Nepal | June 03, 2020

Moderns we claim to be: Pseudo-modernism on the rise

Adesh Karkee / Saramsha Aryal
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In this age of globalisation, the western culture is dominant. But, in the name of following the western lifestyle, we must not forget about our own way of living, which is our identity. ‘Pseudo-modernism’ is leading us to a dead end

Nowadays, there is a tendency among the youths to follow the western lifestyle. Following what you believe in would have been fine, unless it harmed someone. But the youths of today are treating their past generation and their counterparts who don’t align with the “modern” dogma with hostility. Not aligning oneself to the ‘pseudo-modernity’ the youths claim to have is not welcomed.

What is ‘being modern?’ one may ask. The term seems vaguely simple, but because of the ambiguity in its meaning, there seems to be no general consensus on what modernism stands for. It can be said that we need to look at the perspective of modernisation through positive transition. Being modern is being progressive. It is the structural progression of society and its components. Which societal structure suits society, such that it is easier for humans to live while interacting with its various institutions and phenomena, has variance in its answer. However, what we need to realise is that while showing an inclination towards a foreign doctrine, we are destroying our own.

Today, if we ask someone to recite the alphabets from ‘A to Z’, the person will do so easily. But if you ask the same person to recite the alphabets from ‘Ka’ to ‘Gya’, the chances are that he or she will be scratching the head. Whenever we attend a programme that has a formal dress code, we assume it means wearing a ‘suit’. We often give priority to the Western attire more than we do to our own cultural dress.

Nepali grammar is slowly deteriorating. The rules of Nepali grammar are not being followed with precision. Similarly, someone not knowing the English language is treated as an illiterate. Having fluency in your own mother tongue is considered uncomplimentary in nature.

Right from the beginning, children are taught in English. We are considering the ‘English medium of learning’ as the only way of learning. We are failing to perceive language as a means of obtaining knowledge. We are taking language as the end. During someone’s birthday or some kind of achievement, we congratulate our friends and family in English, not Nepali. This directly affects our culture and language. When someone calls us, we respond with a ‘hello’. It is in our instinct to greet someone with a ‘hello’ once we pick up the phone. We are reluctant to acknowledge anyone with a namaste because it sounds old fashioned. Hence, today’s youth feel awkward in greeting someone with a namaste.

The preference by the youths for English music and their mockery of traditional songs is an ongoing phenomenon.  Listening to the ‘Lok dohori’ is considered a matter for laughter. Our private boarding schools penalise the students for speaking in their mother tongue. Our own clothes are considered to be old fashioned and inconvenient.

Had we not been indoctrinated with the mindset that our clothes are detractive in nature, we would have made our own clothes more convenient with time. We have simplified word formation in Nepali. On the other hand, the rules of English grammar are being followed with exact precision. The fact that we needed to change the rules of our own grammar because students find it difficult to understand, itself clarifies that we are losing our own language.

What we fail to contemplate is that language is directly associated with the history, tradition, custom and culture of a particular society .When a language is attacked, then the rituals and practices will be destroyed.  When we learn a language, we don’t just learn the alphabets, words and grammar of that language, we also learn about the specific society’s customs and behaviour. Ignorance of the Nepali language has increased hatred of the people towards Nepali culture.

Language creates beliefs. Beliefs set values and values instill culture. When we stop speaking a particular language, we stop following the culture, customs and tradition of the language it is associated with. The fall of a language is the fall down of history, literature and tradition.

Rituals and customs are the bases of national identity. Anthropologist-linguist Edward Sapir of the United States said that no two languages are similar in such a way that they would represent one society. The set of attributes of a culture is expressed through language. Language is also used to point out those objects that are unique to a particular culture. Winston Churchill once said that the love for the tradition has strengthened nations in their hour of peril. So, culture is a common thread which binds us together. And if the base of our unity is not strong, then our cultural practices and our history are in danger.

We cannot deny the fact that in this age of globalisation, the western culture is dominant. But, in the name of following the western lifestyle, we must not forget about our own way of living, which too is our identity. Our modernity is becoming a hoax. We need to change our parameters of measuring our modernity. ‘Pseudo-modernism’ is leading us to a dead end. If we do not take actions to re-conceive our notions of modernity, we shall very soon destroy our culture and be left without any originality. The English language in itself is not the problem. Neither is western culture bad. However, the feeling of superiority associated with being attached to one is a thing to ponder over.


A version of this article appears in print on June 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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