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Posts Tagged ‘india’

Identity Politics is the Western Equivalent of Caste Politics In India

February 23, 2020 35 comments

Most regular readers are aware that I detest SJW, wokeism and everything else associated with identity politics. While some reasons behind my contempt of this performative bullshit scam are common to most other critics, one of them is distinctly unique- and is summarized in the title of this post. As some of you might rember, I wrote a series about why the caste system was, and still is, so damaging to Indians. For the purposes of this post, the gist is as follows: The caste or ‘jati’ system created so many stupid divisions in Indian society that it has become almost totally dysfunctional for the past 1,500 years. It also created a mindset which lacks the capability for critical thought and reason. To make a long story short, much of what is wrong with that country today can be traced back to the ‘jati’ system.

And this brings us to a question which I did not tackle in that series- namely, what explains the persistence of such a stupid and shitty social system? How can a system which disadvantages the majority of its followers, in a multitude of ways, still remain popular among them? To be fair, this issue is not unique to the caste system since a similar argument can be made about any other religion. In my opinion, it comes down to how the caste or ‘jati’ system shapes power- or more precisely, how it reproduces itself at societal level. See.. one of central tenet of the ‘jati’ system is that only somebody of your own ‘jati’ can be trusted to represent your interests. In other words, only somebody of your own caste or ‘jati’ can be your leader and since there are hundreds (if not thousands) of ‘jatis’ there can also never be a broadly recognized leader or group of leaders.

Sure.. you can have national figureheads who are reasonably popular among the majority, but they simply do not command the power and reach of their equivalents in, say, China or USA. But why does this matter and how is any of this related to contemporary identity politics in the west. For starters, many of you must have realized by now that the core tenet of identity politics is that only somebody from your own ‘group’ can ever be a legitimate leader of people from said group. According to them, only a woman can truly represent the interests of women, a gay man of gay men, a “trans woman” of “trans women” etc. The corollary of this belief is that no society can have a legitimate leader and leadership acceptable to most people in it. But why is this belief so problematic? Wouldn’t people be best represented by others who are “like” them?

Well.. let us have a look at this issue by analyzing the one example of identity politics which is well established in USA. It is no secret that almost every single black politician who has been elected to any office in this country has achieved that position because of the strong support of black voters. Ya, sure.. there are some major historical reasons for why this is the case. But let me ask you another question- can you think of a single major black political figure who has done anything other than ignore his or her constituents once elected to office. A few, such as Obama, have actually championed policies which preferentially immiserated their most ardent supporters. Instead, the vast majority of black politicians do nothing beyond using their position for enriching themselves and their friends and relatives while acting as the ‘help’ for white politicians who want to maintain the shitty status quo.

Funny thing.. this is exactly how caste-based politics plays out in India. All the idiots who vote for politicians from their own castes get nothing worthwhile in return, while those elected to office go on to amass millions and billions through graft and scams in addition to preferential treatment of relatives and friends. Their supporters then get angry and frequently vote them out in the next election cycle by selecting a new bunch of scammers through the same thought process- if you can call it that. Guess what, the same thing happens again and the voters go back to the previous bunch of scammers. And the cycle goes on.. And now you know why China can get everything done properly on time while India can’t seem to get anything important done, let alone on time. My point is that identity politics is a recipe for stagnation, decay and ultimately, chaos.

Moving back to the situation in USA and west in general.. How has, for example, selecting more women as CEOs of large corporations improved the overall quality of lives for most women? Has it increased their paycheck, given them better job security, a longer paid maternity leaves or otherwise improved the quality of their children’s lives etc? It hasn’t! The only thing it has achieved is the elevation of a minuscule number of women to positions where they can be as greedy and asshole-ish as the very few men they replaced. The same is true, perhaps even more so, for black politicians and black “business leaders”, whose much publicized rise has not resulted in any worthwhile improvement in the conditions of the constituency they allegedly represent.

This also applies for gay politicians and “business leaders”. Has Apple suddenly started making better products because their current CEO is gay or has it somehow improved the material conditions for gay men in USA? The same is true for efforts to promote a few token lesbians, latinos and other ethnic minorities. Putting a few more non-white or non-straight people in positions of power, while simultaneously maintaining the previous status quo, is a scam- and an especially dangerous one. Letting the ‘alphabet people’ aka the LGBTQ..whatever enlarge this scam will only make things worse. Have a look at the political scene, aka the chaos, in India- where nothing of importance or significance gets done, but everyone in politics is constantly shouting at each other andaccusing everybody else of “corruption”- while wearing ridiculous headgear to show their caste credentials. It does makes for good theater though..

In summary, identity politics is a dangerous scam and should be seen as the contemporary western equivalent of caste politics in India. Though it is being currently promoted by elites to maintain the status quo, it will metamorphose into something far more uncontrollable- which in turn will end up creating a highly fragmented, polarized and dysfunctional society.

What do you think? Comments?

Inclusive One Party Systems Outperform Democratic Counterparts : 1

April 7, 2019 5 comments

In a previous series about post-1945 divergence in outcomes between India and China, I made the point that China is today the world’s largest industrial power while India is a stunted dwarf which cannot even project its power into small neighboring countries. This divergence has much to do with fundamental differences in the type of elites and systems of governance in those two countries. India ended up with a bunch of spineless and incompetent elites who were ashamed of being Indian and constantly sucked up to white guys in expensive suits. Chinese elites, unlike their Indian counterparts, did not hate themselves for being non-white and understood that their fortunes were intrinsically linked to those of their fellow countrymen. In other words, they cared about their own country- even if they did so for pragmatically selfish reasons.

But the much larger difference between these nations comes down to their respective systems of governance. Indian elites retained the super abusive and exploitative colonial administrative system they “inherited” at the time of independence. In contrast, their Chinese counterparts went on quite the house-cleaning spree after 1949. While you may, or may not, agree about the large number of bureaucratic eggs broken by the Chinese elites during the first 30 years after regaining independence, the end product is clearly superior to its Indian counterpart. But why is that so? Is it because the Chinese have a long history of bureaucracy, racial and cultural homogeneity or are the real reasons more straightforward- if rather unpleasant to accept.

In the rest of this post, I will show you how the superior performance of the Chinese system is intimately linked to its design, rather than quality of its employees. So let us begin by asking a few simple questions: Why is the Chinese administrative system far less dysfunctional than its Indian counterpart? Do they have smarter employees or more natural resources at their disposal? Or.. is it something else? Now let me flip that question around. Why is the Indian administrative system so incompetent, short-sighted and generally incapable of getting stuff done. While some idiots might want to assign blame to everything from race, “IQ”, lack of cultural homogeneity or other bullshit explanations- the real reasons behind the Indian system’s poor performance are rather obvious and surprisingly basic- starting with lack of accountability.

Anyone who has ever interacted with the administrative system in India at any length will be aware that there is basically no accountability for its employees. They can cause endless disasters and suffering through their incompetence and stupidity without any of it having real negative effects on their job security. At most, they will be disciplined by being transferred (for a couple of years) to some undesirable locale or position. More importantly, since advancement in the system is determined by age and colonial-era rules rather than performance, there is little incentive for them to learn from their mistakes or change for the better. But why is this still the case in 2019? Why did Indian political leaders never try to reform this shitty system since 1947?

Well.. there are many reasons why Indian political elites kept the manifestly bad administrative system which they “inherited”. As I wrote in previous posts, they never cared about the plight of their fellow countrymen because they saw themselves as brown versions of their erstwhile colonial white masters. But there is another and perhaps more important reason- India went down the path of becoming a parliamentary multi-party democracy. But what is the connection between becoming a multi-party democracy and administrative dysfunction? It comes to the number of competing power centers. In India, and almost every other democracy, the executive branch of power is in direct competition with the bureaucracy. But why is that problematic? After all, don’t “famous public intellectuals” constantly tell us that separation of powers is a good thing?

