Saturday, April 15, 2017

Empire and the Nation

Empires have always tried to amalgamate small cultures into a big one.  The amalgamation has many benefits.  The most obvious benefit is the ease in governance.  It becomes much easier to govern when there is one code of law, one set of customs, one language, one religion, and so on. 

Legitimacy is another important benefit. Most empires throughout history have claimed legitimacy for their amalgamation of small cultures by claiming that the conquered people benefit by the process of amalgamation.  The claim was not entirely wrong either.  For example, when many Indians accepted the Islamic or the British cultures they were certainly looking for their own benefits.  Many of the British contributions continue to dominate the Indian culture even today.  Most Indian men, for example, wear western trousers and western suits even when they preach aggressively the superiority of the Indian culture.  English, which is the most common link language in the country, is another obvious example.  The influence of the western culture on our education, medicine, food habits and many other things cannot be ignored.

The process of assimilation is not easy, however.  It is painful to give up a familiar local tradition.  Many people retain the local traditions even while accepting the imperial ones.  English has become the dominant language in the Indian educational system.  But most Indians will speak their mother tongue at home as well as for other personal communications.

Many aspects of western culture were assimilated by Indians primarily because of their utility value.  The easiest way to bring about cultural assimilation is to make the culture useful for the people.  Imposing the culture forcefully will only generate conflicts. 

In spite of the unity incorporated into the Indian sociocultural fabric by the western culture, the country still remains with an enviable variety.  The variety is the real wealth of India.  Where on earth can one find such diversity?  Is it desirable to end that diversity by homogenising the culture?

A nation is not the same as an empire.  The empire imposes; a nation aspires.  While the present India seems to be tilting more and more towards imperial ambitions, it is worthwhile to contemplate whether those ambitions are justified and whether the goals are desirable.  A democratic nation which upholds the diversity of its people is certainly more beautiful than a homogenised one with a single culture and language and religion and whatever else.


  1. The North and South of a democratic nation.

    A hint for your next blog post. The 😁

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. But I'm turning increasingly reluctant to touch political topics given the 'sensitivity' developed by India recently.

  2. There isn't any difference between empire and nation. Both suck people and feed on their moneys.

    1. Are you becoming a cynic like me? :)

      There isn't. But there ought to be. The Empire belongs to the Other while the nation belongs to us. Now you know why there's a whole of 'othering' being carried out here. So your cynicism is in place.


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