Cultural Condescendence, Cultural
The Clash of Cultures
Clash and conflict has always been a part of humanity. At one time
conflict between different tribes was primarily due to competition for
resources; better hunting grounds, better pastures and better farmland.
As humans began forming unique cultures and building civilizations,
a new type of conflict emerged. It was the clash of culture.
The clash of culture was rooted in the belief that one culture is superior
and others were inferior. This belief has an ancient history and in
a quirky manner repeats itself throughout history. The classic Greeks
called all other people around them barbarians. This included the Persians
who had their own culture, civilization and most important of all, a
strong empire, the Scythes, Libyans, Nubians, Celts and Germanic tribesmen.
Among those with the barbarian label was an ambitious ruler by the
name of Philip of Macedonia. He was ridiculed because he could not speak
Greek properly. Unfortunately for the Greeks, Philip of Macedonia was
no person to be under-estimated, neither was his son Alexander the Great
who avenged the humiliation his father faced by subduing all Greek city
states under his rule. Later by the tender age of 32, he built the largest
empire by land area until it was surpassed by the empire of Chengis
Throughout his empire, all cultures were Hellenized and Greek became
the fashionable language from Bactria to Egypt. The culture of the Greeks
was imposed on the barbarians through what Alexander called
Greek Education. Such was the extent of Hellenization that
in Israel, the Old Testament written in Hebrew had to be translated
to Greek (the Septuagint) because the children of influential Jews spoke
Greek instead of Hebrew.
This cycle continued throughout history. Whenever a people invaded
another people, their way of life was imposed on the subdued (better
known as Cultural Condescendence). One way of imposing culture on others
was to make the subdued people feel inferior to the overlords in terms
of culture. Australian social commentator and critic Arthur Angel Philips
coined the term Cultural Cringe to describe such a collective
inferiority complex which often leads to self hatred of being born to
a particular ethnic group.
Cultural condescendence reached its most brutal phase with the notorious
Inter Caetera, the division of the world by Pope Alexander VI between
the Portuguese and Spanish in 1493 which triggered the colonial frenzy
of the Europeans. This led to cultural genocide, from the Incas and
Aztecs of Latin America to the Aborigines of Australia countless cultures
were exterminated from the face of the earth. Even Europeans themselves
were not immune to this, the Irish faced cultural genocide from the
Sri Lanka was no exception. Out of the three colonizers, the British
were the ones who left behind the worst damage, a damage which warrants
much more than just a few paragraphs to describe. Had it not been for
great people like Keppitipola, Gongalegoda Bandara, Puran Appu, Ven.
Kudapola Rahula Thero, Ven. Gunanada Thero, Ven. Anagarika Dhammapala,
Kumaranathunga Munidasa and Ven. Sikkim Mahinda Thero, the Sinhalese
people would have inevitably ended up as refugees on land reservations
in their own motherland like the Australian Aborigines, Native Americans
The clash of cultures continues to this very day. Globalization is
nothing more than this old conflict under a new name. It is really strange
to see that in this global village, it is only the people
of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe who have to change
or be left out. This is nothing more than a subtle and diplomatic
way of saying Give up your culture and start living like us.
On the other hand, the people of North America and Western Europe continue
to live their usual lifestyle.
In this global village it is near impossible to find an American playing
an Udekki, Getabera or Daula. It is equally difficult to find an American
who routinely eats Kiribath. However, on the other hand it is possible
to see the mushrooming of baseball clubs, bowling alleys, hamburger
stalls, barbeques and toastmaster associations in Sri Lanka. Nothing
more is needed to unmask the guise of this façade term for cultural