Though separation of powers might sounds good in theory, its real world performance is sketchy- at best. Some of you might counter this by pointing out regimes led by strongmen, dictators and other types of totalitarian leaders do poorly in the long term and I agree with that observation. There is however another model for totalitarianism- one based in a single political entity which allows for some diversity of people and views. While this might sound like something out of ‘1984’ by Orwell, the real world performance of many east-Asian countries suggests otherwise. China.. you see.. is not the only single-party country in east-Asia. For most of it modern history (1868-1947 and 1955 onward) Japan has been effectively a single-party system. The same is true for South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

There is, therefore, no evidence for single broad-based political party system in power for decades having any worthwhile negative influence on the social and economic well-being of average citizens of said country. In fact, the converse appears to be true- especially when you compare them to India. But didn’t India have something similar under its first prime-minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) from 1947 to 1964? Why didn’t things work out nicely under him , as they did in those other Asian countries? Well.. for two reasons. Firstly, his tenure as the undisputed prime-minister of India quickly became a personality cult and he did not groom anybody other than his daughter to take over after his death. Secondly, all those other Asian leaders used their long tenures to destroy the previous colonial administrative systems.

Nehru and his successors were only interested in maintaining power in addition to appearing deferential and respectable to the ‘whites’. They did almost nothing to upgrade or reform the administrative system, let alone break it down and remake it serve Indians. Nothing was done to eliminate all those pesky multiple competing centers of power and bureaucratic fiefdoms. Almost no new unitary institutions with real power were created by him or his successors. In other words, they retained the same system and mindset which was previously used to exploit and impoverish India during the era of British colonialism- and it shows, to this day. After his death in 1964, things went from bad to worse and the rise of regional parties, formed due to inability of his national party to deliver on promises, made a bad situation worse.. much worse.

And this how you end up an administrative system full of essentially sinecured employees with zero accountability, no motivation or appetite for any improvement or the ability to think outside the box. That is why India still uses a criminal code written about 150 years ago which often irrelevant to the contemporary world. That is also why Indian cities look like poorly laid-out and crowded hovels. That is also why India was so late and inefficient at building power plants or even using its large coal resources. That is why cities in China look and function in ways which would shame their western counterparts- while those in India, sorta function. That is also why cities, towns and villages in India have far more uncollected garbage, sewage and filth than their counterparts in Vietnam or Indonesia. This is why the public health system in India sucks.

In the next part of this (hopefully short) series, I will talk about why the problem of multiple power centers did not seem to affect western countries from mid 1800s till the 1970s. Here is a hint: the “west” was largely non-democratic during that period and colonial exploitation of other people + post-WW2 growth provided enough surplus resources to paper over deficiencies.

What do you think? Comments?

Quick Thoughts on the Current Situation Between Indian and Pakistan

February 27, 2019 15 comments

While “mainstream news” outlets in USA are focusing on the political theater surrounding Michael Cohen’s testimony and Trump’s latest brain-farts.. I mean tweets.. half a world away something of considerably more potential consequence is occurring right now. It all started about a couple of weeks ago when an Islamic suicide bomber driving a vehicle IED crashed into a bus full of Indian internal security forces in Kashmir, killing 40-42. At that time, the Indian government responded by condemning the attack and promising a suitable reprisal. Many establishment commentators in the west and their gungadin helpers, who pretend to be “India experts”, loudly proclaimed that India would not retaliate against Pakistan or do something small and localized.

As it turned out, they were wrong and after Indian warplanes crossed the international boundary in the early morning hours of 26th February and bombed a few training camps in Pakistan- as opposed to limiting themselves to targets in PoK. The Indian government claimed that about 300 people were killed, while its Pakistani equivalent denied it- as usual. We will find out what went down once pre- an post- strike satellite imagery of those sites is released. However, it is almost certain that they hit the designated targets with the precision guided munitions used during that attack. Anyway.. this penetration of Pakistani airspace made the PAF look kinda incompetent. So they decided to make a half-hearted attempt to drop some bombs on Indian territory.

As it turns out, they were challenged by many Indian aircraft and the PAF beat a hasty retreat after releasing their accordance on apparently uninhabited land. It also appears that there was a dogfight involving a Mig-21 and F-16 in which the Mig-21 shot down the former before being hit my either ground fire or SAM from the Pakistani side. Long story short, the F-16 as well as Mig-21 crashed on the Pakistani side of the border. While we do not know whether the pilot of that PAF F-16 is alive or dead, the Indian pilot was captured. Oh ya.. and there a helicopter crash (on takeoff) about 50 km from the border inside India. Of course, the Pakistani establishment, true to its form, started making up stories which were uncritically published by western “news” media.

So how will this potential conflict turn out? Well.. for starters I am not going to bore you with irrelevant bullshit about how both countries have nuclear weapons. Some might think that this is an odd thing to say, but as you will soon find out- nuclear weapons are, at best, peripheral to how things will turn out. In my opinion, the real factors driving this conflict and its potential outcomes have much more to do with political and other assessments by both sides rather than the dread of nuclear weapons. Moreover, as you will also see, the ground realities are not what people in the west, especially “credentialed” white people claiming to be experts, believe. Then again, why should it be surprising that people who were certain HRC was going to win in 2016 might also be wrong about a conflict between two countries on other side of the world.

So let me begin by stating the obvious..

1] The sheer size of India, its armed forces and resources available to it make any attempt by Pakistan to invade its territory highly suicidal- and this is a lesson which Pakistan has learned the hard way in past conflicts. In a full-scale war, India simply has vastly more people and stuff to throw at the problem than Pakistan. Similarly, India has no real desire to invade and occupy Pakistan, let one integrate it into itself, because almost nobody in India wants 200 million more Muslims within the Indian nation-state. So what do Indian military strategists dream about wrt Pakistan. Well.. they would like to dismember it into smaller pieces and maybe destroy their nuclear weapons- which leads us to the issue of how nuclear weapons might affect this conflict.

2] As some of you might know, India has a No-First-Use policy for nuclear weapons, or at least has said so in 2003. But over the years, things appear to have changed a lot and many senior bureaucrats have creatively interpreted that policy to not covering an imminent attack by another nuclear weapons state- which is a fancy way of saying that NFU policy is NFU in name only. In other words, India has made it clear that it will use nukes first (specifically to target the Pakistani nuclear arsenal) if it feels that Pakistan will use its own weapons. More importantly, India posses both the accurate nuclear missiles and space reconnaissance capability necessary to pull of a preemptive nuclear counterstrike. Will they get them all? No, but they don’t have to.

3] Here is the thing about having a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. Concentrating them at a handful of storage locations on land makes them kinda vulnerable- especially if your opponent has accurate nuclear missiles which can fly in unusual trajectories. Getting even 70-80% of them or the missiles used to launch them is enough to remove most of the threat. And given the escalation ladder inherent in an overtly nuclear conflict, it is likely that India might decide that a preemptive nuclear counterstrike is worth the risk once the conflict goes past a certain point. But how could this scenario occur? Aren’t Indians supposed to be cowardly lotus eaters who will meekly turn the other cheek and try to sue for peace?

4] A lot of white “credentialed experts” and their faithful brown flunkies in the west seem to think that nothing much has changed in India over the past five years. They are certain that India will respond in exactly the same self-defeating restrained manner it did in 1999 and 2009. But things have changed in more ways than the obvious one. See.. Modi is the first full-term PM of India who was born after 1947. Unlike previous occupants of that office, who grew up before partition, he has no affinity for the idea of dealing with Pakistan in a self-defeating “civilized” manner. Also, there is a general election within next 3 months and the popularity of his political party is not especially high, right now. In other words, he has a strong incentive to escalate this conflict.

5] Some of you might wonder why previous conflicts of this nature (for example 1999 and 2009) did not go as far as this one. Well.. the answer lies in the white-worshiping nature of past Indian political leadership. To make a long story short, previous Indian leaders were so craven for praise and pretend-acceptance from white men wearing expensive suits that they were eager and willing to sacrifice the interest of their people to ‘look good for the whites’. You might remember another series of posts where I described them as brown people who think they are honorary whites. Modi is somewhat different. While he certainly would enjoy being praised and accepted by whites, he also understands from his stuff is illusory. And then there is the issue of how his administration is structured or differently structured from previous ones.

