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Alienation Of Sikh Youths Of NORTH AMERICA

Jun 1, 2004
Alienation of Sikh Youths of NORTH AMERICA

Its Remediation through Historically Developing a "Cognitive Mind Map" of Sikh Identity Formation as Evolved by Sikh Gurus in Guru Granth Sahib

Dr. Pavna Sodhi-Kaln

Dr. S. S. Sodhi
22 Woodbank Terrace
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3M 3K4​

The main purpose of this paper is to document the serious alienation that has taken place amongst second generation Sikh youths of North America.

The second part of this paper will suggest remediation techniques by using the concept of mind (spiritual) map developed out of the concepts taken from Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The concept of alienation has been well documented by Dr. Liang, a world famous British Psychiatrist in his book The Divided Self (Penguin 1971). According to Dr. Liang, the root cause of alienation is ONTOLOGICAL INSECURITY. The Sikh youths may be passing through the following stages while becoming alienated:

Cultural Curiosity (Zone of Prominal Development),

Role Dancing as suggested by the models who seek vicarious satisfaction,

Embarrassment and ambivalence,

Negativity and Resentment and Acquiring a distance from the First Generation Culture,

Free Floating Stage-Grieving and Resentment

Identification with Dominant Culture,

Developing strategies to prevent total engulfment (losing oneself),

Attempting to develop bicultural identity to stop becoming an IT-A Mythological Person by focusing on:

a. Career Aspiration

b. Home Environment

c. School, College, Credentials

d. Spiritual Exposure through transliberal awareness (Buddhism/Sikhism)

Suffering from identity crisis produced by paradoxical relationship bordering on desire for complete independence from parents and their culture to co-dependency.

Fear of becoming a vehicle of personality that is not his/her own (Traces of schizoid personality)

Fear of Generalized dreadness compensated by self love, trips to resort areas, flashy cars with expensive sound system, a non-spiritual and a-political narcissistic living, yoga, gym, jogging and occasional pub crawling. Reality living is postponed till marriage, which is a milestone in alienation depending upon the personality, upbringing and race of the partner.

Paring alienation is decreased by "attempting" to function in North American environment by creating a subjective, bicultural identity = a "co-co nut" reality and living in the fear that it may crack up!

The above stages of alienation were themes in the narratives of many youths, the present author interviewed in depth. The following findings are shared and discussed:

The North American parents are "still looking for a nail, because all they know is the use of a hammer." They are not aware that the givens of Panjab of raising children are not valid in North America because the cultural paradigm has shifted and language has changed producing two sets of people living with two realities living under the same roof.

Some children felt that they were not part of the Sikh collectivity and socio-spiritual life. The atmosphere of the Gurdwara, disrespect for the democratic ways of running various organizations by semi-educated power hungry non-spiritual "elites," paying lip service to youth activities, the Sikh leaders conduct all ceremonies in a language (Panjabi) which is not understood by the majority of youths. It creates a negative valence in the youths’ motivation and they show their resentment by refusing to participate in spiritual activities. This sense of estrangement from Gurdwara makes the youths grow up spiritually non-anchored, adrift and some get mystified by the spiritual heritage of the dominant culture and seek identification with it through false conscious ness.

It was clear that severe mystification did not let them become aware of their oppression and its political implications. They were not aware that oppression and deception (mystification) produce alienation and psychological conditions which could be an existential anxiety, severe depression, powerlessness, hopelessness, suicidal ideation and schizoid living. They were not aware that spiritual vacuum has produced in them a minor narcissistic personality, which was getting manifested in active search for self-gratification, atomized non-relational individualism, lost desire for permanent bonding and spirituality. It appeared that they had internalized selectively "materialist" aspects of Western culture.

It must be pointed out they do internalize "good" aspects of Western culture which are honesty, less opinionatedness, pragmatic living and hard work. In this respect they do better than their parents.

Guru Granth Sahib has influenced Sikh psyche since it was installed in Harmandir Sahib on August 30, 1604. Guru Granth is written in Panjabi, Hindi, Sindi, Lehondi, Dakhni, Bengali, Marathi, Sanskrit and Persian. Besides containing the bani of the Sikh Gurus, it also has the Shabads of Saints such as Kabir, Farid, Namdev, Ravi Das, Trilochan and Jaidev.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
This is a brilliant article, completely founded in both the values of Sikhi and established social psychology research on identity and alienation among immigrant groups. I am going to try to find more article online by these authors. :welcome: