Western Civilization

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17 Responses to Western Civilization

  1. Syamasundara Dasa

    Uhmmm… I don’t get it. 🙁

  2. far from a summary of western civilization, more a crtique on a particular subculture in my view

    • Video games might be a particular subculture but I think it’s pretty safe to say that the self-centeredness and a lack of gratitude that the comic makes a parody of is more prominent in the western world than in most other cultures.

  3. Abhay Krsna Dasa

    Classic! I think most of my old friends are doing that same dharma! haha

  4. I think this is another myth in the spinning among us western devotees, that western cultures are this awful and the good natured, sweet and grateful people are on the other side of the world.

    If we want to critique self-centeredness and a lack of gratitude we would, at any given day, have a field day in India, China, Indonesia and any such cultures. Try to have an Indian, for example, give to the community. The concept is not even existent. There is only collaboration within families, and this ultimately because of individual self interest.

    Please click on “point” at the end of next sentence. Good subsiding to the point.

    • Abhay Krsna Dasa

      I think a point to be made here is that while you say It’s hard to get an Indian to give to the community, and yes America may have a tainted form of “giving back”, The indian culture still respects the family and takes care of their elders to a great extent.
      While this “comic” is clearly showing an exagerated example of a son taking his mother for granted, it is not so much of a strech to say that it’s become common for a large percentage of westerners to do just that. So, do elaberate shows of giving back to the community, make up for a culture who has lost respect for is own families? I say no.

    • Bhaktikanda,
      I’m certainly not one of those India fanatics who think that even the dead dogs in the streets of Delhi are Vaikunta-vasis or something. I’ve been to India and I know it’s a mess in a lot of ways. I think you’re reading my criticism with the standard reactionary angle that came (understandably) as a counter attack to all that blind fanaticism.

      Here’s two points to consider:

      1. All the other cultures you mentioned have been infiltrated by western culture. It only makes sense that those cultures are a mess because they were aggressively introduced to the western way of life instead of being organically grown into it by their own choice, as did the western world. It was an incompatible heart-transplant for the other cultures, so to speak.

      2. The western civilization is the only culture in human history that as a whole doesn’t have a sense of continuity of existence before/after death. I think this alone causes huge problems and I think is very susceptible to leading to a more self-centered lifestyle. If there are no consequences and nothing to lose or gain, why not let loose? Also, no other previous culture has been as disconnected from their natural environment than the western world, much due to the technological revolution. That’s another reason that in my opinion by default causes alienation and a lack of interconnectedness, which in turn leads to self-absorption and lack of gratitude.

      These things might not be the “PC” thing to say, but I can’t deny what I see around me.

      • Being from India, I will be the first to admit that there are problems there like Guru Nistha pointed out. But I would not say all problems were caused by Western civilization alone. The abuse of the caste system and exploitation of widows are one of the few things that had nothing do with the western influence. Certainly one can argue that even in the west the concept of cleanliness and better rights for woman is a very recent phenomenon and that has come only after depriving a lot of nations through colonial rule. Nonetheless, there is something to do with human nature and the people who are high up in the hierarchy abusing power. Now the lower people in hierarchy can protest a little bit but earlier they were asked to tolerate it in the name of karma. Karma was used as a machinery to exploit and control. At the same time, there is some simplicity remaining in countryside and that is charming.

      • Gurunistha, you make a couple of good points, especially about the lack of a sense of continuity, which I admit I had not thought about in my response. But I still disagree with you that there is no sense of gratitude among us. So far in my life I have experienced at least three different cultures, actually possibly 3 and a half considering that I grew up among first generation immigrants. Of these three, 2 and a half are western cultures. I see grateful and giving people in this cultures as a constant, something I was shocked to not find in my idolized India.

        I think what you refer to is perhaps what Prabhupada saw in the west as impersonalism, a sense of disconnect and ultimately of temporary individuality, of no meaning. But it does not mean that these people’s heart is hard as a characteristic. I think that possibly people in this part of the world are more depressed than selfish, and the consequence is isolation which passes as lack of compassion. Tamo guna is not the same as evil.

        Oriental cultures on the other hand are better informed of the actual nature of the self, and still… there is a great deal of self centeredness there. Which is more lamentable, because it is by choice, so to speak, than the result of tragic sad fortune.