6] For many reasons beyond the scope of this post, almost every politician in that administration other than Modi, Shah and a couple of others has no power over administrative decisions. This is a big departure from previous administration where every half-literate elected political weasel tried to influence every decision they could- usually to make money but often simply to assert themselves- which is another way to saying that decisions in this administration are usually made by tenured bureaucrats and administrators (who while corrupt, are nowhere as blindingly stupid and dysfunctional as the political class). That is why the decisions made by this administration, even the bad ones, are far more coherent than their predecessors.

So what does all of this mean as far as future developments in this conflict are concerned? Well.. for starters, Modi will take this much farther than any previous Indian prime minister. He kinda has to do that and also has the capability. Far more importantly, all major decisions are going to be made by administrators and bureaucrats with almost no interference from the incompetent political types. Now this could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. What it does however mean is that western pressure will have little effect (especially compared to past occasions) on how India escalates this conflict. And ya.. if nukes start flying, they will start flying very quickly- rather than follow some “ladder of escalation”.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Difference in Outcomes for China and India in Post-1945 Era: 3

February 16, 2019 11 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how post-1949 Chinese leadership put in a lot of effort to improve the conditions of its people, even if their motivations were not purely altrusitic. Then again, the same is true of every government which has every existed in human history and the present. In sharp contrast, the Indian leadershit has remained mired in their self-chosen role as darker white sahibs carrying the “white mans burden” and lording over an allegedly hopeless bunch of subhumans. One commentator in the previous post of this series made a comment to the effect that it sounded like how things work in south and central american countries- where an incompetent whiter elite (with the assistance of dying white countries) mismanage and lord over less whiter people, who they see as less than human. Yep.. that is about right.

In the previous post, I also wrote about how the Chinese leadership took a pragmatic approach to improving literacy through a variety of reforms and programs. They also built, and in some cases rebuilt, institutions and bureaucracies to function for them and their people. Sure.. they had to break a few hundred thousand eggs to achieve that- but you cannot deny that the results are quite impressive and functional. More importantly, these institutions now either do what they are meant to do, or do not interfere in what other institutions are doing. In other words, the Chinese leadership was able to build and maintain a unitary and coordinated governmental system with a pretty decent level of accountability. And all this within first three decades after 1949. So why were they able to achieve something which their Indian counterparts thought to be impossible.

Conventional explanations for this, usually put forth by allegedly “credentialed” white idiots, try to paint this as some sort of exception or aberration. However that is not the case, as some version of this had been previously implemented in Japan and the Koreas. For example, modernization of Japan starting in Meiji era and its rebuilding after WW2 was achieved by implementing a watered-down version of what China started doing after 1949. The same is true of South Korea after the early 1960s. You might have noticed that all these examples have something else common to them- other than being east-asian. Ready.. they were, or are, mostly single-party systems.. yes, even Japan. But didn’t India also have effectively have a single party system for first 2-3 decades after 1947? Yes, they did and the Congress party won most elections as the state and federal level for 2-3 decades after “independence”. So why did it work in east-Asia but not in India?

Which brings us to the part about accountability- for elected officials as well as bureaucrats. As I mentioned in previous parts of this series, almost every single Indian politician and elected official came from families who collaborated with the British colonizers of India. They had risen to their positions without facing any real challenge, struggle or conflict. Most had no real skills beyond regurgitating what they learned in British universities and they saw themselves as darker whites rather than Indians. As I said in previous part, they believed anything some white guy in an expensive suit would tell them. The Indian bureaucracy was no better and filled with sad excuses for human beings who enjoyed abusing and screwing over their own people by using rules and regulations written up for that purpose by their erstwhile colonial masters.

Long story short, both the political class and bureaucracy of India was made up of incompetent losers who saw themselves as lesser whites rather than Indians. And there is one more thing.. the bureaucracy and political system continued to exist as two independent and antagonistic centers of power. Contrast that to successful east-asian countries where the political leadership and bureaucracy are different faces of the same system. There is a good reason why I used the words such as unitary and coordinated to describe the Chinese system. But why does any of this matter? Also, does it matter that much? Well.. let me show you with a couple of examples.

Very few of you know that India was first Asian country to build its own supersonic combat aircraft. Ya.. India built the HF-24 Marut and successfully tested it in the early 1960s. While the team leader of the project was Kurt Tank, almost everybody else in the project was Indian and they went from nothing to flying prototypes in about 6 years. So what did the Indian political leadershit and bureaucracy do in response to this success? The sabotaged it in every way they could- from denying funding for better imported engines to crippling the organisation setup for developing indigenous engines. Even worse, they spent a lot of effort trying to make sure that all the knowledge and expertise gained through that project was lost. But why?

The “conventional” explanation for this behavior is that USSR offered them decent inexpensive combat aircraft. However that is not true since the USSR which made such aircraft in multiple thousands was not really bothered by this indigenous effort. Moreover, it filled a role distinct from the aircraft they supplied to India at that time. The real reasons have far more to do with the Indian psyche, especially those of its white-worshiping idiot politicians and bureaucrats. The thing is.. they could not believe that people of their skin color could make world-class products. To make matters worse, they had no ability to understand concepts such as iterative development and using the insight gained in one project to advance others. But most fatally, they believed in what white scammers told them about the nature of money.

Now contrast this to what China did during the same time period. After getting all the equipment from USSR to manufacture Mig-15s, 17, 19s etc they first kept cranking out replicas. While not the best combat aircraft of that era (mid 1960s), they were good enough. But far more importantly, they used that opportunity to train a shitload of engineers who would then go on to improve these aircraft and eventually build far better ones. They did this at a time when they were as poor as India and in politically worse shape. They also did the same with soviet diesel-electric submarines, infantry weapons, artillery etc. Did you notice that they never stopped these projects or disbanded their experienced teams regardless of domestic upheavals and other issues. Why not? And where did they get the money to do all these things?

The answer to first part of those questions is that they, unlike their Indian counterparts, were not incompetent white-worshipping idiots. The second and related answer is that they saw money in a very different way to their Indian and white counterparts. To make another long story short, they implemented a form of what we today call modern monetary theory, which is fancy way of saying that they printed money and allocated resources as necessary to get important things done while making sure that this new money did not enter the general circulation at levels large enough to cause runaway inflation and currency devaluation. So ya.. they pretty much printed money and rigged their system to deliver what they wanted, which they could do because of the size of their country. Their Indian equivalents chose to believe “credentialed” white eCONomists.

In the next part of this series, I will show you (with more examples) how a unitary and coordinated government policy gave China a huge advantage over India in other sectors.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Difference in Outcomes for China and India in Post-1945 Era: 2

January 30, 2019 6 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote that India and China started from about the same level, and with a host of systemic problems, as nascent modern nation states in 1947 and 1949. While India might have initially seemed to be the more successful of the two, China slowly but surely outpaced it in almost every aspect from about the mid-1960s. The gap has now grown to such levels that the real difference between these two equipopulous Asian nations now appears unbridgeable. In the previous part, I also said that majority of difference in outcome between the two can be attributed to difference in quality of leadership and administration between them. For starters- Indian leaders, while superficially more erudite than their Chinese counterparts, came from families who had previously gotten rich by collaborating with British colonizers.

The majority of those who came to power in India had also never been tested under real life-and-death situations. In addition to displaying uncritical belief in whatever any white person wearing a suit told them, they had no real interest in improving the condition of their fellow country men and women. Indeed, most of them did not see themselves as part of India.. well at least not ‘that other’ India. They saw themselves as darker white sahibs carrying the “white mans burden” and ruling over a hopeless bunch of subhumans. Some of you might wonder as to how I reached this rather dim view about that allegedly “great” generation of leaders which India had in aftermath of gaining independence in 1947, from the now defunct British empire. Easy.. look at their behavior and actions, rather than their words- because the later is cheap unlike the former two.

1] Both India and China started life as modern nation states with very high levels (over 80-85%) of illiteracy. So how did Indian leaders go about trying to fix this problem? How about.. by doing almost nothing. That is right! While Chinese leaders put a lot of effort and force into projects such as simplifying the Chinese script, ordering translations of everything they could find into Chinese, improving primary school attendance and childhood literacy among its population by any means (including force)- their Indian counterparts gave speeches and raised slogans about removing illiteracy. While it is true that Indian leaders did fund a few elite universities and educational institutions (IITs, IIMs etc) earlier than China, they largely ignored the primary and secondary educational sector. But why? Well.. think about which educational institutions their progeny, and those of their flunkies, would attend. It is that easy.

