Posted by: miralbessed | October 6, 2012

Christmas is Upon US.

My last visit to a Target store made me realize that Christmas is upon us once again. As I mesmerizingly stared at the neatly arranged wall of Christmas lights, for a split second, I wished to celebrate Christmas as most Americans do.  At that moment, I also realized that living in the US for eleven years have influenced my understanding of the world around me quite heavily. 

It is not that I don’t celebrate the joy that the season brings, I do, it is just that I don’t usually go all out to decorate and hang lights in my house. I never felt the need to do so because, as a Muslim, it goes against my principles to waste resources. The book shed some light on the major holidays that Muslims observe (Ramadan) and, as you may have noticed, it is not a commercialized celebration. Due to poverty and lack of vital resources such as water, food, electricity etc, in Pakistan and Afghanistan (where I lived for twenty years) my values and ideologies had been influenced not only by my religious practices but also by my circumstances.

As O’Shaughnessy discusses in the book, ideologies are found and enforced by institutions around us. In my case, eleven years of living in the US and observing its media, attending school, being in the western retail workforce and so on has penetrated through my deepest principles through which I have understood my world up until now.  

The question is, if ideology and hegemony are communicated to us through all institutions surrounding us, are there enough culture jamming and counter hegemonic practices to help reverse the effect?

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Responses

  1. This is an interesting question! I think that the answer is no, there are never enough to reverse the effect. Even when the dominant ideology changes, whether gradually or through being suddenly overthrown, the effect isn’t reversed. It simply continues with a new ideology backing it.

  2. Yours is a very fascinating perspective, Miral. In the past week or so, I have been battling deeply ingrained ignorance and Islamophobia among some of my old Marine friends on facebook. They have been conditioned through their culture and the media to believe that Muslims in general are violent extremists and that they are to be feared or treated with suspicion.

    Even something as logical and socially virtuous as your abstaining from our Christmas ritual of hanging lights and decorations because it’s wasteful would likely be perceived by some as “un-American.” Forget the fact that un-American is a completely hollow and vapid term; the point is that many Americans are literally incapable of seeing outside the confines of their cultural conditioning. The hegemonic power structure in America is a holy-trinity of corporatism, statism and consumerism.

    Consider for a moment the structure of our economy. Roughly 70 percent of America’s GDP is consumer spending. That is why any cultural belief that challenges the status quo of material worship in America will be derided and attacked by the institutions of power.

    But to answer your question, I think we have to keep faith and believe that we can affect positive change within our culture. The best way to undermine our culture of consumerism is to promote greater understanding of foreign cultures and to spread awareness about the negative aspects of our way of life. I think greater understanding of our negative and dangerous impact on the environment, for example, will continue to guide us in a more positive direction. There will always be social movements and plenty of agents for positive change if we continue to believe that each of us has the power to make a difference.

    Then again, if the American/global economy collapses, maybe that will hasten the destruction of material obsession in America and the western world. 😉


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