Thursday, July 07, 2005

Geopolitics and Sanskrit Phobia by Rajiv Malhotra on Sulekha

Geopolitics and Sanskrit Phobia by Rajiv Malhotra on Sulekha

A very interesting read (a trifle long). One part I would like to quote is this -

There are pragmatic reasons behind the intensifying clash of civilizations, and ideology may often be a weapon rather than the underlying cause: Only one billion out of the six billion people in the world today live at Western levels of consumption, but by mid century most of the ten billion people (projected population level by mid century) will mimic Western consumerist lifestyles, and this will further pressure the environment, resources, capital and labor markets.

Looking at this piece, I thought for a moment that Malhotra was exhorting the world to cast away Western consumerist lifestyles. IMO, western consumerist lifestyles have proved to be very harmful to the environment. Untrammeled greed and the desire to make oneself more and more comfortable regardless of what it may cost the world are characteristics of this malady. This leads to trends such as the protracted use of fossil fuels that harm the atmosphere, uncontrolled mining, denuding tropical forests (especially in the Third world), and other such acts. Even if environmental concern is reflected, it is limited more often than not to their own homelands without even considering that their lifestyle is causing a strain on natural resources elsewhere in the world.

The end consumer may not even be educated enough to recognize that he/she is in fact the perpetrator of such an environmental tragedy.

But in the next paragraph itself - Malhotra enters geopolitics again. But of course - this article speaks of Geopolitics even before Samskrit.

BTW, the Adi Hastings that this article mentions had visited Samskrita Bharati, an organization solely dedicated to the spread of spoken Samskrit. He was treated so well by the people there, I heard and yet, he chose to continue to see the activities of Samskrita Bharati via a communalistic lens. People in Samskrita Bharati felt very bad when their hospitality was repaid with a hostile (and incorrect, I may add) thesis.

I've been thinking on similar lines on how much a language influences our thinking. Samskrit and Samskriti are indeed inseparable.

On an entirely different note (slightly related to language and the culture it reflects), I see people in India ending their emails with "Warm regards". In India, especially in South India, it is warm throughout the year. It is considered hospitality when people are served cool (even cold) beverages on hot days. How would "warm regards" work on a very hot day?

In Indian literature, shItala or coolness is what is much desired because of the prevalent climatic conditions. Likewise, in the West, warm feelings are the norm. The "warm regards" phenomenon is what happens when a language such as English gains international currency. It probably sounds OK to most people but just think of it -- don't warm regards on a hot day make the situation more uncomfortable? Yes, yes, I realize that "warm" is about the feelings and all that ... but that's what I am saying. Because of the English language, "warm" has changed its meaning to "cordial" .

To be sure, I use "best" regards whenever I can - but I may have slipped on an occasion or two. But is that really a slip or am I using the language like it should be?

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