So why didn’t the Chinese leadership behave in such an utterly selfish manner? The answer is.. because they were pragmatic. While creating elite educational institutions for your own children sounds like a good idea, doing so without creating an equally extensive non-elite educational system would almost certainly lead to them remaining a poor country. Chinese leaders were always interested in true global power and prestige. It is not possible to be powerful and feared (or respected) on the international level if your country is an un-industrialized and materially poor country full of illiterate people. Indian leaders, on the other hand, were incapable of visualizing themselves as anything other than second-rate ‘whites’ in charge of a country predestined to be poor because some white guy in an expensive suit told them so.

2] It is no secret that the administrative system and bureaucracy in India, along with its laws and regulations, had been designed to exploit and abuse Indians for the benefit of the now extinct British empire. Any person with half-a-brain who was genuinely interested in improving conditions in India after independence would have liquidated everyone in the administrative system, except its junior-most employees, and built a new one- if necessary by copying from countries where things worked. That is, however, not the path taken by Indians leaders after ‘independence’. Instead they retained almost every single part of the incredibly abusive and dysfunctional system including its pathetic white-worshiping personnel. And this is how India ended up with a shitty and incompetent bureaucracy which benefits nobody other than its employees.

Their Chinese counterparts, on the other hand, went on quite the cleaning spree after 1949. They started by getting rid of bureaucrats who were, should we say, not sympathetic to the new order or problematic collaborators to previous regimes. They reformed laws, rules and regulations to make them more useful and internally self-consistent. Moreover, they were willing to reform their system as the situation changed- for example after 1971 and 1979. Some people say that it was helpful that China has a long history of competent bureaucracy, unlike India. However, after the ‘century of humiliation’ they had to start from scratch to build a modern secular bureaucracy and so their history is not especially relevant to what happened after 1949. Let me reiterate that the Chinese leadership did not educate their people and build a good bureaucracy because they were altruistic. They did so because they wanted to be leaders of a powerful and respected nation.

In the next part of this series, I will write about how the lack of imagination and ability displayed by Indian leadership over every single decade since ‘independence’ contrasts with the willingness of their Chinese counterparts to take calculated risks, persevere along initially suboptimal routes, keep thinking big and have a viable plan (or two) to get there.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Difference in Outcomes for China and India in Post-1945 Era: 1

January 20, 2019 15 comments

Approximately three months ago, I wrote about my plans for a couple of series on topics which I had either not tackled or done in a less-than-through manner. In case you are wondering, one series would focus on the reasons why China became the world’s largest economy (in real terms) almost a decade ago while India is.. well.. stumbling around in that general direction. While most of the blame for dismal post-1947 performance of India can still be assigned to the first-, second- and third- order effects of the ‘jati’ system, there are clearly other factors at work- some of which are ‘intersectional’ to the continued existence of that wretched system. Let us start this series by examining them- starting with a comparison leadership cadre of both countries.

But before we go there, let me reiterate a few relevant points and spend the next 3-4 paragraphs giving you some background on the topic. As I wrote in a previous post, the majority of informed outsiders looking at the situation in both countries in 1950 would have put their money on India ending up as the more prosperous of two in 50-70 years. Yet in 2019, the Indian economy is still only 1/4th or 1/5th of its Chinese counterpart in real terms, despite containing an almost identical number of people. Did I mention that they started out at almost the same level in 1950. Let us also be clear that things had not gone well for over a century in either country at that time. In the case of India, it was a heavily exploited colony of now defunct British empire.

In the case of China, it was well.. a whole host of other problems. We can start with the various large and highly damaging rebellions towards the end of the Qing dynasty. One of these, known as the Taiping Rebellion, resulted in about 20-30 million deaths over a period of 14 years. Then there was the problem of western countries such as UK and USA pushing Opium in China which resulted in probably 20-40% of the population becoming dependent on that drug. There is some irony about tens of thousands of mostly white people dying from synthetic opioid overdoses, each year, in contemporary USA- given the major source of that drug. Add into that the humiliation caused by numerous military setbacks against 19th century European colonial powers culminating in the Boxer rebellion. And it got even worse in the early 20th century.

It started with the formal collapse of the Qing dynasty and lead to the Warlord Era– which was much worse than it sounds. And then there was that other unpleasant period due to the partial colonization by Imperial Japan, which culminated in events such as the Nanjing Massacre in addition to many millions more deaths due to that invasion, including many thousands due to activities of Unit 731. And we are not even getting into all the problems caused by on-again off-again alliance between various factions of the nationalists and communists in pre-1950 China. There is a very good reason that the Chinese see the hundred odd years between 1839-1949 as the Century of Humiliation. Long story short, China started from scratch after WW2. And we have not even talked about the Great Famine of 1959-1961 and the Cultural Revolution.

My point is that the modern nation states of India and China started at almost the same time (1947, 1949) and from about the same relative situation. Both had low literacy rates (12-15 % and 15-20 %), not much of an industrial base, very few universities and technical schools etc. Both experienced chaotic conditions during and shortly after their formation (India-Pakistan Partition, final stage of civil war on mainland China). Neither country had experienced unitary self-governance for over a hundred years. Most of the lay people in both countries still believed in tons of superstitions and bullshit. Long story short, both nation states started under equally dismal conditions. And yet in 2019, the economy and global stature of India is a fraction of China.

So let us now start talking about the types of people who ended up in leadership positions in both countries, starting with those involved in their respective independence movements.

The Indian “independence” movement, at least its modern form, can trace its origins to the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885. Ironically, it was established by a retired British civil service officer- Allan Octavian Hume. Think about it for a moment, the organisation which came to lead the Indian “independence” movement was not started by an Indian. But it gets better, or worse. Here is something many of you might know about many of the subsequent important leaders of the Indian “independence” movement.. most were the sons of people who had grown rich and powerful from enthusiastic collaboration with the British colonizers of India. Ya.. all those “great” leaders of the Indian “independence” moment were almost exclusively the sons of greedy and treacherous collaborators.

And most did not demand total independence until the early 1940s.. just varying degrees of autonomy from the now defunct British empire. And now you know why I decided to use quotation marks for independence. Sad.. isn’t it? And it gets worse.. if that is even possible. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, most leaders of the Indian “independence” movement were oxbridge educated lawyers with close to zero ability or experience to do anything beyond giving stirring speeches and writing elaborate letters in protest. They had a serious inferiority complex vis-à-vis white people in general and the British in particular. But most importantly, they simply wanted to rule instead of the British and had no real desire to improve the condition of most people in the country, and just wanted to be seen as equal to British on an individual level.

Now let us compare this sorry bunch to their equivalents in the Chinese national movement of early 20th century. Note that I am not implying that their Chinese equivalents were any less power-hungry, double-dealing, generally corrupt and sometimes thoughtless. But there are some very important and relevant differences between the two groups. For starters, most of their leadership did not arise from a group of traitors who collaborated with colonizers. Neither were most of their leaders born in very prosperous families. Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek came from somewhat comfortable but not unusually rich or politically connected families. Even the second and third order leadership of the national movement was largely derived from people born into poor, middling to somewhat prosperous bourgeois families.

Furthermore, they all agreed that expulsion of foreign colonizers, restoration of unitary authority and building a new secular technological society was not negotiable. Compare this to their Indian counterparts who were fine with continuing caste divisions, widespread poverty, little to no economic development, low literacy, semi-independence etc as long as they were in power. Leaders of the Indian “independence” movement.. you see.. just wanted an equal seat at the table of their British masters so they could regale them with tales with how stupid and poor all those “other” Indian were and have a laugh about it. While it sounds harsh, this is how things went after 1947. The leadership of the Chinese national movement, on the other hand, understood that only leaders of powerful and prosperous nations wield true power.

This is why, for example, the government of post-1949 China put so much effort into improving literacy levels, setting up universities, funding research institutes, building their own weapon systems, investing in infrastructure projects etc- even when they technically did not have the “money” to do so. In contrast, multiple generations of Indian leaders used the excuse of “no money” to either not do those things or do them in an anemic and half-hearted manner. That is also why India retained the shitty colonial system of laws and administration which was designed to exploit and abuse Indians rather than build a new one to benefit them. The darkly comic part of all this is that most of them lack the ability to understand their own pathetic behavior.

