Updated: Sep 20, 2020
What happens when perfectly sinister omens go unnoticed over time? It becomes innocuous and becomes the norm of the day soon. This holds true when it comes to erasing a culture through domination. This phenomenon is called cultural hegemony and manifests in different forms and exists in the disguise of freedom of expression. The people of victim culture let it manifest because of their intellectual laziness and powerless position in the society they live in. An example would make it clear for the readers how it manifests and sets the narrative of the future if not taken care of.
Recently a famous supermarket chain ALDI SÜD started selling Alcoholic beverage with the name of a Sacred Hindu Goddess “Saraswati”. Hindus consider Goddess Saraswati sacred and beholder of knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, it is completely demeaning to name an alcohol after “Saraswati” which has hurt the sentiments of Hindus all around the world. “Hindus of Germany” group have launched a campaign in this regard to highlight and fight against such an irresponsible action by ALDI SÜD in the name of business. The whole episode is testimony of example of cultural appropriation in micro dosing. So, what makes the victim cultures in this case the (adherents of Hinduism) to not question such sinister omens. Let us examine the top three straw men, logical fallacies in the light of cultural appropriation in the victim cultures
Argument 1-Some people opine why should this be taken so seriously? Don't we have our own country where we have names like Venkateshwara Bar or firecracker in the name of Goddess Lakshmi?
At the outset, absolutely true, it should not be the case. How can we Indians think of naming a firecracker in the name of Goddess Lakshmi or a bar in the name of God? Now, this is the place where the intent comes into picture. The intent and faith need to be understood, the person selling the firecrackers in the name of Lakshmi worships Mahalakshmi or the person selling the alcohol would have Venkateshwara Idol double his size in his shop or simply put, the owner would have wanted to increase his fortune by deriving names from the Divine. But sometimes to prevent this from becoming the new norm, good Samaritans wake up and stand against it, because they understand that the tree of fallacies needs to be uprooted so that the next generation is able to identify and distinguish between faith and contrivance.
The state Andra Pradesh in India, in 2017 came up with a Government Order (GO) against the usage of names of Deities on Bars and wine shops. In March 2017 in Maharashtra and November 2018 in Karnataka, Ministry of State and Excise initiated the draft law to prevent usage of the names of Gods and Goddesses.
Even if for once we could think that the producers indeed intended to be good, and respected Goddess Saraswati, then why did they not research a bit about the emotions attached to it? Is their PR and brand management so weak to only concentrate on the name without understanding the sentiment?
Argument 2- This has something to with religion and I am far away from it.
Cultural Appropriation has nothing to do with religion, it is to strategically target and hit the minority in a smart and calculated way. Neither were the Pagans aware that their once rich history of Earth religion would be swept away by Christianity when their intellectual philosopher Hypatia was murdered by the Christian men. Nor were the Africans aware that their African religions like Yoruba, Zulu, Igbo would soon be a minority after the colonization of Christians and Islam. One needs to rise above religion and see it from the lens of righteousness and Dharma and stand up for any wrong doing against a particular faith or ethnicity.
3. Argument 3- It is good way in which our culture is getting promoted. At least this way our names of Goddess will be read by all.
No Hindu in his wildest dreams would have thought until the end the of World War II that they may not be able to worship the sacred symbol of their religion in Europe in future. What was a “Hakenkreuz”, came to be called as “Swastika” through a carefully orchestrated campaign by people belonging to vested interests. Thus, a sacred symbol of Hinduism has become a prey to cultural hegemony by the cultural emanating in the west. Today the same symbol has been source of contention playing to the parlays of Hindu phobia in the West. It is hard for an average person to identify the thin line where freedom of expression stops and cultural hegemony starts. This is one of the weaknesses of most of the non-Abrahamic faiths and indigenous cultures. The result is obvious and obnoxious in the Western societies including Germany. Some of the examples are people wearing a Native American war bonnet and fake braids imitating Africans.
1. Both ALDI and Pabst+ Richarz were quick to apologize, and have mentioned that they would reconsider before branding their next batch. However they haven’t mentioned the status of how many bottles have been already manufactured and in public domain. Also, they have clearly abstained from taking those bottles off their shelves.
2. ALDI UK has confirmed that this product will not be up for sale in UK.
3. CGI Frankfurt has initiated the talks with ALDI Hessen, to understand and make them aware of the trademark and legal aspects associated with Indian culture.
Satyawahr has been the first magazine to cover this incidence closely. It reminds us that one needs to be vigilant, and in the name of pseudo faithfulness or free speech Gods and Goddesses of any faith or religion do not land up on any other entity which might be equally inappropriate. The Indian Diaspora has contributed immensely towards preserving and protecting India’s cultural ethos and identity. We salute them and support them in this fight for justice.
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