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Cultural Imperialism

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JadedAtheist

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Esperanto opened up a world for me where I could speak to many people who did not speak English, but lived across the globe and offered perspectives that I had not encountered, or even had considered before. It has been eye opening, but I'll get back to this more in a moment.

 

The other day I was reading the blog of an American(?) woman who converted to Hinduism. It was an interesting read, especially so because she was taking up Indian culture. She started getting involved in Indian dances, learning Indian languages and from what I gathered, involving herself in general in the Indian community. Hinduism is tied to Indian culture, you cannot split them apart. In order to understand the texts in the original language and to understand the thought processes behind their philosophy (religious or not) you need to become familiar with their culture.

 

I've seen this in Muslims. Arabic culture is held into high esteem, many seek to learn Arabic and if you know Arabic you are highly revered, and if you are from an Arabic speaking country you are almost definitely revered. I get somewhat similar vibes from this woman and Indians, but outside of these people I have also seen it in Christians. I went to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches while I was a Christian and they all were strongly influenced by American IFB churches because they go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. The difference was that it wasn't modern American culture, but seemingly American culture from the 50s.

 

American Bible Colleges were held in high regards, and many young men and women sought earnestly to go to them. American preachers were in high demand for conferences and churches were glad to take on American missionaries. There was an obsession of Americans, to the detriment of Australian culture which was viewed as inferior as a result.

 

This is seen outside of the religious scene as well, don't get me wrong. When I was into anime as a teen, I was obsessed with Japanese culture and it was held in high regards and held high above my own, and it happens to a lot of teens I've noticed who get into anime or manga but they eventually snap out of it, some take longer than others though :)

 

Well, this leads me to my initial post about Esperanto. What I noticed with Esperanto was that a lot of the people who I spoke with kinda felt like they were being bombarded with a foreign culture and forced to be subjugated to it. Why should they learn English? Why should they have American tv shows and films on their tvs, not to mention hear their music?

 

Many felt violated with it and did not appreciate it having it forced upon them. At the very least it was seen as unfair. The American who wants to communicate with someone overseas puts no effort in doing so, he speaks English and simply presumes the other person will too without considering the time and effort it has taken to learn the language, and maintain their skills at it.

 

Esperanto is seen as putting people on equal footing, both parties have to put in the effort to learn another language and neither is communicating in their native tongue. There is no unfairness, or one party having the upper hand. It makes them both equals. I never considered it that way before until I spoke with these people, but I can totally understand it. This isn't to say that all non native English speakers feel this way, it seems that those that feel that way are attracted to Esperanto, but still I wouldn't be surprised if a very large portion of people felt this way, and I couldn't really blame them.

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