Will write more about this issue in the next part of series.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 10

November 30, 2018 4 comments

In the previous post of this series, I mentioned that Indian kingdoms had no problem repelling and defeating foreign invaders upto the beginning of the 12th century AD. Yet somehow, in the absence of any technological or tactical breakthroughs on the other side, their record of success against foreign invaders becomes really bad between 1192 AD (defeat of Prithviraj) and around 1650 AD (dawn of Maratha empire under Shivaji). And then the (initially) materially poor and numerically far smaller armies of that emergent power somehow end up systematically destroying most Muslim Kingdoms in India and prevailed in a two decade long war against the much larger and prosperous Mughal empire to become the predominant power in India.

Have you ever wondered why the Maratha Empire succeed in doing what had eluded other groups and aggregations of people in India for almost half a millennium? For starters, it helped that they had an extremely competent and visionary founder in Shivaji. But it was his successors (and those who believed in the cause) who kept fighting and winning till they reached their goal. After reaching that point, the empire slowly came apart due to infighting and other bullshit- but they did achieve the initial goal of permanently erasing almost every single Muslim kingdom in India. So we come back to the question as to why they almost completely succeeded where many had failed before. What made their efforts different from others who had tried before.

To understand what I going to talk about later, let me introduce you to a seemingly unrelated historical fact. Ever wondered why a region so divided and engaged in almost constant low-level warfare such as the Italian peninsula between 1494-1559 was never successfully occupied by the much larger and prosperous Ottoman Empire- even when the later was at its height of power in the early 16th century? Also, why was the Ottoman Empire never able to effect worthwhile levels of religious conversions in most of its erstwhile European territory with the exception of tiny pockets such as present-day Albania and Kosovo. Why was its grasp on the Balkans always so tenuous and why did it choose to govern indirectly in most of those places?

What makes this inability of the Ottoman Empire to successfully invade and occupy Italy even more peculiar is that, as early as the 1480s, north-western boundaries of the Ottoman Empire were less than 200 km from Venice. And yet, for a number of reasons, they only got a bit closer to that city over two hundred years- after which the Ottoman Empire slowly shrank and went into decline. Why was such a rich, dynamic and populous Empire (at least between late 1400 and mid-1600s) unable to occupy a region full of small-ish kingdoms and duchies who were in almost constant conflict with each other? Why was no kingdom on the Italian peninsula unwilling to cooperate with an external invader from the east in order to prevail against its rivals?

Some of you might be aware that the extreme eagerness of Indian kings (and most Indians) to cooperate with foreign aggressors to screw over local competitors was one of the major reason behind why it was so easy for the later to succeed in spite of having far smaller armies. And let us be clear about something, this also occurred on the Italian peninsula- but with one major difference. See.. during that period, various small Italian kingdoms and city states did sometimes seek assistance from the French, Spanish and Hapsburg kingdoms to prevail over their rivals. But they never seriously considered doing so from the Ottoman Empire, even though many Italian kingdoms had pretty good trade relations with it. But why not?

It comes down to religion, specifically how monotheistic religions work. Though France, Spain and the Hapsburgs were frenemies to Italian kingdoms, they were (religiously and culturally) on the same side. The Ottoman Empire, though more religiously tolerant than contemporary Christian kingdoms, was fundamentally a Muslim Empire. It also helped that the Italian kingdoms were aware that other European kingdoms were not capable of occupying and ruling Italy indefinitely. Furthermore, there was a massive social stigma and fear of popular revolt if they were seen to be collaborating with Ottomans. In contrast to that, the lack of a real monotheist religion in India as well as massive internal social divisions caused by the ‘jati’ system made it trivial for Indian traitors to collaborate with any foreign invader. And there was no shortage of them in India.

Moreover, any serious attempt by Ottomans to invade Italian peninsula would have resulted in many disparate kingdoms within Italy and western Europe joining up to fight them. And then there was the effect of the ‘jati’ system on social cohesion within military ranks. In previous posts, I have mentioned how the ‘jati’ system resulted in Indian armies being deeply fragmented and non-cohesive. The various Italian kingdoms and other European powers of that era did not suffer from this handicap, because in spite of class divisions, they were all on the ‘same’ side. Furthermore, they had no issues with developing and fielding newer weaponry as well as adapting their strategy in response to their adversaries.

It is already close to 900 words, so I will wrap up this post now. In the next part of this series, I will explain why the Maratha and Sikh Empires were finally able to erase almost every single Muslim-ruled kingdom In India. You will also see why they, and not some other groups, achieved that objective. Hint: it has far more to do with the social organization of both communities rather than martial valor. And yes.. both communities had far fewer internal divisions due to the ‘jati’ system than other contemporary groups around them.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 9

October 2, 2018 8 comments

In the previous part of this series, I said that the jati system was the principal reason why group cohesion among Indians is, and always been, so poor and why tiny foreign armies could conquer and rule large parts of India without any resistance from local population. Part of the reason, as explained in yet another part, was that the jati system destroyed the ability of Indians to imagine an objective reality or care about history which was not somehow part of some sad lie about the relative position of their jati in the overall social system.

Some readers might think that all of this is a bit confusing. What does, for example, the inability to imagine an objective reality, focus on rote learning and mindless obedience have to do with consistently losing wars against tiny foreign armies for multiple centuries. Traditional Chinese culture was also focused on rote learning and mindless obedience, but somehow China never got invaded and colonized to a level even remotely close to that of India. And weren’t the Chinese a famously insular society- at least since middle part of the Ming Dynasty.

And this is a good place to introduce something which I will talk about over next couple of posts. It involves comparing India to post- Roman Empire Italy (5th Century AD onward) and China (Song dynasty onward) to highlight what made the former much more susceptible to successful foreign invasions than the later two. We shall also talk about why successful military campaigns by Mahumd of Ghazni occurred almost 300 years after the initial rapid spread of Islam in Middle-East and Persia. Why didn’t successful Muslim invasions occur in the 7th or 8th century AD?

One thing I often wondered about, many years ago, concerned the delay of almost 300 years between the initial large-scale Muslim conquests in late 600s and early 700s AD and the first successful Muslim invasions of mainland India. Why could Arab and other converts conquer most of modern-day Spain and a good part of coastline of Black Sea 300 years before conquering even a small part of India? Why were they able to steamroll the Sasanian Empire of Persia within a few years but not make any progress in India though they reached present-day Sindh in 710 AD.

One might think that given the dismal performance of later Hindu rulers against Muslim invaders, they could just have walked over and conquered the whole of North India within a few years. And yet.. they could not. But why? The short answer is that they tried repeatedly and got their asses kicked, also repeatedly. Long story short, by 776 AD the Muslim presence in the Indian subcontinent excluding Sindh had effectively ended, and even there it was treading water by end of that century. So how could local kings of that era do, with ease, what multiple generations of later Hindu rulers could not?

Once again, a scarcity of written records from that era hampers the quest for a more thorough understanding of events. It is however clear that the Muslims invaders of that era encountered large-ish Indian kingdoms with very large armies, and in some cases navies, which proved more than a match for them. The Indian kingdoms and armies of that era were able to successfully counter the invaders and drive them out pretty quickly. Nor was this the first time, India faced invaders from the west. The Huna people (Indian version of Huns) tried to invade India in 5th and 6th century AD. After initial success and territory gains, they too were defeated and assimilated.

My point is that there are multiple instances of Indian kingdoms being able to successfully fight determined, numerous and well-equipped foreign invaders prior to 11th century. So why is the record of Hindu kings against foreign invaders between about 1200 AD (Prithviraj Chauhan) and 1600 AD (Shivaji) generally dismal? To be fair, Hindu kings in peninsular India did far better against Muslim invaders than their Northern counterparts- even during that period. But why?

The conventional explanation, as provided by “credentialed” losers.. I mean experts, is that use of mounted archers by Muslim invaders after 11th century AD against the supposedly elephant-centered army of Hindu kings resulted in the later losing battle after battle. While this might sound like a good explanation to the layman, it is hilarious bad. For one, using mounted archers or cavalry of any sort to invade kingdoms that are not small requires a pretty significant logistics chain and planning. Since Indians knew the lay of the land far better than invaders, foreign invaders would have faced serious problems if the local population resisted.

