I noticed this past week on Mayoral candidate Rory Stewart’s Twitter feed the following “Ended the afternoon trying to help my five year old - who wanted to find sculpture from the Ramayana in the @britishmuseum - but - apart from the Garuda in the South Asian gallery - which is not Ramayana specific - no luck. Tips anyone please?”
I was suitably impressed. Lord Gadhia was one of the first to offer a reply of the 88 respondents, “Rory - impressed by your daughter’s keen interest in Indian culture and traditions. The Garuda does play a brief role in the Ramayana during the battle at Lanka. The ‘king of birds’ relieves Lord Rama and Lakshmana from the noose of a serpent used by the son of the demon Ravana.”
But then it went down hill. Others posted sarcastic comments such as these:
"Does he also have a passing interest in numerology and space-time continuum?”
“How about taking your five year old to the Park ? Lots of fun to be found there ...”
“Buy them a bag of sweets and go and see Paw Patrol.”
“Why not take him to the football?”
“Appealing to the masses or public school chums?”
“How ultra-educated is your five-year-old to want to find a sculpture from the Ramayana? Most kids of that age would settle for Peppa Pig!”
The attacks on Rory show a broader problem – the attack on anything intellectual. God forbid a child is interested in anything other than Peppa Pig. And then there is the reverse snobbery. That the ‘salt of the earth’ folk who can compete to be the most ordinary, poor, down-trodden.
Culture, education, intellectual pursuits are defined by such individuals as elitist. When I became Chair of City Hindus I was asked a striking question on Facebook – ‘it won’t be elitist will it?’ I’ve never met a more elite group of people than British Indians. Striving, achieving. Are we to look down on such things now? Are we to elevate our children by the lack of qualifications?
Of course character is made of more important things than knowledge but it certainly does not come from elevating ignorance. This is part of the cohort who will sneer at culture as elitist. Religion as not modern enough for them. The rush to ditch education comes from the same vein as to ditch tradition and culture and history and heritage. Oh how boring. We just wanna have fun DJ. You don’t think the DJ spinning the tunes is talented?
Whoever the pied piper whose tune you’re following, better to understand it’s a talented informed educated fellow. And he may just lead you off a cliff if you merrily follow the tune with your mind closed.