Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Oriental Occidental

My earlier post (and memory) was triggered by one of Maugham's books that I was recently reading - The Razor's Edge. Placed in early 20th century and with Maugham's frank illumination on his society, the book creates a very realistic picture of Europe compared against the infallible impression on my childhood mind. It is a Europe where class distinction was a proud truth, socializing and social standing were paramount values and marriage was seen as the 'most profitable employment' for women.
No doubt the reality of Europe (or the west in general) was (and is) different from the reality of India (or the East in general), but they are not unequal realities. In comparing their values and standing, it would be very difficult to say which was superior, and in my view the suggestive classification of First, second, third, fourth worlds is open to suspicion and questioning.

Perhaps then, a valid classification seems to be the division of these two realities into Occidental and Oriental. That is a classification which does not place one over the other, but places them at different ends of a spectrum. While Occidental depicts material progressiveness, pragmatism, industrial development and dominance of Christanity, Oriental is associated with spiritualism, rudiment, elementality and a multidue of Gods. The two terms, thus depict a different orientation and both have a different measure for development. Of course, measured from each end, the other end would look degenerate and regressive and therefore both Oriental and Occidental worlds have sneered at each other for lack of spiritual awareness and economic backwardness respectively.

With the progress of time, however, it seems that nations are no longer ready to commit to any one end of this spectrum. Simultaneously with the wave of saffron clad westerners roaming the streets of Rishikesh and Benares, also arose a wave of industriuos Easterners attempting to make a mark in the materialistic world, often migrating to the west for better prospects. Today, the world seems full of 'money searching easterners' often passing by 'soul searching westerners' on their way to the international airport. It seems remarkably parallel to the diffussion of cold and hot waters, each bringing its temperature to merge into an equillibrium.

May be like the yin and yan, or the God and the devil, the two realities exist simultaneously in the world, manifesting themselves in different degrees in different places and cultures. Or may be it is just my Oriental fancy :-)

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