But there is much more. Composite bows and horse archers are not wonder weapons, especially in countries with a serious rainy season (excess moisture fucks up natural composite bows) and less than optimal conditions for horses. The rate of death of imported horses from diseases such as Babesiosis has always been pretty high in India. To put it another way, there are only some parts of India (NW plains) where one could use Calvary with abandon. Also, the mounted archer theory does not explain how Muslim rulers were able to keep ruling the areas they conquered.

And there is always the question of why massed longbow archers were uncommon in armies of Hindu kings after 8th-9th century AD. It should also be noted that there were not many large or even medium-sized kingdoms in India (especially Northern plains) after 7th century. Why? Since we are already at over 900 words, I am going to write about my explanation for why things went that way in India after 8th century AD by comparing it an equally divided ‘nation’ known as Italy.

Specifically, I will go into some detail about how a highly divided and medium-sized region such as the Italian Peninsula could successfully defend itself against multiple attempts at invasion by foreigners professing a different religion, including the much larger Ottoman Empire at its peak. What did they do differently to succeed at something which evaded India for almost 500 years?

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 8

September 28, 2018 11 comments

In the previous post of this series, I said that the general lack of critical thinking skills in most Indians is deeply linked to Indian style of parenting and whatever passes for ‘education’ in that country. Some might consider this to be a harsh assessment, and that is kinda true. However reality is what it is, whether we like it or not. Also, it is not possible to fix a problem if we keep on pretending that it does not exist. So let us start by first defining it.

Have you ever noticed that a lot of typical Indians, who are good at passing exams and tests, are also incredibly bad at applying that knowledge? To be fair, we see this problem in other parts of the world. However, for reasons we shall soon get into, the levels it reaches in India are just mind-boggling. But there is a weird twist to this story. Those who grew up outside India, or are otherwise atypical, do not display this shortcoming at a higher rate than other people.

In other words, this problem is cultural not biological. But isn’t it a rather odd problem? Think about it.. how can somebody capable of regurgitating all the ‘right’ answers have such a poor grasp of subject matter? Clearly, the person in question has good memory and no cognitive problems. So what is going on? Some might say that this is a consequence of the Indian ‘education’ system being based on rote memorization- and that is true. But why is that so?

Let me pose this question in another way. Would you eat at a restaurant where the cook could recite all the ingredients in his dishes and their preparation methods, but not cook well? You wouldn’t, and neither would most Indians. But for some reason, this state of affairs is normal in the Indian ‘education’ system. Why? And what does it have to do with the jati system? What prevents Indians from changing their way of doing things?

Moving on to a related problem, why do most Indians conflate knowledge with regurgitating the beliefs of famous people? Once again. you see this problem in other parts of the world, but for some reason, it reaches almost comical levels in most Indians. Why is deliberative and skeptical thinking so uncommon among typical Indians, especially the more ‘educated’. Why do most Indians display an unwillingness to think through problems on their own, pose inconvenient questions and be reasonably skeptical about whatever passes for knowledge.

And this brings us to the proximate cause of this dysfunction. Have you noticed that typical Indian parenting produces intellectually and emotionally crippled kids? To be clear, I am not suggesting that north-american parenting is especially good or free of problems. In fact, it has its unique set of dysfunctions. Having said that, it is hard to ignore that traditional Indian parenting is way more likely to create spineless kids with little capability for autonomous thinking or action.

But why? And why would parents do something like that to their own kids? Well.. the answer has to do with the jati or caste system. Have you ever wondered why the jati system sounds so alien to non-Indians? Could it be because belief in, and practicing, the jati system is not compatible with even basic levels of critical thinking? Let me put it this way.. you cannot simultaneously believe in the caste system and still be capable of critical thinking.

So how do you perpetuate the jati system and its wretched institutions such as social apartheid and arranged (historically child) marriage. Well.. the easiest way to do that is to brainwash your children from birth into believing all sorts of nonsense, blindly respecting ‘authority’, discouraging questions and personal agency etc. Traditional Indian parenting is about perpetuating the jati system by crippling the intellectual and emotional development of your own children

It is kinda analogous to breaking the legs of your slave so that he (or she) cannot escape and find a better life. And that is why, you see, children who grow in traditional Indian families have stunted intellectual and emotional development. But what does this have to do with the equally dysfunctional system of ‘education’ in India? A lot, actually. The system, you see, is not about producing competent individuals as much as it is about producing the appearance of education.

But that sounds totally nuts! Why would anybody want to produce the appearance of education rather than the real deal? As usual, the answer has to do with the mindset of those running the system. People who never received a real education and have a limited ability to think critically cannot fix a crappy system, because they are incapable of imagining a better system. You cannot be a good car mechanic, if you have no reference frame for a properly tuned car. Similarly people who are unable to think past what they learned in medical school make bad physicians.

In the next part, I hope to show you (in some detail) the intimate connection between poor group cohesion among Indians and jati system. This will help you understand why incredibly tiny armies of foreigners could conquer and rule large parts of India without any resistance from local population.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 7

September 20, 2018 5 comments

In the previous post of this series, I wrote about how the jati or caste system as we know it today came into existence (at least in North India) sometime between the 3rd-5th century AD. I also pointed out that conventional religion-based explanations for its genesis cannot explain how Indic religions spread beyond India, but the caste system did not. The most rational explanation for this important and overlooked oddity, in my opinion, is that the jati system was imposed by the dominant regime of that time in North India, aka the Gupta dynasty. While some see the Gupta dynasty as the golden age of India, it was beginning of the end.

I was originally going to devote this post to highlighting the connection between jati system and complete lack of group cohesion among Indians. As some of you are aware, treacherous behavior with other Indians while simultaneously grovelling before non-Indians has been a consistent future of Indian history for at least 1,500 years. It then occurred to me that my explanation for this behavior, and its connection to jati, might require readers to first understand another related concept- which I had not previously discussed at length. So let us do that first and talk about why most Indians do not seem to have a concept of history or grasp of objective reality.

Let me start by asking you a somewhat odd question: Why are the most famous literary works written by Indians from before the 4th-6th century AD? Try naming a large original work of philosophy, science, art.. anything definitively authored by an Indian for at least a thousand years after 6th century AD. Or why are travelogues of ancient foreign travelers often the only available contemporary accounts for many periods in Indian history? Why is there a remarkable lack of old documents, other than some religious texts, in India? Did Indians lose the ability to write after 6th century AD? And how is this connected with an aversion to objective reality?

A few readers will correctly point out that something remarkably similar occurred in Europe after the western Roman empire collapsed in the 5th century AD. While there are certainly some similarities between two situations, there are also some important differences. For starters, there was no collapse of a centralized authority in India after 6th century AD, because it was always fairly decentralized. Similarly, there was no great technological or organisational regression in India after end of Gupta dynasty. Life just went on, as it had previously.

So what happened? Why did Indians stop writing anything new after 6th century AD ? Some of you might say that there was not much progress during those times to write about. However, as a visit to the nearest library or amazon’s website will show- most literature has nothing to do with science or technology and is usually about religious or secular mythology, popular stories and personal accounts. Perhaps it was the lack of printing press technology, then? Unlikely.. since Indians deliberately ignored the printing press for about 300 years after it was introduced by European traders and missionaries.

My point is that, the unwillingness of most Indians to care about history, let alone write it down, has little to do with availability of technology. Nearby countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand have far better written (and repeatedly transcribed accounts) of their history than India. But who did all that writing and re-transcribing of manuscripts in those countries? As it turns out it was Buddhist monks and priests who did it, just like their contemporary Christian and Muslim counterparts in other parts of the world. So why didn’t their Hindu equivalents do it?

The next concept is a bit hard to explain, so you have to sit through a few oddly phrased paragraphs. They are about how you believe what you believe aka Epistemology.

Why do most people living in USA agree that the 9/11 incident in NYC occurred on September 11, 2001 or the Pearl Harbor attack occurred on December 7, 1941? More importantly, why do we agree on certain objective stuff such as dates of both incidents even if we disagree on what or who (subjective stuff) caused those incidents? Also, how many of you were actually present at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 or in downtown NYC on September 11, 2001? Readers might point to the huge amount of photographic evidence for both incidents and numerous accounts by survivors. But why has this evidence not been lost by now?

