Understanding Ancient Cultures and Religions

I have been thinking a lot about this topic for a while.

There has been lots of backlash in Western countries against certain ancient religions and cultures. There have been repeated incidents (too many to count), especially of late, in which some belief or faith has been insulted. One of the latest cases is when United Airlines (its alliance partner airline or subsidiary) refused to serve diet coke in a can to a person who wore her religion on her sleeve, so to say. That was absolutely unacceptable, and United Airlines apologized for its crew member’s behaviour, but I am not sure whether enough training is being done to educate service folks who are in the business of serving the public.

We do not see such behaviour in South East Asia, to be specific. There are virtually all cultures and religions present in this region, plus all the Western cultures. However, there is no insult to any specific culture or religion, or any outward display of a religious faith. People carry on with their work, and do not take time to talk about such folks or their faith or their customs or their cultures. May be they do so in private, which is fine. No insult is done, and in some countries it is not possible to cause insult, because the government concerned is very clear about acceptable behaviour – what is not acceptable will lead to punishment. And, that stuff is captured in a law of the parliament which is then applied to the population without any hesitation.

I am not sure why such happy behaviour cannot happen in places like the U.S. or European countries. Tolerance is the very basic fabric of human life, necessitated all the more because of our innate differences – we believe in different things, different faiths, different cultures/customs, we wear different kinds of clothes, and what not. Everything may be different between me and you, but we still have to respect each other, avoid any kind of insult to each other, live together, and be productive in our respective pursuits in life. Is that not very clear to all ? Why is it not clear to so many people in the advanced countries – this just baffles me.

Immigration is a part of life in every country, and people are going to move around the world. That would necessarily impose a burden on the natives of a particular place, state, or country. There is a necessity to understand and merge with others. There should be welcome to foreign folks who have chosen your place as their dream place to start a new life. Why insult them ? After all, they are going to contribute to the economy of your place or country.

It is very critical to spend sometime trying to understand ancient cultures, ways of doing things, and religious practices. I have personally invested time on these things, and it made me a better man. People do appreciate if you take interest in their areas of belief; you may not subscribe to their vision or belief, but you are making an attempt to understand. That, in itself, is a positive gesture to people around you. That does not give you license to say bad things about the people around you, however.

So folks, it is time to shed our preconceived notions about what we think are “bad” or “wrong” cultures. They are all the same at the end of the day. We need to learn, understand, appreciate and give a helping hand to people around us, irrespective of their culture, belief or religion.


Vijay Srinivasan

14th June 2015

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