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The Inner World of Massey Sahibs : An Introduction

March 19, 2014 15 comments

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the questionable treatment of an Indian diplomat in the USA with special reference to the public reaction of certain people of Indian descent to that event. In that post, I also talked a bit about concepts such as ‘gungadin’ and ‘sepoy’- and the key difference between them. This post goes into a bit more depth on the phenomena of ‘gungadins’ and one of its more common subtypes – the ‘massey sahib’.

But before we go further, let us quickly define both concepts and highlight the slight (but important) differences between them. A ‘gungadin’ is somebody who is servile to anyone with a white skin under the expectation that doing so will somehow get him a vaguely promised reward or acceptance as an equal in the distant future. A ‘massey sahib’ is basically similar to a ‘gungadin’, but has a few extra distinguishing characteristics. For one, a ‘massey sahib’ fancies himself as white-‘lite’ and will go to considerable and often comical lengths to demonstrate his white cultural credentials. Secondly, a ‘massey sahib’ is almost always fairly well-educated and well read, but is unable or unwilling to think critically. He will always support the view of “famous” white men even if they themselves make a 180 turn away from their old views.

So why do whites like to keep ‘massey sahibs’ around- at least until they become too inconvenient? It comes down to the utility of ‘massey sahibs’ as tools. In case you are still wondering about my choice of the name for this class of “individuals”, here is the wiki link: Massey Sahib

Set in pre-independence India, Massey sahib is an Indian who converts to Christianity for the sole purpose of becoming white-‘lite’. To that end, he works hard to do fulfill the ambition of his white boss even if that means breaking the laws he is supposed to uphold. The white boss knows about his double dealings but ignores them in a manner that affords him (but not Massey) plausible deniability. Towards the end of the story, the scams are exposed and Massey becomes the scapegoat and is cast aside by his white boss who acts surprised and disappointed. The effects of the investigation disrupt Massey’s life and lead him to kill another Indian in a fit of rage. This only worsens Masseys situation and inspite of the advice of his now ex- white boss, he chooses not to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter since he expects his white boss and white “friends” to magically intervene and set him free. I guess you can figure out how the story ends.

So what does this story have to do with people of Indian descent who live, or were born, in western countries today? Well.. a significant number and percentage of Indians, especially those who came to north america before the mid 1990s, are (for all practical purposes) ‘massey sahibs’. Now some of you might try to defend them by saying that they became ‘massey sahibs’ for purely economic reasons- but I disagree.

People who crawl and grovel when they jsut had to bend a little are motivated by far more than simple economic calculations. This is especially true when they did not have to bend in the first place.

Let me show you what I am talking about with a real-life example of one. I found this interview on the ‘Chemical and Engineering News’ website – Link. Excerpts from this interview will be quoted to illustrate my points.

First the extended title..

Sunil Kumar, Chemical Industry Medalist, Chemistry and opportunity in the U.S. aided his climb from poverty to executive suite

Altruistic white man gave poverty-stricken brown guy a chance out of the goodness of his heart. *sarcasm*

Although trained as a mechanical engineer, Kumar found that he liked the products of chemistry and had a knack for translating them into marketing successes. That talent, over the course of a 41-year career, helped India-born Kumar rise from near penniless immigrant to the U.S. to high-level executive at the tire maker Firestone (and later Bridgestone), the roofing supplier GAF, and ISP.

This is a repetition of the point made in the extended title, but with more biographical details.

Kumar, 64, continues his love affair with chemistry today through Wembly Enterprises, a family investment vehicle that acquires chemistry-based businesses. His is a rags-to-riches story that could only have happened in America.

Actually that is not true for reasons we will get into soon, but why let facts get in the way of a feel good story (propaganda).

He headed for the U.S. right after graduating from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), in Madras, with a degree in mechanical engineering. “In the early 1970s, India was a bad place to be,” Kumar recalls. “There was not much encouragement for private enterprise, and most people got jobs with government entities. That was not my cup of tea at all.”

So let us be clear about one thing. This guy was educated at a pretty famous institution in India and was certainly not from some poverty-stricken or uneducated family. While it is true that India in the 1970s was not a great place for anybody with ambition, the idea that he would have lived in poverty if he had not moved to the USA is false.