Isn’t that a strange question? But ask yourself, why should people record and remember things which occurred years and decades ago? Do you remember what you had for lunch and dinner on September 11, 2001? I can.. BTW. So why do we remember certain events better than others? Emotional response to, and psychological impact of, an event has a major effect on how well we recall it. But there is a far bigger reason, namely the impact of said event on future events. But how can an event have a much larger effect than itself? The answer is that people who witnessed or came to know about said event often feel part of same group or solidarity with those involved.

In other words, events that elicit strong feelings of personal involvement and group solidarity within a large number of people (beyond those affected by said events) become part of historical record. Those that did not, usually get lost in the sands of time. But what does any of this have to do with the general lack of interest in recording, preserving or reading about history in India. Ask yourself, was group solidarity beyond one’s immediate jati possible in India once the jati system became established? And if there was no solidarity beyond one’s jati, why would most people care to remember or record events that did not affect them?

Some of you might say.. “fair enough, this would seriously hamper the ability to write a unified historical narrative- but wouldn’t people in each jati keep writing their own history?”. You know what.. that might very well have been the case. But ask yourself, who will do a better job of archiving information- large bureaucratic organisations or small unstable groups. There is a good reason for why monks and clergy in the medieval era were very effective at preserving old literature in addition be writing down newer contemporary material. Having an organized and dedicated guild of archivists is much more effective for preserving information than isolated and unorganized efforts.

But didn’t India have Brahmins? Well.. ya, tons of them. But unlike the priests or monastic orders in monotheistic religions, there were many hundreds of mutually antagonistic jatis within the Brahmnin varna. It was quite normal to have half a dozen mutually antagonistic Brahmin jatis in medium-sized towns in ancient India. So basically each Brahmin jati was fighting constant turf wars with other Brahmin jatis in that area, with each trying to show the others that it had higher status than them. The jati system, far from reducing inter-group competition for jobs and occupation, ended up making it much worse. And guess what they were not writing..

But what does this have to do with Indians often having a rather poor grasp of objective reality? How does extreme social fragmentation, constant bickering and endless turf battles alter one’s grasp of reality? Let me explain that with another example. Do you believe that an antibiotic can cure an infection caused by a bacterial species susceptible to it? I am guessing almost every single one of you believe that- but how do you know that this explanation is correct? Most of you aren’t microbiologists or physicians, right?

One source of your belief comes from personal experience with having taken an antibiotic for some infection, another from knowing the basics of how they work, a third from ready access to a large body of experimental data from multiple sources and lastly it is also your own trust (faith) in the medical system. So how does it work in a highly fragmented society where everyone is trying to screw everyone else? Short answer.. it does not. In India, most people will take an antibiotic to treat an infection based on nothing more than blind faith. But why? Aren’t they as curious about the world around them as anybody else?

And this is where I have to open another can of worms. Have you ever noticed that adult Indians seem to have considerable difficulty with objective thinking and critical analysis of problems? Why is that so? My theory is that it has a lot to do with defective parenting and education, and yes.. that too is connected to the jati system. More about that in upcoming part of this series.

What do you think? Comments?

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

September 11, 2018 4 comments

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?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 5

September 8, 2018 7 comments

In the previous part of this series, I showed you how and why the arranged marriage system in India is not ancient or about anything beyond maintaining the “genetic purity” of each jati or caste. I also pointed out that endogamy among a continuously fragmenting bunch of jatis has produced some of more uglier and defective specimens of humanity- not to mention that the custom of arranged marriage in India has historically been a euphemism for child marriage. But sex and marriage is far from the only thing which the jati system has screwed up. Let us talk about vegetarianism, Indian style, arose in first place and why it persists.

Some readers might remember that I once written a short post about why Indians are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome with its attendant sequelae of Type II diabetes and heart disease. I have also written another post about how this problem is largely self-inflicted. As some might also know, the vast majority of allegedly “educated” Indians like to blame it on “genetic predisposition” because blaming a shortcoming on something which cannot be fixed is a standard Indian way to avoid action (which is also an unfortunate consequence of belief in the jati system). The rabbit hole of problems caused by the jati system is pretty deep, isn’t it?

But wait.. there is another type of bullshit explanation which typical Indians like to use when faced with their self-inflicted shortcomings. To such losers, Indians obsess about vegetarianism because they are “wise” enough to see it is an “ecologically sustainable” lifestyle. Alternatively, they want others to believe that the Indian obsession with vegetarianism is due to their belief in “ahimsa” or interest in “animal welfare”. There are many other bullshit explanations which I have comes across, but we don’t have time to indulge such idiocies. So let us focus on historical records, specifically those written by non-Indians who visited India over the centuries.

And isn’t it sad that we have to rely on the writings of outsiders to understand Indian history because most Indians were unwilling to write down or (more likely) keep transcribing and preserving their own history! Anyway, getting back to historical accounts of India written by outsiders- specifically greco-roman sources around 1st century AD. While I am not going to go into a detailed analysis of each account, there are some overall trends. For example, all accounts agree that Indian kingdoms were large, well populated, quite affluent for their era and involved in extensive trade with the Mediterranean world.

They do talk about a few social classes in Indian society which are not that different from those described in Chanakya’s Arthashastra written a couple of centuries before that time. So far, so good. Now here is the real kicker. Nowhere do they say that Indians ate a diet which was more vegetarian than what contemporary Greeks or Romans ate. And that is not all.. the Arthashastra specifically talks about need for government inspectors and managers for abattoirs in addition to other enterprises such as excise collection, running brothels and building boats. FYI- the two dominant faiths at that time were Buddhism and Hinduism 1.0

The first instance of Vegetarianism being favored in India (at least in the north) can be found in the writings of Chinese monks who traveled to India between 4th and 6th century AD. Faxian in 4th century AD does talk about a general trend towards meat-eating being seen as spiritually unclean while travelling through the early Gupta dynasty era kingdom in North India. It is important to note that the Gupta dynasty was the first major Hindu dynasty in North India since 3rd century BC. But Faxian also describes a peculiar feature of this emergent vegetarianism which would escape most non-indians, including himself. He mentions that people also avoid eating aromatic tubers and roots such as garlic and onions.

In other words, he is talking about a form of Hinduism which borrows very heavily from that other wretched Indian religion aka Jainism. So what is Jainism anyway? Think of it like this.. Jainism is the dogmatic sludge left behind when you remove all the positive and modernistic attributes of Buddhism. Some of you might think that this is an oversimplification and, to some extent, that is true. But there is a very good reason that Buddhism could spread far beyond India and Jainism could not. And yes, I believe that the Hinduism of kings in the Gupta dynasty was very heavily influenced by Jain dogmatism.

But what does any of this have to do with the caste aka jati system. Well.. as it turns out, Faxian and Xuanzang are the first visitors to India to document the existence of untouchable jatis. Not only that, they also document that untouchability was associated with “spiritually unclean” jobs such as processing animals for meat and leather. Now consider that Arthashastra (from an earlier era) treated animal butchery and leather tanning as normal jobs. So how did we get from certain jobs being normal to being considered extra-low status? The conventional answer is that it had something to do with Buddhism. But is that really the case?

How come no other nation or country outside India which adopted Buddhism, or was influenced by it, became vegetarian? Erstwhile Tibet did not, Myanmar did not, Sri Lanka did not, Thailand did not, China did not and Japan did not. Nor did Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia. Buddhism also spread to parts of west-central Asia, but it did not change their dietary habits. So how can we blame it for rise of vegetarianism in India? Clearly something else was at play. Also, based on historical accounts, Indian style vegetarianism arose in North India first and at around same time as beginning of Gupta dynasty. Could it be that their religion was a shitty amalgam of Hinduism 1.0 and Jainism or what we today recognize as Hinduism?

But what does any of this have to do with caste or jati?

