In Dreams Awake

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

(Henry David Thoreau)

Saturday, 21 April 2018

We All Wear Levi's

 There's a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government at the moment, with the acronym CHOGM. Catchy, eh? They're deciding who'll replace the Queen as head of the Commonwealth. As a Republican I could care less, but there's another issue too, which is that 70% of Commonwealth countries apparently still ban homosexuality.

 Now to my mind, who sleeps with who isn't my business. If two men are in love, or two women, that's fine. Love is very rarely wrong. But still, do we really have the right to lecture other countries, other cultures, on what to believe?

 That's cultural imperialism. There's still a good bit of it about, unfortunately, sixty or seventy years after the end of the European Empires. People get upset because Saudi Arabia, among other countries, punishes thieves by cutting off their hands. They get angry because homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, or women have few rights in Pakistan. Those things seem strange to me too, even a bit backward. But I know that's because of my perspective as a man raised in the increasingly liberal West. I'm not sure I have the right to lecture other peoples on issues like these. Their cultural histories are different from mine, so their outlooks are too.

 The world wasn't like this, once. Marco Polo could travel to China and be amazed by the differences. Ibn Battuta covered the world from Morocco to China and wrote of the wonders he saw. Now we can travel from Britain to Cuzco or Samarkand, and most likely find a McDonald's on a street corner and a little shop that sells Pepsi. Everything has to be made the same. I think that's a pity. I'd rather live in a world of myriad cultures with different rules and traditions, than one in which every pub is a Wetherspoons and we all wear Levi's.

 I'd like to see homosexuality accepted everywhere, and women's rights too. I'm liberal to my bones. But if the price of that is losing the things that make us different, losing much of the world's cultural identities... well, then I don't know, because I love those differences too. It's the sort of conundrum which liberals have failed to deal with in the past. We all defend a woman's right to have as many children as she wants, but we also know that overpopulation is killing the ecosystem, so which belief do we abandon? Which holy cow do we shoot?

 Instead of trying to sort through this, at CHOGM they've spent days deciding that the next Commonwealth head will be the heir of a hereditary monarch. Imperialism, still kicking after all this time.