A festival is an occasion for feasting or celebration on a day of religious significance that recurs at regular intervals.
Current memory attests to how insular the global human activity of the festival has become. The contortion of celebration and insularity resembles a Picasso – right leg in left ear, head up the ass; an art piece conceived with the working title of ‘Holy Cow’ is transformed into ‘Crow on a Steel Pipe’. It’s a form of paralysis, compounded by anxiety, wrapped up in moral posturing, and encased in a cordon bleu chef’s war-zone mentality, all choreographed by a Stradivarius on uppers.
Festivals celebrate the oneness of creation, but have progressively been shoehorned into a cul-de-sac by elitists posturing with holier-than-thou piety and using puritanical thought as a condiment to hide the absence of a purity of heart, which they preach to aspirants as an example of enlightenment.
Whichever faith we consider, the same holds true, the psychology of one is the psychology of all the others. An English-like ‘Little Islander’ mentality pays lip service to oneness and equality, while distrusting everybody from a different faith.
Thus, religious festivals are increasingly accelerating towards apartheid.
Humankind, led by the Anglo-Saxon world, is immersed in personal gratification and in a materialistic race of one-upmanship with the Jones’ next door. It cannot distinguish the greed-survivalist persona from that of the humble-god persona.
Belonging to the old visual tradition with my turban and beard I have often attended the festivals of other faiths – the Buddhists of South-West London made me feel unwelcome; the Anglo-Saxon churches treated me with suspicion; the Muslims tolerated me without sincerity; and at celebrations of diversity organised by the High Commission of India in the UK, I among other Sikhs were treated with barely concealed contempt and served food as if untouchable.
I haven’t had occasion to attend Jewish, African-Christian, Greek or Russian festivals, so can’t comment on how I might be received there. But it is true that even at Sikh festivals there is a core attitude of derision towards me – particularly if I’m known among the organisers and participants: because my desire for a peaceful, harmonious, cooperative world is at odds with their emotional war cries and hankering after a kingdom that hasn’t existed for decades.
This is all so far removed from the world in which I grew up.
In Nairobi, Kenya and then in Punjab, India, every community and neighbour went out of their way to compel you to attend their festivals; outsiders were treated as honoured guests – and nothing was too good or too much to ensure they left satiated and thoroughly ego-massaged. Gifts for invited outsider guests were chosen with personal care, and when you in turn attended their festivals the quality of gift you presented to your hosts needed to be as good, preferably better.
In that world, it was considered the height of personal insult and a slight on the tenacity of one’s faith if invited guests did not attend. Faith in those days inculcated into one’s psyche the oneness of all faiths – the unity and oneness of all humankind. Faith differences were papered over, the important things being politeness and inclusivity, which reflected your attachment to your faith’s lesson of oneness and how well you’d been brought up by parents and grandparents.
Festivals in the world of my childhood were communal events.
All this changed when the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada invited Asians en masse to their countries; their motive being to provide manpower for the various industries since the natives oftentimes refused to fill the vacancies on offer due to over-inflated opinions of their financial self-worth. Without these invitations to immigrants following the European war of 1939-45 the European nations would have sunk financially; and the immigrants were diligent and conscientious, their behaviour and integrity unquestionable, allowing them to settle in quickly and accumulate material wealth beyond the scope and imagination of the natives.
Consequently, the new settlers adopted the Anglo-Saxon attitude of insularity and self-protectionist individualism; such that by the time of the third generation of settlement, the mature tradition of compelling your neighbour to attend your festivals fell away totally – the communal spirit languished to the point of being rendered quaint.
Curiously enough, though the Asians did continue to implore their Anglo-Saxon neighbours and associates to attend their festivals, the latter often refused via a commingling of rudeness and superiority complex – the same that we see nowadays when, in the event that a European couple does concede to attend an Asian festival, the woman willingly dons Asian dress while the man steadfastly refuses.
Asians have taken this Anglo-Saxon standoffishness and false superiority and run with it – the third generation helped in their guileless embrace of such model behaviour by the fact that their parents and grandparents had long since adopted it, had stopped extending festival invitations across the faith divide.
There’s an undeniable economic reason for this breakdown in the old tradition, Asian migrants were working in low paid jobs on shift rotas where they got paid time-and-a-half to work Saturdays and double-time to work Sundays. Given the financial burden of mortgages and sending remittances home, attending the festivals of other-faith associates and friends and neighbours became a lesser priority.
So a commingling of economic imperatives and borrowed superiority complexes have created a festival of apartheid. And while it is heartening to see the third generation of migrants starting to take annual leave in order to be available to celebrate their festival days, the state of festival apartheid shan’t abate until the current Asian generation wholeheartedly re-establishes the mature tradition of cross-faith participation in their festivals.
Until that happens, the current festival apartheid will continue to increase mistrust and disharmony. Consider the shocking event on 10th August when acid was thrown on two Christian girls singing a song during Eid-ul-Fitr in Zanzibar. Intolerance like that didn’t occur in my childhood. Communities intermingled and had far greater appreciation of others’ faiths and value systems. Banal anti-human, faith-based violence is violence against God itself.
How sad that festivals to celebrate God are fast becoming, under the spreading aegis of the Anglo-Saxon attitude a Feast of Evil and debauchery.
God created everything. In disrespecting, maiming and killing a creature of God’s creation, you sin against God. You, the hateful protagonist, are pronouncing that you are a better judge of what God has created, of the value of that creation, than God itself – thereby granting yourself the power to amend God’s handiwork as you see fit. If that is the case, if you are superior, then try this: kill yourself, cremate yourself and rebirth yourself from your ashes. If you can do all that, then please go ahead and redesign God’s creation, for you have the right. If not, please respect everybody else (even their stupidity and faux-deliberate ignorance (thinking of you here, Anglo-Saxons).
The Asian youth of today and tomorrow living in western countries have a responsibility to reappraise recent elders’ adopted insularity – they have a responsibility to hark back to the days, such as those of my childhood, and resume the maturity of those times: inviting other faiths to their festivals and treating them with guileless respect, whether or not they disrespect or misbehave as guests are wont to do as a result of negative personal growth. Will the Anglo-Saxons respect and accept your invitation? I doubt it, and if they do they will act like the celebratory food is giving them a disease. Little do they know that after patronising their eateries we too get the runs the following days – it’s a simple matter of one’s internal bacteria being challenged and flushed out by a new set of bacteria. (Twice a year, the police marshalling Sikh festivals in London turn their noses up at the celebratory food offered them. Very mature!).
I refuse to accept the Anglo-Saxon demeanour as a template of our collective human future. The Anglo-Saxon with his base psychopathic traditions – whereby he annihilated cultures and communities and races in North and South America, in Australian, New Zealand and Tasmania – has a self-delusional fear that every other race is equally psychopathic. Thieves see thieves everywhere. Hence the CCTVs on every street corner in their world, erected as succour to their paranoia at the sight of their own shadow, at the sound of leaves rustling on a tree branch.
So, let’s make festivals the cross-faith events they once were – lest we turn into suntanned clones of the Anglo-Saxon.
Let’s put the festival back into what has sadly become the Feast of Evil.