The Consequences of Misunderstanding (Critical Commentary)

Posted on March 15, 2013 by

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In the Minnesota Public Radio article titled The Dangers of Dope-Smoking Ascetics in Kathmandu by Edward Schumacher-Matos, it addresses the misconstrued ideas about the usage of marijuana in the Hindu religion.  During the recent selection of the new pope, the radio station did a small excerpt about things that are going on around the world in other religions, since they were focusing so much on the Roman Catholic religion at that time.  The newscaster mentioned the Shivaratri Festival that was currently going on in the country of Nepal, but gave listeners a skewed idea of what Hindus do during this festival.  It was broadcasted that tourists were passing “by naked ascetics puffing on cannabis pipes” (Schumacher-Matos).  Many Hindus were incredibly offended by this assumption because they said that this was just a side activity that only a few people participate in, and that the festival is so much more than that.  The festival is all about fasting, prayer, worship, and just a celebration of the God’s in general, and this small report gave the festival a completely false connotation.

My first impressions of the article confirm what the Hindu’s were afraid of after this commentary was reported: that the Hindu’s were just using this festival as an excuse to “blaze up.”  The picture at the very top of the article also confirms this false accusation.  In the photo, a circle of Hindu’s surround a couple of candles, waiting to light their joint.  A picture that could have exemplified the real activities of the festival probably would have been better and maybe more appropriate.  Perhaps there should have been a photo of a Hindu in the middle of a prayer session, or rejoicing and singing in the name of the Lord, which would have represented this festival more clearly.

The main purpose of this particular article was however, genuine and sincere.  The beginning of the article stated the situation that the radio station was in, and at the end is where the main point of the entire article was.  This article was a public apology to the Hindu religion.  They apologized for misrepresenting the Shivaratri festival and the religion as a whole, stating that this was definitely not their intention and they are very sorry for offending anyone.  The reporter was genuinely interested in the festival and thought that others would find this as fascinating as he did, and his intentions were not to mislead others about what the Hindu religion was like.  There were multiple apologies within the article and admittance to making a mistake, and I found them to be very genuine.  The repetition of the apologies is what made it seem more sincere to me, because the reporter kept admitting how he was at fault for this and emphasized that.

This article is a great representation of how outsiders can have a completely skewed idea about another culture or religion.  To this traveling outsider, he only saw these Hindus smoking pot during one of their most important religious festivals.  This activity is the one that caught his eye, so of course this is the activity that is going to stand out most to him.  Had it not caught his attention so profoundly, and had he actually known what the festival was all about, he would have seen all of the other things that encompass this festival.  I think that this article has a great take home point, that what you see is not the entirety of it, and that there is so much more that you cannot see.

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Here you can read the article:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2013/03/14/174329710/the-dangers-of-dope-smoking-ascetics-in-kathmandu

– Nicole Zibolski

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