As usual, the Western world reacts strongly and promises not to give up the fight – but as usual as well we see a total absence of self-questioning from the Western camp. As if we were 100% right in what we are doing, and there was nothing at all that could be challenged about our civilisation.
I think some aspects of our liberal society are questionable, for example the hyper sexuality and nudity. Isn’t all of that too exaggerated? We fought to be allowed to wear mini-skirts, great – but did we need to nude up all the way?
Two anecdotes from travels reinforced my questioning:
In India, May 2006, I had a conversation with a local, successful and rich young man who travelled a lot in Europe but still lived in Mumbai. He was asking me my impressions about Mumbai and listening to my answers, very interested.
When I mentioned how difficult it was for a Western woman like me to feel safe in the streets of Mumbai, he told me: “Look, in every American movie, a man meets a woman, and five minutes later they’re in bed. You and I know that it is a shortcut, and that it is cinema anyway. But some people here, how could they know? They just believe you Western women are all whores craving for sex”.
Years later, in Uzbekistan, I found myself in a small town South of the country that did not have a decent hotel. A family offered to host us, and we were having a conversation (or trying to, given my level of Russian). They had a simple, rustic house, with a hole in the garden for toilets. They were ethnic Tatars, a family that was forced to move here during Stalin’s most psycho years.
Their 16-year old daughter was getting ready for a month work in the cotton fields, as all students have had to do in the country since Soviet times. And while we were chatting and drinking tea, I couldn’t stop myself from glancing at the TV screen which was in the back of the room. On the TV: the most sexually appalling postures by Rihanna and co; a contrast to the context as vivid as ridiculous.
I am not even talking about how many times, everywhere in the world, I have been mocked as a French for having a president (that was the previous one) in “a fake marriage with a horny top model known for having slept with the whole world before” (I am using the quotation marks here as a disclaimer given the guy’s dictatorial methods and potential re-election in two years).
What is important here: do we realise in the West that today’s world is connected and everything we do can be seen elsewhere, too? Do we realise that things can be experienced and interpreted differently in various contexts? Do we realise what poor image we are giving ourselves with this extreme sexualisation and moral depravity?
Because in India now, not just Western women are considered whores. Recent events in Delhi have shown how simply wearing jeans can cause a lot of trouble to local young women, because jeans are associated to Western culture and Western culture is considered so decadent. We see that more and more in the Arab world as well, as I once wrote about.
Do we realise that, every time Miley Cyrus’ pants get shorter, every time a half-naked RnB singer fakes orgasm on stage, we are somewhat feeding the anti-Western propaganda? How can we just ignore that?
I often write about how the West needs to respect others more. But that should go both ways, and if we want others to also respect the West, then the West needs to be respectable.
I would never have the pretention to claim knowing what we should do. I am just saying: it’s something to think about. Maybe there are ways to continue our social progress in a more mindful way.