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Lessons from Tahiti: How Indians might be at risk of losing some of their culture if they are not careful

Author: Chhayank Mehta
Publication: Myind.net
Date: September 19, 2018
URL:      https://myind.net/Home/viewArticle/lessons-from-tahiti-how-indians-might-be-at-risk-of-losing-some-of-their-culture-if-they-are-not-careful/

Social media is a great catalyst. There are people who owe their success to social media. Just like some considered Science as a Boon while others considered Science as Bane, there are people who have become famous due to social media whereas the same social media has made them infamous. Social media has allowed one group to propagate an idea whereas the same social media has ensured that there are avid readers, fact checkers and even propaganda busters who will point out infirmities in the data or will expose the hidden agenda when propagated on social media.

While a section will use social media to make unsubstantiated claims, some will chose to give unsolicited views. No problem in that. As already stated that social media is such active platform, that fake news or hidden agenda driven messages do get exposed by people using same social media. 

The situation becomes grave when people who have a lot of influence on social media, use the platform to send a message or promote an idea which is backed by hidden agenda. Since a good number of people are under the influence of the persons who are celebrities on social media, when such personalities make some claim or give advice (sans any understanding about the subject) the matter becomes serious. However the silver lining is that personalities do not have that ‘Long Rope’ now. There are fact checkers and through intellectuals who will either call out the bluff/hypocrisy of such celebrities or prove how the claims made by such celebs is nothing but a half-baked truth.

Those who are active on social media (irrespective of the platform i.e. Twitter, Facebook etc.) might have seen a pattern in the unsolicited advice given by celebrities. The pattern here, I am referring is targeting of Hindu religion, Hindu festivals and Hindu traditions/customs. Be it calling for abandoning crackers during Diwali or questioning the very concept of ‘Rakhshabandhan’ or ‘Karwa Chauth’. While one should not object to ones views (after all that’s what democracy is all about) but shouldn’t such views be taken with a pinch of salt when they are only about questioning one religion/sect? Also why is it that while they have one set of views for one religion/sect, they turn a blind eye towards other religion/sect practises? The latest fad among these celebrities is mocking those who point out this bias in their views. They will mock the person questioning them by stating that the person is resorting to “whataboutary”? Well this is a clear ploy to deflect from the issue and even hide their cowardice.

This reminds me of a book titled ‘The Missionaries: God against the Indians’ by Norman Lewis. The opening part of the book explains a case about Tahiti. Its mentioned in the book that how missionaries went to Tahiti and made an attempt to proselytize the natives of the small island. It’s mentioned that for many years evangelists made an attempt to convert the natives but they found no success. But the breakthrough did come eventually. The book states that on the island there was one local chief named ‘POMARE’ who was an alcoholic. The evangelists/missionaries backed Pomare in a war against other island chiefs. Since Pomare was supplied with firearms he won the war. After winning Pomare became a Christian. The victory was followed by forced conversion of natives. As Lewis mentioned in his book referring to JM Orsmond, “The Whole nation was converted in a day”.

However it was not all hunky dory after mass conversions took place. The book states that missionaries had pronounced strict punishment for non-believers. Following traditional culture was in a way outlawed. Having tattoo on the body or dancing were considered as offence and were dealt with strict punishment. Imagine, a tattoo on body of native of Tahiti was considered as big offence. In effect the native culture of the island was destroyed. Not only the culture was destroyed but even the nature was affected. The population on the island declined to a great extent under the missionary rule.  This happened in the end of 18th century. Needless to say such acts of missionaries/evangelists bring bad name to Jesus Christ.

What does the incident from Tahiti teach us? Do we see a pattern? Think again. In Tahiti, a person holding dominant position (Pomare) was used to convert the natives and destroy their native culture, tradition, customs etc. Now fast forward to 21st century. Are we seeing an attempt being made to specifically target our religion, traditions, customs etc.? And how it is done? Often we see these celebrities making plea for ‘No Crackers on Diwali’ or targeting ‘Rakshabandhan’ or even calling traditions like ‘Karvachauth’ as “regressive”. Now when these kind of questions (tactics) are raised by the so called celebrities, the common man who is a believer of a certain faith as well under the influence of such celebrities might feel confused about the practises in his/her faith. Since he/she does have answers to these questions, it is quite obvious for him/her to have doubts about the practices.

Remember not everyone is well read and aware of reasons/importance for a particular practice in faith. This fact becomes the basis of creating confusion in the minds of believers to drag them away from their native culture. Now there might be issues/practices in other religion which can be questioned, but our Indian celebs won’t question that. Rather they end up apologising. The point I want to make is that we often see those people who exercise some level of influence on section of common people in India resorting to these kinds of tactics to target Hind religion, customs and traditions. While punishing the non-believers or followers of other religions/traditions/customs/sects may not be prevalent in present times, continuous attack on them by questioning in a way that confuses the non -believers or other followers is becoming a norm. Not only questioning, some have even resorted to abuse/mocking while targeting. While the Constitution of India does grant a freedom to follow any religion, why is that the majority is often subjected to abuse/mocking?

While the incidents in Tahiti and in India may not have a direct correlation, it does point to a common fault line i.e. targeting of native culture. The phenomenon is not new. There have been similar incidents during the colonial rule as well. Remember the infamous cartridges for rifles believed to contain fat of cow as well as pigs? That too was an attack on the faith of Hindus and Muslims. Even the ‘Azamgarh Proclamation’ prepared by Firoz Shah who was the grandson of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar too stated that British are trying to convert Indians into Christianity by tyranny and excesses on a large scale. The prime target is destruction of native culture be it by force, inducement, influence or by mocking. And often it’s the influential who knowingly/unknowingly become the conduit of this exercise…Powerful British then, Influential Celebrities now. Means are different but ends remain the same.

It is often said that ‘Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it’. The lesson from Tahiti is one of those examples that shows how native culture is destroyed using influential/powerful people. We are going to witness (and celebrate) some festivals in the coming months like Navratri, Diwali and I am sure we will hear these shrill voices of how celebrating these festivals cause “harm” to environment. But remember…While the tricks of targeting might have changed, the dominant template remains the same….’Target the native religion, culture and traditions’.

(PS : The intention of writing this is not to question Jesus Christ or Christianity but rather those who bring bad name to the religion of Christianity by using various tricks to convert people for force, inducement, influence and mocking)
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