An imagined past is the future

By: |
July 07, 2021 5:15 AM

Globally, driven by young people and, now, institutions, there is an amoeba-like movement afoot for cultural change

Muslims, perennially discriminated against, but no doubt inspired by the courage of CAA daadis, are standing up more and more for their rights—there is already a movement to fight discrimination against minorities in housing.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of history suddenly changed so that everyone alive today had equal opportunity in all things? Most things would be completely—and often dramatically—different, but some may remain the same. For instance, Barrack Obama may still have been the 44th president of the US, but—and this is the point—there wouldn’t have been that much drama around him as he wouldn’t be the first Black president. If everybody had had the same opportunity, chances are there would have been 4 or 5 black presidents before him (14% of 44).

So, too, if the story of prehistoric man had cavemen sometimes staying home with the kids whenever the cavewoman went out to bring home the bacon (and, while I am no anthropologist, I’d like to believe that it is possible that they did), patriarchy, which is front and centre in the unequal opportunity stakes, wouldn’t be such an endemically vicious force. The #MeToo movement would not need to exist and, critically, women would occupy around 50% of positions of political (and corporate etc) power. It would be an entirely different world—more balanced, more sensitive, greener and cleaner.

Of course, some current stars would still be in positions of leadership. Elon Musk, for instance, will always be Elon Musk; it is worth noting, incidentally, that he is who he is in no small measure because of his mother, who (paraphrasing an interview I saw) taught him to dream big, go full steam ahead and make sure you don’t hurt anyone. This joyous new world may sound like the babbling of an ideal boy, but the truth is that most people would be happier in it.

Importantly, more and more people today are working towards a world that looks like this. There are two pieces needed for the change—the first is to address as loudly as possible the injustices of history, and the second is to open our minds and hearts to a wider cultural palette than most of us experience today. Examples of the first include efforts in the US (as well as the UK and other countries with colonial pasts) to take down monuments to “heroes” who were really exploitative oppressors, as also the efforts to highlight racism, misogyny and oppressor-worship in arts and literature.

The second—increasing the accessibility of vastly different cultures in any milieu to more and more people—is, in my view, an absolutely critical element for any sustainable change.

The good news in the US, where Black Lives Matter is the current high point of the long march towards racial equality, is that today there are far more news stories and Hollywood movies and TV shows and books about the lives and concerns of Black people than ever before; Black women, who were historically at the bottom of the privilege ladder, and even Black LGBT people are getting more place in the sun. The process is irreversible and it won’t be long before Spike Lee is simply seen as a great filmmaker, like Martin Scorcese, rather than a great Black filmmaker.

In India—much larger and more diverse, and having suffered cultural prejudice for so much longer—the situation is much farther behind, but here, too there is the smell of change in the air. For instance, there is substantially more discussion of Dalit lives in the mainstream media (and not just from a political standpoint) than even a year ago, and, indeed, increasing numbers of reviews of literature by Dalit writers—I would highly recommend Moustache by S Hareesh.

Women writers, of course, have long reached the mainstream in India and women producers and directors are making a stronger run for it now. However, sexual violence, which is ultimately the worst expression of patriarchy, remains a horrible blot; the good news (if it can be called that) is that there is considerable evidence of women standing up demanding that the patriarchy stand down.

The LGBTQ movement has also grown wings, even in middle-class India. And Muslims, perennially discriminated against, but no doubt inspired by the courage of CAA daadis, are standing up more and more for their rights—there is already a movement to fight discrimination against minorities in housing.

Importantly, this amoeba-like movement for cultural change is driven not just by young people and individuals who are, of course, at the forefront. A wide range of institutions, whether out of a sense of self-preservation or genuine belief, are joining in. From the G-7 acknowledging that tax policy is one of the root causes of inequality to FIFA providing a fitting answer to Viktor Orban’s draconian laws against LGBTQ people to from the Delhi High Court chastising the Delhi Police for applying stringent penal laws to ordinary citizens’ protests, and myriad others, all point to the writing on the wall. The future will be closer to my imagined past.

CEO, Mecklai Financial

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