Westernized culture impacts student lives, creates new identities

Illustration by Al Solecki

Illustration by Al Solecki

Leah Dunn, co-a&e editor

With all of the technological advancements that have been made possible in the 21st century, the transfer of ideas, beliefs and practices between nations holds no limits. However, with this fluid transfer of ideals comes the question of whether the Western world’s influence on the international community ever oversteps itself.

According to Elisabeth McGuinness, International Relations teacher,  Westernization is the transfer of Western traditions or beliefs into non-Western nations. McGuinness explained that this idea of Westernization is one concept that students delve deeper into throughout her course.

“We look at issues in developing nations and assess whether or not we are judging them in a manner that is culturally appropriate,” McGuinness said. “We look at the power and the strength that Western nations have in pushing their own agendas onto more developing nations.”

McGuinness explained that with all of the nuances and intricacies that compose Westernization, it can often be difficult for students to fully comprehend the influence that their own ideals can have on other cultures. McGuinness recommends that students look for opportunities to see the world from other culture’s perspectives as much as possible in order to understand  the many facets of Westernization.

“I think that one of the best things you can do to learn about other people and other places is to put yourself in situations that are out of your comfort zone, because I think that’s when you start to reflect on your background and your experiences rather than just living your life experiencing things in your own little bubble,” McGuinness expressed. “[…] Putting yourself in […] different places helps you gain a little bit of a better perspective.”

According to junior Sana Bouacha, she agrees with McGuinness that putting oneself out there allows one to see the impacts of Westernization. Bouacha suggested travelling to different parts of the world as a way to better understand the West’s effect on other countries and their ideals. She explained that when she visited her family in Morocco, she saw how Western ideals influenced urban areas, specifically in relation to her Muslim faith.

“Morocco is predominantly a Muslim country, so there are a lot of women wearing the hijab to cover up,” Bouchana said. “But in areas where it is more urban, there are a lot of women who let their hair down and who wear makeup. The Muslim faith does not require [women to wear the hijab] but [the hijab] symbolizes a sense of modesty and I think in this case, Westernization can take away from this modesty.”

Senior Dasha German also believes Westernization takes away certain traditions embedded in other cultures. According to German, having family from Europe has allowed her to see firsthand the negative impacts of Westernization on other cultures.

“I am not a fan of Westernization because [I don’t think] there is any reason to impose our values on other cultures when other cultures are just as rich and colorful as ours,” German explained. “[As Westerners], we have taken it to be as, ‘Oh, Western is right,’ but there’s no real right answer […]. [Western nations] are destroying cultures that are different because we want everybody to be the same.”

Contrary to German, Boucha believes living in a Westernized country has made finding a balance between the Western culture and her Muslim faith possible. Boucha believes that the two actually bring out the best in one another.

“I don’t believe that [Western culture] has at all taken away from my values because I still feel that I can go about life in a modest and humble way,” Boucha said. “My parents raised me in a way that I can approach my religion however I would like to, and I think in this way they have really taken in a Western approach while still staying stern on their beliefs. I think that people are capable of reaching a balance between [faith] and Western ideals.”

German believes it is important that students of the Western world be aware of the influence Western nations have on the rest of the world’s societies. According to German, recognizing the negative impacts that result from Westernization is something that Westerners often look past and must be acknowledged.

“[As Westerners], we can pretend that we made the world a better place by Westernizing other countries, but in the same way it has had so many negative effects,” German said. “If [Westerners] don’t acknowledge that just because something good [happened through Westernization] that [something] bad didn’t come from it, then we are being ignorant. […] You can’t assume that Westernization is the perfect model for how [a country] can be successful.”

However, German also acknowledges that Westernization can have a positive impact, as long as Western ideals are not trying to replace the cultures of other areas of the world.

“[From a cultural perspective] Westernization is negative but there are aspects [that are important], technologically speaking or in regards to education,” German said. “If we have the resources to help other people we should use [those resources], as long as we are not trying to make [those people] more like us.”

Sophomore Hafsa Shahzad explained how Western ideals have been an influence on  her own culture and identity. Shahzad believes being a first generation American has allowed her to blend her Indian culture and American beliefs together, which has given her the opportunity to create her own identity.

“I [believe]that sometimes people can lose a sense of who they are [when being influenced by the West],” Shahzad said. “I’m a first generation child, and I haven’t necessarily lost where I came from, but I have in some ways had to change who I am to fit the norm of the Western world. I think that I am a lot more open minded now, and it is a lot easier for me to see where other [first generation] people are coming from because we have [all] had to become accustomed to [the American] lifestyle.”