Identity / 28.08.2009

By Anjum Altaf I am reading Yehudi Menuhin’s autobiography (Unfinished Journey) and sharing with readers what appeals to me. These thoughts on nationalism I feel are particularly meaningful for South Asians. As a musician, well aware that art must have local roots if it is to convey universal meaning, I view evidences of cultural difference, even the perhaps insignificant ones I have cited, with approval as well as interest. The yearning to preserve a distinctive culture which sets the Basque against Madrid, the Scot against Westminster, the American Indian against Washington (however vastly these examples differ in degree), wins my sympathy. Undeniably the aspiration is legitimate and worthy. But is it possible, given human nature, to separate good from bad, the wish for cultural autonomy from the wish to impose one’s way of life on one’s neighbours?