Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 6

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 6

In the previous post of this series, I put forth my hypothesis to explain how vegetarianism got associated with “Hinduism” and the caste system- and also why religious vegetarianism was never able to spread out of India. Long story short, I blame vegetarianism, the ‘jati’ system and many other ills afflicting India even today on the Gupta dynasty and its immediate successors in North India. To be more specific, it is my belief that the Gupta dynasty was responsible for promoting a socio-economic system, which basically froze Indian society into the 5th-6th century AD. But how could they convince so many to go along with such a stupid system?

The answer to that question is quite easy, but requires you to first accept that most human beings (irrespective of race) are quite pathetic creatures. Now, let me explain how the jati system in India got popular by comparing it to something far closer to our era. Have you ever wondered why even poor white people in the “south” of USA were so accepting and supportive of racism against blacks? How did the dumb and half-starved white sharecropper get the idea that he (or she) was somehow intrinsically superior to their black counterparts?

Well.. here is a quote from a speech by MLK Jr on this subject.

If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. He gave him Jim Crow. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. And he ate Jim Crow.

And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, their last outpost of psychological oblivion. Thus, the threat of the free exercise of the ballot by the Negro and the white masses alike resulted in the establishment of a segregated society.

They segregated southern money from the poor whites; they segregated southern mores from the rich whites; they segregated southern churches from Christianity; they segregated southern minds from honest thinking; and they segregated the Negro from everything.

Now replace the concept of race with jati and you can get a pretty accurate understanding of how the caste system became popular and self-perpetuating. Did I mention that the Gupta dynasty rulers came from a lineage of Jainism-inspired Banias? The formation of many hundreds of castes, each one involved in one particular occupation and being endogamous, allowed society to become fragmented to an extent which makes the situation in the antebellum south look quaint by comparison. And yes.. entire castes of untouchables were the Indian version of blacks in the “old” south. And now you can see why the caste system was so fucked up.

But why did it fragment Indian society far more than slavery and its aftermath did to USA? Well.. because Hinduism as a religion never had the concept of human equality, either in its old or newer form. More importantly, it had no unified ideology. So the jatis kept on fragmenting further till, as I mentioned in a previous part, you ended up in a situation where even small villages had with multiple jatis who had basically zero informal social interaction with each other. And this went on.. and on.. for many centuries. But it gets worse, much worse.

To better understand what I going to say next, let me ask you a series of questions which might at first seem unrelated to the caste system. Ever wonder why China, and not India, became the preeminent global manufacturing superpower over previous three decades. Also, why was it a big manufacturer and exporter before 1800, in contrast to India which mostly imported either raw goods or a few niche luxury products? How can China reverse engineer and manufacture pretty much anything it wants with such ease and speed while India often struggles to manufacture pretty basic things? But what does this have to do with caste, you may ask..

Well.. let us explore another related phenomenon. Why did India never have guilds of craftsmen like medieval Europe, even though it had way more craftsmen? Why was there never any Indian equivalent of the Freemasons? Why did the social status of skilled craftsmen (masons, weavers, blacksmiths, carpenters) in India never reach anything close to that enjoyed by their medieval European counterparts? Why did Indian craftsmen never seem to innovate or develop better methods unlike the European counterparts? why did Indian craftsmen never get into doing things such as building printing press, typesetting, lens making, quality gunpowder making, quality gunsmithing, building newer designs of sailing ships etc?

In a previous post of this series, I stated that manual labor (even skilled) was looked down in India after jati system became established. But that is, at best, only part of the answer. The jati system, you see, had two even more disastrous effects on the status of manual laborers in India. Firstly the extreme fragmention of Indian society under that system made close co-operation between two (or more jatis) involved in building part of a larger system almost impossible. For example, those who made sails for ships were of a different jati than those involved in making its wooden frame or the rigging. And we have not even got to those who actually crewed those vessels. Adoption of printing press in India probably ran into similar issues, since they ignored it for over 300 years after its introduction.

Under the jati system, everyone was trying to upstage, screw over and sabotage everybody else. But its worse.. if that is even possible! The jati system was heavy on passing down closely guarded skills to your children and tradition. Consequently, even lateral outsiders (similar social status) could not get in a different jati and try to improve or innovate. Also the mindless way these skills were taught ensured that the next generation of craftsmen never did things differently- and most importantly, in a better way. That is why Indian craftsmen never updated their tools, methods or technology until it was too late. Also, in case you did not get it yet, that is also why they did not have anything close to the guild structure found in medieval European societies.

And now let us talk about why the manufacturing sector in India, even today, is weak compared to those in other countries of similar population size such as China. Long story short, the wages of a skilled manual laborer in China are over three times his (or her) Indian equivalent even after accounting for stuff such as exchange rates and purchasing power. But why is it so problematic? Well.. for one, higher wages often attract more competent people who are interested in doing a good job. But there is only one part of the answer. The other, and more important part, is that workers who are well compensated and not constantly disrespected tend to do a far better job, are significantly more productive and willing to accept doing things in a newer or better way.

In the next post on this topic, I will try to explain you how jati system is the main reason behind the well-known predisposition of Indians to betray others of their type while groveling in front, and kissing ass, of outsiders.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Gp
    September 12, 2018 at 11:38 am

    U r on a roll AD. I have started to revise the reason for glorification of Gupta era. This series could become a mini book btw. This is also the best tool I have read to make sense of the culture and ideology of india

  2. Gp
    September 17, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Do continue this series AD. You have an international audience but your most astute analysis have been about America and India. Do finish the series you have started here

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