A recurring theme of this year has been the westerns world impact in Asia, particularly in terms of cultural impact. The argument has always been framed in terms of who is wearing Levis or what global fast-food chain or multi-national conglomerate has infiltrated the local market. These arguments are superficial in nature and fail to look deeper than the surface. The discussion has rarely explored the actual effects these changes are having on the social and culture fabric of society.
The concept of west embodies what? The west has been identified with the developed, modernized world. Perceptions as individual freedoms, equality between sexes, democracy and endless opportunities all characterize the west. It is this thinking that is changing the base of Asian cultures, and secondly, the material aspects of western clothing and food.
The core elements of societies and culture have changed. Societies are now at an interesting crossroad of old and new. The new (middle and upper class youth) are easily swayed by the new glamour of the west, whereas, the older generation continues to cling to traditional ways. A generation gap has been created. The younger generation is increasingly alienated from their traditions. They are yet to find a middle ground between the pressure from the old, and the new influences in their life. This struggle will become increasingly forefront in shaping their culture.
A common cited example is the institution of marriage in India. Historically, a core base of their culture and society, this has changed. The younger generation are losing touch with the old ways. They are getting married older or not at all. Families are being torn apart as traditions diverge. Traditional aspects such as respect for authority, consensus and patriarchal families are becoming lost. Individual decision-making is starting to develop.
The question that now arises is whether or not western culture is a positive and negative force. In terms of the above-cited example, there are many positive elements in this change. The empowerment of women, less children, and the positive impact on her physical and mental state are all bonuses. Unfortunately, it is impossible to weed out the negative effects, from the positive. The problems occurring from this and people misusing their new freedoms cannot be ignored. A balance needs to be achieved between the old traditions, and the new western influences.
In the end, culture and society are not static items. They have been evolving since the creation of mankind. The difference here, is that this cultural change has occurred quickly and more severe than at other times. The road of transition will not be easy. It will change, whether or not, it is done by western influence (positive or negative) or not. Contemporary and traditional ideas will continue to struggle against each other well into the future. They will mesh together and one day find a middle ground.