        • I think I need to explain what I was intending with “lack of gratitude”. It’s not something that would manifest so much on a social level, because it seems like westerners actually are quite polite and considerate (i’ve heard Indians even make fun of this), but I think that highly technological societies will automatically cause a certain more universal lack of gratitude because we have been able to create societies that have seemingly beat the “shortcomings” of nature, thus developing a faulty sense of independence, prospect and entitlement.

          Vikram made the point that all cultures have bad and good qualities, and Atmananda made the point that we should concentrate on principles instead of different cultures. While I appreciate both of these opinions, I still think that there definitely are cultures that are more conducive to spiritual practice and promote a more sattvik lifestyle. It does seem like the so-called masses of nations and cultures are mostly similar and are moved by similar motivations, but what really sets different cultures apart are the ideals and value systems of the leaders and prominent people of those cultures. Yad Yad acarati shrestas…

      • A couple of observations to add are these GN: you say that if there isn’t anything to lose or gain why not let loose? But the Christian-judeo cultures are all about rewards in heaven (or punishment in hell), even as the new atheism emerges and there is a transition laden with doubt and scrutiny.

        Also, being disconnected with nature as a consequence of an event in time is not the same as being so in principle. The disconnect with nature in present Asian countries is such that it threatens the planet twice or thrice as the western so called industrial revolution has.

        The bottom line here is, the older brother should know better and be a better role model.

  5. Vikram Ramsoondur

    I’d have to chime with both Bhaktikanda and Gurunistha. Kelley’s article is spot on, and as an Indian-descended individual myself, I can only applaud his analysis of the Indian situation. To object to what he has written would amount to nothing less than blind bias and sheer disingenuousness. The inescapable fact is that the highly visible and crude nature of India’s problems ought to be readily noticeable to even those possessing the most rudimentary and unhoned observational skills.

    Nonetheless, to deny the veracity of Gurunistha’s points would be indicative of just as much intellectual dishonesty. Then again, should this come as a surprise to anyone? The simple truth is that never has there been nor will there ever be a ‘perfect,’ flawless form of civilisation on the face of this ball. We can argue over the relative merits and demerits of particular societal structures and dynamics; however, as far as I am concerned, none can claim to represent a semblance of what an ideal society, determined from a holistic perspective, should be like.

    Rather, or should I say as one would expect, the different alternatives available each seem to excel in specific silos of the human condition. The best that can be said is that Western culture does get closer to what many would no doubt accept as an approximation of a materialistic Shangri-la. Eastern countries, on the other hand, fare better on other counts. This is, of course, a very broad generalisation, one that carries plenty of caveats with it, and to which exceptions abound. But I do believe that it is the general overview in regard to what is being commented on.

  6. It appears that attributing these negative qualities to any particular culture may not be the most effective way to teach about these things. It appears that it may evoke emotional reactions that distract us and impede clear understanding. Certainly we can all agree that selfishness and lack of gratitude are spiritually unhealthy but ultimately can we attribute the origin of these qualities to any particular culture? It may be more effective to find examples of the qualities favorable to Bhakti, wherever they happen to manifest, and encourage those and then speak of the unfavorable in terms of principles which can be applied across all cultures.

  7. What is everyone getting so worked up about? Lighten up! Nobody is seriously arguing that this satire doesn’t have some hint of truth right? Yes it’s generalization; that’s usually the purpose of art, music, etc. – to sum up a particular vision of life. Comics tend to poke fun at the world, critique something in a general way. And this comic is not exceptional in its critique. Similar critique is all over the western and non-western media. We know we have a problem!
    Personally, I see the truth of this comic almost everyday – video game addiction, addiction to convenience and a life of laziness…

    • madan gopal das, I am happy to inform that, from my side, I am not worked up at all, I am calm as a lake on a windless day. Perhaps my style of public writing is not the most gentle but I am 53 years old, not much hope there then as far as change. But I think the discussion is pertaining and I love everyone’s contribution so far, no less Gurunistha’s, the author.

      Indeed, now I see another point of his and which is that, because in the West we apparently beat the odds against nature, we live by a faulty sense of entitlement. This and other points raised seem to be founded not so much in opinion but in plain evidence.

      Rather than hyperventilation, the exercise can be, as Ramsoondor suggests, one of honest scrutiny. I doubt anyone in this discussion would claim a conclusive position on this or any issue. But searching cannot be left out of the process of bhakti. And so we discuss.

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