us to use a credit card, no one is forcing us to get into a live in relationship or for anything else for that matter… What to pick up from the west and what not to is one’s own decision….

    ‘No one is forcing us to use a credit card, no one is forcing us to get into a live in relationship or for anything else for that matter… What to pick up from the west and what not to is one’s own decision….’ – Absolutely!

  9. “No culture is perfect, and no culture is totally imperfect. We all have our imperfections, and our strong points. If only we could pick the positives, learn to adapt and balance our lives, and live life the way it works for us.” Rightly said so, Smits. Every culture has its pros and cons. Its in us to take the positives out of each and apply them on our lives. So whats wrong in doing that? The way I look at it is, we blame the west to cover our shortcomings.

    The way I look at it is, we blame the west to cover our shortcomings. – I so so agree!

    We had rather stay in a hopeless, loveless relationship and endure whatever abuses it can wreak on us and be this dutiful wife because our culture demands us to be so THAN take a strong stance and walk out of it, make a life of your own and stand the risk of being ‘influenced by the’ west’..rubbish!

    So true, Deeps, and so sad!

    On one side we treat our teenage daughters like commodities by selling them off to older men or rich landlords because we dont have the funds to take care of them or give them education and then happily accept when they get pregnant because now they married to their ‘buyers’ while on the other side when our teenage daughters get stupid enough against their parents’ will and get pregnant, we blame the west! How convenient!

    Very convenient indeed! But yes, everything is hunky dory just because everything was done in a way that it is ‘acceptable to society’.

    You know I don’t use credit cards and its not because I feel its a bad influence from the west. Rather it has more to do with my tendency to get addicted to it than anything else. So the flaw is in me and that is why I have steered clear from credit cards and not the west πŸ™„

    Exactly – you know what works for you, and that is what matters isn’t it?

    My co-sister is French, you know that. When she got married to R’s brother, the members of our family were quick to judge them and tell everybody how the marriage will not last for it was a ‘norm’ in the west for couples to separate and change partners frequently. And now they have been married for years, and the very same people are still not giving her any credit but my BIL. Why? because he is from India and we Indians value relationships more than ‘them’. You see the hilarity of the situation here?? :). They just dont want to break their stereotypical thinking.

    Oh yes! How can she have anything to do with their long and happy marriage πŸ™‚ Of course it is all your BIL’s efforts πŸ™‚ Such hypocrisy!

  10. If I had a penny for the times I have heard people blaming every single problem on India, I would be a Billionaire!

    Who is blaming anything on India here?

    (well, on a not so unrelated note, London riots turned out to be a non-event on this blog. Imagine if they happened in an Indian city).

    London riots were a non-event here because I was on holiday, just as I did not write about Anna Hazare either, whose campaign I support very strongly.

  11. If i could have a paisa for every time I have talked on this topic, I’d be rich πŸ˜› Really, iy annoys me no end. I even think what Indians would do if the West went up in smoke. They will have no one to blame!
    I am like you. I use my credit card and pay up on time. I find the little piece of plastic one of the best inventions of man. Just because some people do not know how to use it, it has got a bad name. Even before the advent of credit card we have had people, even kingdoms, that destroyed themselves due to over-spending.
    Yeah teenage pregnancy is acceptable when parents marry off their teens, but becomes reprehensible when the West allow it. Sheesh. I presented this to an old lady and she was stunned. She had never thought of it that way! πŸ˜›
    Even yesterday I was listening to an old couple talking about how in the West they “throw” their parents into old age homes. Yeah, here they make them work till they possible can πŸ˜› Especially the women. Children control elders and have strict guidelines on how they should behave. But of course all that is lobe which th West would never understand. My foot!
    In India they think all the Westerners walk around in bikinis πŸ˜› And I bet they’d tell you even Shakuntala dressed so modestly covered from head to toe. Not to mention the bare-chested Goddesses. Shiva, shiva! They too must have been influenced by the West! πŸ˜‰

  12. Like u say, there are good and bad parts everywhere πŸ™‚
    I use credit cards too, and have been lucky enuf to get a 50% cash back once πŸ™‚
    Its funny ppl hv to blame something/ someone for changes. If small families work and the families themselves dnt bother, what bothers the others I ask?

    Exactly! But loads of people seem more interested in trying to get others live their way of life than in anything else 😦

  13. Thanks for the education Smitha.. since you had the opportunity to experience both east and west, what you say does make sense. In the end everything depends on the individual.
    But when an individual/organization who is not in a position to pay off their credits continue to live on credit until it takes them down, it affects not just the individual/organization but the society too. The problem with credit in the US started a few years back and it still continues to affect the lower income people more than the rest. Those corporate with clout got the government to pump in money while the banks became conservative and close fisted to the lower income people.

    That is true – but surely it has more to do with economics that ‘culture’ as people always seem to assume.

    It is also true that the credit system existed in India too in many ways.. but it was always the last resort for many.
    In India, being bankrupt or going bust continues to be shameful, while it is not so shameful in the West. Not that I think it is bad since every individual has a right to learn from mistakes.

    ‘In India, being bankrupt or going bust continues to be shameful, while it is not so shameful in the West.’ – I totally agree with that.
    But I still think India need not ape the West but learn from their mistakes. Most of us have been fortunate to have a generation before us who was prudent in their spending and wise when it came to saving. I cannot deny that it has not helped me πŸ™‚

    I agree, there is no need to ape anything. We can learn from our own culure as well as others – we just need not always look down on other cultures – because then we are in danger of never learning anythign from anybody else, don’t you think?

    We are indeed lucky to have a prudent generation ahead of us, the next generation might not be so lucky!

  14. On the contrary I find the differences both good and bad enriching, I like the way consumerism has shaped up economy in the US, and how the similar thing is now happening in front of my own eyes in India.
    I like how the US is changing into a conservative economy ala the old India. It shows so much of our culture is shaped by our needs and circumstances.
    Teenage motherhood, well i agree with you that it isnt about the west as such, Its really interesting to read the rebellion era of the 70s, and how a conservative society changed in the west. How a similar thing is seen now in the east.

  15. “We are all humans, after all. we make mistakes, we may or may not learn from them. No culture is perfect, and no culture is totally imperfect. We all have our imperfections, and our strong points. If only we could pick the positives, learn to adapt and balance our lives, and live life the way it works for us.”

    I completely agree with that. The One point I still havent been able to agree on after living here so many years is that Indian food really tastes a WHOLE lot good when I eat in India than over here.. Maybe its the corner of the US I am living in. But everything else, yep, we have the good, bad and ugly everywhere, no matter what PRISTINE culture you come from.

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  17. Agree that all cultures are imperfect. The teenage mothers exist under the cloud of respectability after almost child marriage (and other wise) in India. And definitely in the US, several of them in conditions that would make India look rich. They exist alright, they are almost equally unsupported in the West as in India. Several of them are made to place these children in adoption, those who choose to raise their child end up as blue collar labourers because they can’t afford to stay in school. That they are not seen in a culture that makes no bones of having them is even scarier – I don’t care which culture is better or worse, just care to speak about ills in both in order to make sure neither are forgotten.

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  19. Credit cards too?? this is the first time I am learning they are included in the list of “bad western influences”! all the best wishes for moving back to India.

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