In a world dominated by the English language, where most of us are forced to ‘defend’ our culture or worldview, we can feel very deprecated, with low self-esteem. Some of us may even not want to enter such conversations. I find this challenge is significant in the social sciences where cultural and religious ignorance is vast, especially among experts. Like the language, the theories are white too so where does one even begin?
Media is one method of education. If we have our own media, we can communicate culture on our terms. This is why I am so happy to support iGlobal. As a Jain, I am often forced to start the conversation by spelling the word. Such is the ignorance. Yet I also know that my culture is vast in terms of depth, breadth and wisdom, and of relevance to the whole world. In 1999, I was the founding editor of a global magazine called Jain Spirit which had this unique mission to communicate and engage. Our younger generations also need support and empowerment if they are to carry the baton of Dharmic wisdom.
Dr Michael Tobias, an eminent writer and filmmaker, made an award-winning PBS professional documentary on the Jains 35 years ago called ‘Ahimsa: Non-Violence’, which is available on YouTube. He did meticulous research for the film and painted the culture as a positive science of hope in an increasingly angry and cruel world where animals are slaughtered and exploited on an industrial scale. Tobias put Jains on a high pedestal – far away from the ignorant and prejudiced defensiveness so common today.
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The documentary recognises the Jain tradition as prescient and very timely for our challenges of sustainability. It’s a film we can show to young people and also use in the University classroom to educate and empower society about alternative philosophies and cultures. Whole families can watch and then discuss and debate together.
Contrary to popular belief, vegetarianism is not a new invention nor is interdependence a new discovery. Please watch it and discover the depths of Jain culture – and see that even when you are not Jain, such documentaries truly empower us all.
That is the beauty of good inter-cultural communication. We can be creative and support new media and talented artists and filmmakers too in a strategic way to pass on our heritage to the new world. Next time a young artist comes to you for financial support open your heart and invest.
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Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.
*Info: Ahimsa: Non-Violence