In Bangladesh East Meets West Culturally

In the present century, we have seen a lot of admixture of the East and West, at least in Bangladesh. Let us understand very clearly that, any country whether of the East or the West, is best known by its tradition and culture. The culture of a place implies much more than merely its style of living. The heritage of a country that it has inherited from its ancestors is its true culture. It is this inherent culture of a country, the very appearance, the very identity by which a particular country is known. So, it is my earnest belief that, no matter how much we learn from others, no matter how much we adapt to others' style of living, we must, even against all odds retain our own identity.

In Bangladesh, the tragedy has been that, for centuries, we have been slaves to someone or the other. In that very long period of slavery, we have got deeply influenced by our rulers and, in the process our own cultural identity has got lost, in the various changes which have formed a haze in front of our eyes, making us blind to all realities of what we were. Whoever came to rule over us, left a mark on us which would be natural to some extent but, we are prone to be highly impressed by all that is Western. Whether it is Western ideologies, Western styles or Western outlooks, we, as a nation stand completely dazed at all that is Western, we are all in admiration, for all that stands as Western. In this process of westernization Bangladeshis have got lost somewhere on the way.

It seems that we are so very deeply impressed by all that is Western that we have started thinking that progress is a complete aping of all that is theirs. It seems that, we are inclined to believe that the development of the West is only because of the culture that exists there. I feel it is just here that we have gone wrong for, I understand that, progressive development is one thing and culture is quite another thing. Since we are still a developing country, and the West is by and large a developed area, we have apparently thought that, if we want to progress, we must give in totally to all that is Western. It is here I presume that, we have made a big blunder, and the result is that, the amalgamation of East and West that we see in Bangladesh to-day is a picture of total chaos, and a loss of the very target ahead. Culturally, scientifically, mentally and socially also, we are leaving our line and towing the line of the West.

In our extreme enthusiasm of copying the West the position as I see it to-day is that we have completely lost track of our own culture and have not been able to absorb completely and adjust to the culture of the West. The result is too much of frustration and loss of Bangladeshi ideals, and our inability to accept the cultural pattern of the West. At this juncture, I'd love to remind ourselves, that, "East is east, and west is east and never the twain shall meet".
If we understand this and remember it as we are in the process of Westernizing, I think that, even now the process of our disintegration as a cultural entity can still be staggered or even stopped. It seems that unless we take in the Western culture wholesale, we will not be able to progress as much as them. I'd like to say that; culture and technological progress are two different things. We, can surely take up to their skills, learn their sterling qualities and yet retain our own traditions. In my view, only then we would be considered as a progressive nation. If we take in one aspect of progress, and lose out somewhere else, I feel we remain where we were, for it has been only an exchange not an addition to our wealth of qualities. It will thus eventually be an exchange of technical know-how and progress for culture and tradition. And that is not as it should be.

It is not the culture of the West that has led it to its advancement. I'd rather say that, it is the culture of the East that has assimilated so much and yet has remained a constant subject of discussion. I dare say that, there must be something really sterling about our Bangladeshi culture that, it has stood all the odd tests of time and still survived. My suggestion would be that, we sort out what we must learn from the west, and what we must retain of the East. Only then, the result will be a miracle of God. It will become an admixture of good qualities of the East and the West.

Presently what we have done, in our enthusiasm of taking all that is Western is that we have absorbed all the evils of the West, and mixed them up with the evils that we have in our stocks. For instance, we had our evil of laziness, and, instead of taking in the work culture of the West, we have taken in their mechanization everywhere, and made our people even lazier. This has been the result of adapting to their advancement.

No Country should lose its identity at the altar of advancement or progress. The strength of a nation lies in its culture and we should never fritter away with any tenets of culture at the altar of modernity or progress. If we do this, we will be losing more in the bargain than gaining.

To prove my point here, I'd like to give one example from our society. In the process of Westernizing our society for instance, we have been able to establish the single unit family norm, just by copying the West. We, however, forgot that, the strongest of our cultural heritage has always been the strong bonds of the family. This strong fabric of our society we have almost completely broken, little realizing its impact on our parents while we just try to ape the Western pattern of family. In this process, the woman has gained some amount of momentum in acquiring a status but, at the cost of losing the love and forgotten that, in the west the seniors have a number of securities while here if the parents are left by their children, they have no place to go to.

So, in this unplanned way, just aimlessly and blindly aping the West we have lost the bonds of love of a family and created extra problems for our children and elders. At this juncture of discussion, I'd like to know whether, the change over to the miniature family has added to our progressive image, as we seem to be thinking.

In this way, if we continue copying without a thought — we will soon be having a lot of technological progress without love and a lot of money without people on whom to spend it. Even now, not much is lost, let us try to go back to our own culture, and hand in hand, continue the technical progress. I am sure we do not have to look like the Westerners to grow like them. We must copy but do so intelligently, without loss of ourselves in any field.