Ten bucks says most of us can’t differentiate between the concepts of modernization and westernization. Since GB and America defined — for the most part — the birth of new world in their respective eras, people tend to be unable to differentiate.
In reality, these are 2 different paradigms, often confused. In fact, my own take to this is there are actually 3 dimensions — modernize, westernize and anglicize. Anglicize is especially relevant for countries that chose to take to English as a bridge to the modern world. For India, English has come to serve as an essential link to people even within the walls of the country. Today, being able to communicate in English is not only a matter of convenience, but also a sign of one’s intention to be part of the modern world. The more sophisticated your English is, the more modern you are (or so they think). Pick up a newspaper, tune to your favorite regional language TV channel — you will see there is plenty of English in it. But there is also increasing view that imposing English limits creativity and prevents great ideas from being spread.
There likely are several modern countries that are not western and there are several western countries that are modern, but don’t speak English. And lastly, there are several western, modern and English-speaking countries that don’t quite measure up when it comes to prosperity and growth.
But I constantly struggled to put in words what the difference is between modernization and westernization.
Thankfully, Fareed came to my rescue and differentiates the two as follows:
“Becoming a modern society is about industrialization, urbanization, and rising levels of literacy, education, and wealth. The qualities that make a society Western, in contrast, are special: the classical legacy, Christianity, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, civil society”
For example, Japan is modern, but not Western. France is highly modern and Western, but does not speak English. Fareed says, “A world in which Indians, Chinese, Brazilians, and Russians are all richer and more confident will be a world of enormous cultural diversity and exoticism”, and if I may add, will prove to be neither Western nor English speaking.
While we ponder on this idea, there is, sadly, a 4th dimension that is proliferating everywhere — Americanization. Do something the way America does it and all of a sudden that is cool. Truth couldn’t be farther from this. America is defined by values that more or less condone (and in many cases, encourage) the ideas of “living beyond means”, instant gratification, “live life king size”, abundance and wastage — most of which do not support the basic values of sustenance or humility. America has good values as well — most don’t make it to the rest of the world. While it is hard to judge what is right and wrong (and certainly not my intent to do so), it is naïve to think doing something America does it will automatically mean we are doing the right thing. I hope we grow out of this.