Sunday, 11 March 2012

Modern culture’s Superiority complex:

Let’s face it. Given a choice, don’t we all want to just relax, eat, drink, be with nature, live in a society which doesn’t have gender related issues and work only when we have to? Most of us will spend an entire lifetime working hard, following ambitions or fighting for rights so that in the end we individually get to that utopian state. 

Yet, when we see a tribal specially the PTGs (Primitive Tribal groups and now Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) we automatically think of them as backward and in need of help. Why? Because they like to keep to themselves, wear little or no clothes at all, drink a lot, don’t own money as we know it, their idea of wealth is a few more trees than the next guy and they like to live life at their own pace. And in our well meaning but misplaced intentions, we rush to help them get their rights and make them live the ‘real’ life – in the modern world.

If we can ever stop rushing about and forming quick judgements, we will be able to see that their attitude, culture and lifestyle are far more superior to ours. They have a few things in place which we as ‘modern’ society have been striving for years to achieve. Firstly, their closeness to nature (many city friends might not agree though I think it’s very important). Secondly, their comfort with their body and sexual freedom. In many tribes women wear saris which are folded till knee length and no blouses and take bath in the open. Pre-marital sex is allowed in most tribes. In some tribes a woman chooses a husband by sleeping with him first. If she’s not happy with him sexually, she can leave him and chose another partner. Though an unwed mother is not likely to get married, she is accepted within the society and lead a full-fledged community life.  Thirdly, equality of gender. Women are not treated as submissive but as equal partners in a relationship. Husbands encourage their wives in anything she wants to so. Nobody frowns if a woman gets drunk.

Over the years, people have taken away their land, cut down forests, reviled them for not being conservative and treated their women badly. Livelihood issues have forced them to slowly adapt their lifestyles to ours. And with that, negative influences are slowly creeping into their culture and thinking like dowry system, cutting of trees for easy money, domestic violence etc.  

Whether it is limited media attention, the inability of NGOs to tell their stories or just plain lack of interest on our part but we know very little about them and their culture. We look at the western societies for answer to our ills. Maybe it’s time we start looking at our own backyard and discover the wealth there.   


  1. Just a question: Much of what you say has been written about and assimilated. There are now NGOs and companies that offer volunteer travel projects and rural experience trips so urbanites to live the simple life at least briefly on occasion. But here's the thing - urban people get to experience the life of villagers and tribals and maybe it changes their own lives, maybe not. But in the interaction, the tribals also come into contact with people who live a completely different lifestyle, and they may want to explore that themselves. They may have aspirations to change their lives just as much as city people do. We can't keep them in a bubble always.

  2. agree bunny. thats something which is being debated very much right to how best to mainstream them without them losing their essence....which in my mind is a very difficult task. except for those tribes which live in very remote areas and are not really in touch with the our society....the others are slowly getting assimilated in our society and sadly picking up cultural mores which are not good like dowry, violence etc.

    what i have seen is that they have very few demands and we should also know how to give them all amenities (like health, housing, food etc) without letting them where we are now...which is greed zone or try and teach them our ideas of morality (why is it necessary to wear blouse or take bath in an enclosed area?).

    my point is if we want them to learn from us....we have much more to learn from them.