Kumar was then and still is a passionate admirer of what he calls “the American civilization.” He defines that civilization as a place where government mostly works and people who work hard can do well.

In the 1970s and perhaps the 1980s, the USA was still a reasonably meritocratic place- especially if you were not Black or Mexican. But is that still true? In the 1970s the USA also had far fewer people (by number and percentage) in jail than the USSR (Russia)- but is that still true? But the more important question is- Did he have to profess that belief to succeed in a meritocracy? A system that is highly meritocratic would not require you to be a congenital brown noser- which he clearly is, and we will see more evidence of that in a moment.

He secured a spot in the M.B.A. program at the University of Louisiana, Monroe. Key to his decision to go there was the financial support he got from the university. “Graduate assistantships are typical in science but rare in business school. They made an exception for me; it was the break I needed,” Kumar says. Separately, he snagged a job at the 7-Eleven near the campus to earn the money he needed to repay his father for the plane ticket. Working at 7-Eleven taught him how to relate to people. The blue-collar workers who came into the store “were fabulous, down-to-earth people with no pretensions,” Kumar recalls. Working at the store also taught him that management systems often function better in the U.S. than in India. “At the store, there was a system for inventory, pricing, and handling customers. The reason 7-Eleven worked well is that it had a way to get products and customers in and out.”

Isn’t it odd that a guy whose entire existence in India revolved around getting away from the teeming brown masses was so willing to kiss the average white guys ass? Why? I also wonder how many of his current acquaintances are blue-collar white guys? But the best example of his ass-kissing can be found towards the end of that interview piece.

Although India also offers better business opportunities than when he left it, they still can’t compare with the opportunities available in the U.S., Kumar maintains. He spends part of his time as an adviser to the Indian energy and chemical giant Reliance Industries, providing advice on elastomers plants now under construction in India.

Fair enough.. he prefers to live in the USA where he spent most of his life.

And although India graduates large numbers of engineers, most, Kumar contends, aren’t well-trained. “There must be something wrong when a country that graduates 300,000 engineers per year gets no Nobel Prizes, gets few patents, and has only a $1.8 trillion economy,” Kumar says. He sees no need for the U.S. to churn out engineers to better compete with India. Although the U.S. can always stand to improve its educational system, Kumar says, the country already “has more than enough brilliant scientists, inventors, and chemists.”

Now, wait a minute.. if Indian engineers and chemists are not well trained or incompetent – what about him? I mean.. the interview does state that he came from India. Was he somehow special or is he seeing himself as white-‘lite’? And if the american system has always been good at producing enough brilliant scientists, inventors, and chemists- why did they require him in the first place? Something does not add up. But we still have not reached the best bit of his brown nosing.

He also continues to be a huge believer in America. “I wouldn’t say that a person born in America is superior to a person not born in America. God creates everyone equal,” Kumar says. But a person who is born in the U.S., or grows up, lives, and works in the country, “becomes superior after a number of years because America’s system is exceptional.” As Kumar sees it, America “is a new civilization, and it is more than just immigrants coming here and finding jobs.” The country, he declares, “creates spectacular successes.”

Here is my problem with this shill. Does his mental model hold true if he was an enterprising Black, Mexican or even a working-class white guy? While the last group did somewhat OK will the mid-1980s, their fortunes have progressively deteriorated to the point where they are not much better than the other two? So what changed and why?

While the american system does manage to make its 1% (or more precisely its 0.1%) richer with every passing day, it has clearly failed the other 99%. Sunil Kumar’s strategy for success is based on kissing the behind of every rich white guy he came across and then slaving away for them, in exchange for a few bones and being treated as white-‘lite’ until he becomes inconvenient for his white superiors. He kept doing that because the real decline of american chemical manufacturing which started towards the end of his corporate career allowing him to escape with a measure of dignity and money. His early career shift into the management side of that sector also partially protected him from career ending job loss.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will try to explore the mindset and world view that creates massey sahibs. As you will see, the massey sahib mindset is not restricted to Indians and milder forms of this mindset are actually quite common in many developed countries- especially in people of the upper-middle class persuasion.

What do you think? Comments?