Ancient Futures of Ladakh

9 September 2016

What is development? It can be defined as a specific state of growth or advancement. Helen Norberg-Hodge would view it as a western way of life, which brings forth destruction of family values and a change in the traditional way of life as seen in her documentary Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. Ladakh was an isolated Himalayan country which followed the Tibetan way of life. They had a sustainable traditional way of life, and didn’t depend on the western view that money was what made you happy. They knew not of poverty, diseases, pollution or of being a society that didn’t work as a family or well knit community.

They depended on the earth to sustain life; they worked together in their communities to harvest the crop; they were virtually able to sustain themselves, live peacefully and were happy people. But in 1974, this tight knit family oriented society, was met by the Western Culture. The pressure was there to modernize. Before when she visited the villages the people only knew of cultivating the land, to provide food. They took care of their native animals; they lived as big families, whereby it wasn’t just the parents and the children but also the grandparents. They build their own houses by using what the earth provided.

Ancient Futures of Ladakh Essay Example

As stated in the video, in traditional culture children learn from experience, how to grow food, build houses, how to make clothes and most importantly they learn about the values which supported their way of life over the centuries. On the contrary when the western way of development arrived, the children now went to school, and weren’t home to help their mother cultivate the land and carry out traditional practices. They were sent to school to get an education about how to get specialized jobs that are needed in urban centers (in the video, you see a child learning how to fix the engine of a car).

Now, this became problematic because these types of jobs weren’t readily available, so in reality the children were basically trained to be unemployed. The video also states that the children were never thought about their own cultures but studied foreign poets and cultures. Furthermore, this type of development also made the people of Ladakh felt ashamed of their culture. She gave an instance whereby she asked a guy from one of the villages to show her the poor houses; before he was influenced by he western culture he replied that they didn’t had that; but over the next eight years his views changed and he then began seeming himself as poor just because western culture depicted that way of life to be that way. According to the video, he then began to see his culture as being backwards primitive and poor when compared to that of the west. With the arrival of tourists, the Ladakhis view them as rich people, and that life in the western world was clean easy and trouble free. This is one of the reasons why I believe some members of the Ladakhi people decided to go along with modernization.

As said in the video, films and television shows people of Ladakh, that west is best because of the images they show, of fashion and glamour and tools that do the work for humans. Development also destroyed the way the people treated each other. Women were regarded as the string that held families together. Now with western influence, the video tells us that the women now view themselves as sexual items; to be in line with the latest fashion and worry about the physical attributes. It also states that the men then began becoming more aggressive and wanted to live up to this macho image.

They basically change the way the Ladakh’s use to be and interact with each other. As a result of development the ladakhis began losing their sense of self-confidence and worth. They alienated themselves from family and community and became insecure. Not like before when they were a family and did everything together and looked out for each other. A key note that should be mention was that, they then looked toward the importation of goods. The people no longer rely on their own crops n food to sustain themselves but imported wheat and goods.

The country went from living off their own goods to having to import to sustain them. In reality modernization brought short term material benefits; it unraveled the relationships that held Ladakh over the centuries; pollution was introduced into the environment (Before, everything went back into the land; they knew not of waste. ); and lastly the communities were beginning to breakdown. As mentioned before people use to be happy with each other, now it is not that way anymore. It is my belief that development doesn’t have to go from one extreme to the other; or as you mentioned from situation A to situation B.

It can be avoided if people hold certain values and develop in a way that will benefit their community at home and not looking at it as what other people view development to be. After all, each community is different, so the degree of development shouldn’t be the same everywhere. Additionally, I do believe that development is salvageable. One just has to try to resort back to being a community to do so. Start thinking about the wellbeing of the society they are living in rather than their own personal livelihood. They then have to start thinking about living more sustainably.

I mean it is irrational to say that we’ll just abandon future development and resort to what society was before development. Sustainable Development will help a society to lower their pollution rates; provide jobs that are needed; and change the view of how life should be. I believe she called her documentary ancient futures because the Ladakh way of life may have been ancient in the way westerners view development; but now that most societies has resorted to the western culture; she probably believes that that way of life should be our future or teach us values so we could have a better future.

This video opened my eyes and I think we in Belize have fall to the western culture. I grew up in the southern part of this country and I could give a small example as how modernization affected us. When I was younger, my family moved from Belize City to Stann Creek. This was in 1997. When I transferred to school down there I was surprised by the way life was. I already had the City mentality and found it to be weird but after a while I wanted to be like the people from down south.

A particular instance I remember was that I would take my shoes off and be barefooted at school because everyone use to be that way. Then when I got home later my mom would be mad because I use to do that. So that was just basically me wanting to fit in. But now years later, with my little brother going to school down there the kids no longer care to adhere to that way of life because now they have full electricity, access to cable television and I don’t know become like everybody else.

This can also be seen in the Mayan communities where the young girls don’t wear their traditional dresses as often but prefer to wear jeans like what everybody else is wearing. I believe we in Belize need to try to hold on to our culture, because we are losing it. I’m mestizo, but I don’t really know my tradition because I never grew up in it. I only knew the English way of life. One more point that came to me just now is Mestizo people not being able to speak Spanish and we have a lot of that in Belize. So we do need to work on developing sustainably but also sustaining our cultures.

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