The Reproduction of the Whitemen’s Burden in Goa

Image Source: Classic Children’s Literature

With the politics of culture reigning supreme in our country, it is vitally important that we study how our cultural practises can be read as images and texts. This takes us into an analysis of political use of certain dimensions of our culture/ cultures. It is critical to understand how these selective employments of our cultural symbols operate as a meaning system and becomes an empire of signs. The selective use of the cultural resources drawn from the great cultural store house of our society as a political capital by some self-appointed guardians of culture and their political masters and parties need to be opened for public debate and scrutiny. The attempt to homogenize and monoculture the vast and dynamic cultural pluralism in our country to suit the political and vested interest of the power elite requires to be contested for the love of our country and its diverse people. We in Goa are also steadily becoming captives to politics of culture. Hence, the question of understanding the tyranny of the empire of signs and its control over us is both urgent and relevant. It can assist us to bring to light how a set of cultural practices and symbols are engaged as markers and representative of the essence of being Indian and consequently Goan.

One can draw lines of parallels between the cultural police of our days and colonial masters, particularly the British colonialists. The British saw India as a chaotic society that needs law and order. They further justified their colonial rule by promoting the view that all Indian are deeply religiously rooted and saw their experience of religious conflict (between the Protestants and the Catholics) as central to Indian society. They projected this conflict on the relations of the Muslims and the huge sea of diverse people that they homogenized as Hindus at that time. In some way the British fuelled this conflicts and followed their divide and rule policy. They describe Indians are liars, our men are effeminate, and oppressors of our women. That is why they thought that Indians have to be treated like children whom they have the burden to civilize. They promoted a view that located a point of origin of the Indian civilization. Just like European civilization had its roots in Greece so do the Indian civilization had its origin in the Vedic times and inscribed a linear history on the Indian Past claiming that India lost its Golden era because of its Islamic rulers and viewed themselves as those who will restore this great civilization. That is why some of them began to study Sanskrit and engaged in the translations of this tradition. It drives to civilize the unruly, the contaminated Indians has been christened as the Whitemen’s burden.

We might need to understand how we have cultural police who seem to have become clones of the colonizers and mimic their civilizing mission nationally and in Goa. One might identify these tendencies in the Sangh Parivar that continue to look at our people as largely uncultured and fallen away from a rich cultural past and hence have to be civilized with what they deem as national culture. The fact that these forces have selectively chosen from the vast and dynamic archive of cultures in our country those elements that seem to mimic the divide and rule policy of the British is clear beyond an iota of doubt. The recent opposition to the struggle against the denial of democracy to the parents concerning their legitimate right to choose the medium of instruction to their children also mimics the colonizers who considered all Indians as children and uncultured and took upon them task to civilize them. The cultural police in Goa also seem to have taken up the burden of civilizing the parents. The discourse unleashed by them in our society certainly inferiorizes the Parents and accuses them as ignorant and have no real love for their mother tongue. Besides, like the British, the issue is viewed by several among us as primarily as religious conflict. Hence, our positions have already become coloured by our religious affiliations even though it is the poor among the Hindus who are the majority who benefit from the Church run English medium Schools.

Therefore, it is important to understand how we have become mimic men of the colonizers while comfortably and triumphantly deem ourselves as the only protectors of our culture and heritage. Hence, the empire of signs invented by the British colonizers still enslaves us even long after we have become independent. Perhaps, we need to purge our society from its slavery to various modes domination that reproduce and clone an afterlife of colonization in our society. Unfortunately, we have surrendered to second order orientalism or lapsed into a complex colonization of mind. It seems that the cultural police (who are out to civilize the ‘barbarian’ parents) are reproducing the Whitemen’s burden in Goa. Hence, it would be important to ask in the context of cultural policing in Goa: who represents whom and with what consequence. The position of the cultural police is of profound consequence to life and death to the poor people. It is a struggle that in some way challenges us to put the people above their culture.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao