Are we really so sensible?

A few days ago, when Bhutto was assassinated, I mentioned how there were countries worse off than us. The conversation veered to how Indians in general consider their culture rather great and illustrious. Adithya said,
Only the politicians and the press claim that we are upcoming super powers. Ordinary citizens like you and me know that it is not so.

Maybe, though I doubt it, but there’s more to it than just that. The majority of Indians I have met have an abnormal sense of pride in their country, and in its so-called ‘culture’. It’s almost unhealthy, the way people go around talking about how the Vedas contain so much information, or about how Indian culture is so much superior to other culture. I always suspected that this is not normal behaviour, and is endemic to India, and now the statistics seem to support that claim. The Pew Research Centre’s Pew Global Attitudes Project did a nice big survey over some 47 nations asking, among other questions, whether the respondents thought that their culture was superior to others. It’s hardly surprising that the people who you’d expect to be insecure score highest (click for all the results, the values are percentages, going left to right from completely agree to completely disagree)

Pew - Is your culture superior - survey - thumbnail

Such self-importance is unbecoming of ‘one of the oldest civilisations in the world’. It’s not surprising that there is so much fundamentalism in this country, such belief in superiority reinforces any nationalist tendencies these people may have. Really now, the only reason one should wish to support one’s country is the desire to defend the way of life that one wishes to have; emotional attachment to an arbitrarily demarcated piece of land and the people there is a throwback to tribal ways. One would hope that civilised society has passed that stage, but then, are we civilised at all?

It’s no surprise that the poorest of countries are also the ones who chose to believe that their ‘culture’ is superior to other countries’, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Nationalistic spirit seems to be a substitute for real development, the soul of soulless circumstances, to borrow a nice phrase. Unsurprisingly, these superior cultures are also the ones that seem to be in most danger of being overrun by unwashed philistines. The smart people at Pew wanted to know how many believed that their way of life needed to be protected, and guess what?

I’m not very surprised, though I am rather disappointed in those 2000 odd people who answered for us.

Update: Should’ve linked to the study straight. Here you go.

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