Saadia's Side: Debunking Some Myths About the Western World
The writer has something to say about her real-life experience of the Western World vs the myths she had grown up listening.
One of our favourite sport is the hyper-glorification of our own culture and completely shunning away Western culture. The veterans in this sport even take it to the next level by creating the fabricated stories about the lands they have never been to. As a child and teenager, I would come across stories that perhaps meant the white women ate their children because they did not love them enough. The family system in the West is in shambles hence one day the Western society would come crumbling down to the ground. Everyone there is depressed and undergoes psychological issues of one kind or the other.
While delivering the sermons related to the hyper-glorification of the Eastern society, we were even told the tales that you later realise did not even exist. E.g. our value system places us on a pedestal where no one can reach. We eat the cleanest and purest food. Our children respect elders and the elders are taken care of by the children vice versa. Boys and girls do not mingle in our culture which keeps everyone safe from many issues (one of which was vulgarity) that are eating down the Western society bit by bit.
Some of these stories/sermons were also about the mistreatment of the desi community in Western society because they were treated as second-grade citizens. The whites are racists and are wary of the Muslims. Every food product you get in the markets there has pork or alcohol. There is no place like our own country. And the list goes on.
Had I lived in Pakistan for a few more years or had the storytellers not repeated the same stories over and over, I would probably have lived in the same make-believe world where everyone except with a family name similar to ours was the child of a lesser god. I had to move out, call it my good or bad luck. I would call it good though.
Since the first station was Dubai, I got to have a little idea of how the Westerners we had watched only in the movies looked like in real life. Since I had grown up in the era of terrorism and religious extremism in Pakistan, we rarely came across any foreign-looking souls in our part of the world. This further fuelled our stereotyping. In Dubai, although I was exposed to a much multi-cultural environment, my exposure was still amateur. I needed to meet more people and see another side of life to come across the realities that had always been camouflaged in hyper glorification for most of the children of my generation.
Visiting any place is different. Living there makes the real difference. Hence, I also got to know about Western society when I moved to Australia. A different ball game altogether!
My initial few days were in a state of disbelief because every moment was busting one myth or the other. No, there was neither bacon nor alcohol in every food item. There were many certified halal restaurants. Even many mainstream restaurants had halal options (provided you asked them). No one treated me as a second-grade citizen. In fact, I came across a surprisingly pleasant experience at public spaces which was something completely unusual from me.
As I spent more time here and made friends around, I discovered that the family system was not as distorted as I had heard of. Yes, there exist no joint family system like back home (which again are debatable) but people do have strong family systems. In fact, these family systems are more stable as they do not stay together out of a social obligation.
Now coming to the racism part, to be honest, it is actually a bit funny when we coming from troubled zones talk against racism of the other communities. We all are pretty clear about the caste system and the superiority complexes that exist within each community. A person from South India in North India, or a person from Peshawer in Lahore might be treated more different as compared to me living in a predominantly white city. Yes, there are subtle undertones of racism but since I have seen worse I do not think it should matter much to me.
Men and women mingle freely but then this has also resulted in a more inclusive and more tolerant society where women are not taken merely as a piece of meat.
As far as the depression and mental health issues are concerned, I feel we living in the desi societies suffer more because we even refuse to address and acknowledge them.
Although Dubai did give me an insight of how inclusive and tolerant societies functioned, it was after moving to Australia that I realized how the Western World functioned. Smashing the stereotypes and debunking the myths every single day was probably what I needed to become the person that I am today. It is funny how the stereotypes about the desi communities in Australia are also strong enough but let us keep those in the kitty for another day. Till then, let me sip my chai with samosas and green mint chutney.