Modern vs. Western Values

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Ramana and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get different views of the prism, colours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Ramana.

I am a woman of the 20th century who has stepped into the 21st with all my values set and running.

I am an Indian woman for whom tradition, culture, ritual and family are the four pillars that enclose the space that I dwell.

I have windows on all four walls that let in illumination and fragrant breezes about other worlds.

I have a door on hinges that open inwards and out, that I can lock up or throw open to kin, family, cultures, learning and lore.

I grew up reading in an alien language—English—that I have made my own.I have imbibed a lot of western thought that helps me to process Indian thought, literature and philosophy. Yet my Hindu practices, thought and values are deeply ingrained and affect my every action and behaviour.

Western values are today the norm for the younger generation in India—‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘myself’ are some of them. The passionate single minded focus on achieving heights of success and wealth at any cost has taken centre stage. Clothes, gadgets, overt signs of achievement are the necessities that our youngsters and society denizens aim to own.

Good habits and values of the West like standing in a queue, respecting time, place and privacy are some values that have not been imbibed. Family, respect for elders and duty to kith and kin and society seem to be taking back stage.

I do not mean that this is a blanket behaviour…but urban and Western media influenced kids are adopting such practices. Physical exposure, openly exhibiting sexual behaviour, lack of fidelity, fleeting/temporary commitments, single parenthood—all these that are being shown in movies, TV and magazines are being imitated.

India too had its inequities—values and morals were prescribed and adhered but there was an undercurrent of dissolute behaviour and sexual and gender exploitation. Today, lines between Western values (that are freely demonstrated in the public through media) and modern values are becoming blurred all over the world. In fact they seem to be reflective of each other.

The strangest thing though is that the West has understood that its values in the past hundred years or so have created a dysfunctional, fragmented, unhappy society. They are going back to traditional values and habits and looking for alternate philosophies like Buddhism and meditative practices like Tai Chi and Yoga to cure the unrest in minds and bodies.

After all the world is round isn’t it?


About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest is acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays.
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12 Responses to Modern vs. Western Values

  1. Grannymar says:

    Excellent post Padmini! Alas, with all the blurring respect and good manners are fading.


  2. padmum says:

    That is because we are not teaching our young by example or by subtle hints…sad.

    In our parts an older person is called “Hey you oldie” and an elderly lady, “Hey old lady!”
    in Tamizh….sad but there is a lot of derision for an older person as if their age should automatically make them stay away from the hurlu burly of urban life!!


  3. gaelikaa says:

    I wouldn’t say that the west as a whole is a fragmented and dysfunctional society. There are huge pockets of that in certain parts of society. I’m happy to say that much of the society is quite functional and well adjusted.

    It is also true that when you throw out old systems of living you do need to replace them with a viable alternative. My late FIL used to decry the fact that the Indian youth were turning their back on Indian traditions and looking to western solutions to their problems. Would you believe that many of the elders in my part of the world would have said exactly the same, albeit in the opposite direction? That the youth there have turned their back on their Christian traditions and are now being lured by foreign traditions?

    Like you say, the world is round.


    • padmum says:

      Right Maria…I did not mean to say that the whole west was in trouble. Whatever you read–novels, non-fiction, papers, blogs–much of it is about problems and an unhappy society grappling with a multitude of problems.

      I feel that human beings have forgotten the meaning of satisfaction, contentment, of having fun in our daily lives. We seem to only voice angst, pain and gore.

      Even the youth who are claiming to have fun seem to have a sense of desperation about kicking their heels as if tomorrow will not come.

      Sometimes I feel that I am unable to write anything with a light touch because I get worked up about stuff….my bro would say Cool it and meditate—after all I am Padmum–named after the lotus –the position you take to meditate in Yoga1

      So here I am going off to cross my legs and breathe in and out…..chanting OM!!


  4. rummuser says:

    Great post Padmum. You have identified the crux of the problem for Indians brought up in an immediate post colonial environment, eventually morphing into the post a990 existence. I would say that we were by and large modern prior to the nineties and started losing that and becoming Western subsequently.


  5. Delirious says:

    After reading the posts of the other members of the consortium, I feel your last sentence really does wrap it all up. You are right, the world is round, and as the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6. Maybe if we can teach our children the values taught to us, they won’t be lost all together afterall!


    • padmum says:

      Delirious! Thanks for your summing up. I am glad to read the Bible quoteas well.I am right now working on Parenting issues…helpful. Ta! You have to live the values and talk about them I think.


  6. Ashok says:

    You have summarized the basic attitude problem in my generation perfectly well. We are a confused lot without any idea of who we are or what we stand for. I do believe in a lot of western ideas myself, but I find solace, just as much in the teachings of hinduism, sufism and buddhism. There is a lot to be learnt if we opened the windows of our mind, but it is important to introspect before accepting.


    • padmum says:

      Phew!! Finally a parent got it righ! Thanks Ashok…you made my day. When I read the learned blogs of other members of this group I am motivated to say something myself.
      My values have been imbibed from my mother, my brothers and my husband and his family……and a lot of reading as well. Yes introspection is important….in anything, always. The process is triggered by outside stimuli, right? God bless you!


      • Ashok says:

        @Padmum: Since we are talking about your brother, there was a query as to whether a lasso would work in containing his enthusiasm to provide such difficult topics from Grannymar. What do you think? 😛

        Parents get everything right, thats what so damn annoying 😛


  7. padmum says:

    Ashok! Sorry….er Rajgopauls cannot, I repeat cannot be reined in by anything or anybody. Like a juggernaut we sweep through time and space casting our words of wisdom along the way. If it takes root, well and good. If it doesn’t who cares!!

    Parent’s don’t get everything right. It is just time that places them in a position of seen that, done that, experienced that and they are able to spout out the right stuff…be too will get there!


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