A whole fucking lot! For starters, contact with or consumption of meat became associated with lower jatis during this period. Coincidentally, that occurred at about the same time as skilled manual labor became associated with lower jatis. But what became associated with higher jatis? Short answer.. sitting on you ass all day, eating lots of carbohydrates and swindling other people while pretending to pious also known as becoming a bania or brahmin. That is why technological innovation in India pretty much died after the 5th-7th century AD. And that is why, even today, skilled manual labor in India is poorly paid and looked down upon.

But what does any of this have to do with Indians going vegetarian? and why couldn’t it spread past India?

The answer to the first part of that question is as follows: Lacking a unified religion which preached at least nominal equality (like Islam or Christianity), status jockeying among jatis lead the “lower” ones to adopt the habits of the ones “above” them. And guess what.. vegetarianism was one of the major habits of the “upper” jatis. But why couldn’t it spread past the borders of India? In my opinon, the most likely reason for that comes down to two inter-related factors. Buddhism was an equalist religion unlike Hinduism and it never lost patronage outside India. Furthermore the trade network of Jainism-influenced banias and influence of neo-puritan brahmins did not extend beyond India.

Well.. that was a bit longer than I expected. In the next part, I will try to show you how the poor social status of skilled craftsmen and the rigidity of jati system made it almost impossible for India to adopt new technologies and innovations, let alone develop them. I will also try to explain you why the jati system was so resilient In India, even though it was totally incapable of spreading beyond its borders.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 4

September 6, 2018 12 comments

In the previous part of this series, I pointed out how the many systemic dysfunctions which have plagued Indian society for over 1,500 years can be traced back to adoption and spread of the jati system. In it, I also briefly talked about how the jati system created a highly fragmented society without he social cohesion necessary to form armies capable of effectively fighting invaders as well as hindered the adoption of newer weapon technologies in addition to causing a decay of pre-existing capabilities. It is therefore no surprise that Muslim, and later European, invaders had no trouble defeating local kings and ruling that part of the world for centuries.

While I do intend to revisit those particular issues in more detail later, let us now focus on how the varna and jati system screwed up things as fundamental as sex, marriage and dietary habits in India. Have you ever wondered why most Indians as a people seem unable to conceive of marriages that are not loveless “arranged” marriages and why they obsess about remaining vegetarian- even though doing so makes them physically weak, skinny fat, diabetic and at higher risk of heart disease? I mean.. what kind of sad idiot would willingly inflict “arranged” marriages and vegetarianism on themselves? As you will see, both are intimately linked to jati and varna.

So let us start with the issue of “arranged” marriage or what was until recently child marriage- in all but name. Have you ever wondered why this wretched custom is now almost exclusive to India (and a couple of neighboring countries)? But.. but.. some of you might say, weren’t arranged marriages common in many other societies in the past? I mean.. weren’t arranged marriages common in a previous era within societies such as diverse as Japan, Indonesia and parts of the Middle-East? Sure, they were.. but most differ from their Indian version in some very fundamental ways.

For example, the majority of arranged marriages within east-asian countries were arranged based on factors such as who was the more compatible bride or groom with the right amount of money and family connections. Contrast this to Indian arranged marriages in which (until the last 50-60 years) little children were betrothed to each other without any feedback based almost exclusively on considerations of jati. Yes.. you read that right. Betrothing children between 5-10 years old was standard practice. Sure, the marriage would be consummated after the girl entered puberty, but the betrothal happened usually when she was literally of the age when girls play with dolls.

But it gets better.. or worse, depending on you viewpoint. Not only did the girl or guy had any say whatsoever in making these decisions, the death of the guy before or shortly after marriage would make the girl who has just entered her teens a bonafide widow- with not much chance of remarriage (though that did vary somewhat from jati to jati). At best, she could marry one of the brothers of the guy she was betrothed or married. If that was not possible, she had no real status in society. There is a good reason that the British, even though they came from a class-ridden and highly unequal society, thought this practice was especially barbaric. But what does this supremely fucked up system of marriage have anything to do with caste or jati?

Well.. everything! The sole and only reason behind betrothal of young girls into that fucked up arranged marriage system before they were ten was to maintain genetic purity of whichever jati that girl and boy belonged. I do find it odd that this obsession with genetic purity seems to consistently produce.. for the lack of a better word.. some of the ugliest specimens of humanity. Some of you might counter that things have changed since then and even in villages such ugly customs are now the exception rather than the rule. And I do agree that things are not as bad as they used to be, however we cannot pretend that whatever passes for arranged marriage in urban India today is anything other than a shady financial transaction between families of two people who never liked (or will like) each other.

Which brings me to the question- how did such a wretched system of marriage ever come into existence? Most Indians, who have not much knowledge about their own history, will confidently tell you that “it has always been this way”. Except that there is a lot of historical evidence to suggest otherwise. For starters, a significant percentage of women in Indian mythology chose their own husbands- which suggests that things once used to be quite different. But that is just mythology.. right? Well, consider the Arthashastra, a multi-volume treatise on statecraft, economic policy, military strategy and laws written by Chanakya sometime in the 3rd century BC. FYI- Chanakya was the lifelong prime-minister of the first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta.

To make a long story short, Chanakya was the prime minister of the Mauryan empire at a time when it was the most populous and likely largest empire on earth. To put it another way, he was writing about how things were being done under his leadership rather than how they ought to be done. Also, this was a bit before Qin Shi Huang united warring Chinese states into one empire- so the Mauryan empire being most populous part at that time is correct. So what is the relevance of Chanakya’s writings on law to the history of arranged marriage in India. For starters, he lists many types of marriages other arranged marriage and how the inheritance and rights of women in each type of marriage differ. He then goes to write about laws governing divorce, property rights, spousal support and many other issues that are quite contemporary.

Chanakya also wrote about laws governing remarriage and property, prosecution of physical abuse in marriage, right of widows to property and much more about issues that are also contemporary. To put it another way, The society in which Chanakya was a prime-minister was quite different from what most people In India believe today. And there is evidence, from a few roman accounts around 1st century AD, that the overall system of laws and regulations which Chanakya described in his work were still the norm. I keep coming back to my original point about major and poorly-documented cultural shifts (especially in North India) between 2nd and 5th century AD. Might go into some detail about that in later posts.

To summarize, the fucked up and almost universal arranged marriage system in India was always about preserving genetic purity of jatis and varnas (but much more of the former). It had all sorts of negative effects, many of which continue to this day. Furthermore, the arranged marriage system in India became dominant only after the jati system became well established sometime between the 2nd and 5th century AD in Northern India. In the next post of this series, I will show you how the Indian obsession with vegetarianism has everything to do with caste and nothing about preventing cruelty or pain to animals.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 3

September 1, 2018 6 comments

In the previous post of this series– I talked about how the older Varna system, though bad, was not that different from similar social hierarchies present in other societies of that era. In any case, it was certainly nowhere as inflexible and divisive as the ‘caste’ system later became. It also helped that the vast majority of people fell into one particular Varna, not unlike plebs in the Roman Empire. It also did not undermine the type of social cohesion necessary to field large and competent armies, nor did it create the anything close to the static and inward looking mindset seen in later centuries. To put it another way, it wasn’t a great system by any standard, but it was nowhere as atrociously bad and self-sabotaging as ‘caste’ system ended up becoming.

Which brings us to the second and later component of the ‘caste’ system aka Jati system. So what is a Jati anyway? The simplest definition of that wretched concept is as follows: Each Jati is an endogamous, self-governing and closed community usually associated with one particular occupation or vocation. Coincidentally the word used in many Indian language to describe what we know as ‘species’ (animals and plant) is also Jati. The more perceptive among you will immediately see that artificially dividing any society into anything analogous to a myriad of human “species” is a recipe for chronic conflict, social disunity and many other bad outcomes.

I should also point out even a civilization as obsessed with social hierarchy as China did not implement anything remotely as stupid and disastrous as ‘caste’- and for good reason. Even the most basic analysis of its “pros” and “cons” clearly show that a society based on the ‘jati’ system would be full of constant low-level infighting in addition to lacking the social cohesion necessary to do important big things such as recruiting a large and competent army, running a competent administration.. well getting anything big or important done properly. I mean.. how can you run a large society when there is no unified system of rules, laws, procedures, common culture, even the most basic feelings of kinship? Well.. you can’t, and that is the point.

Did I also mention the part where every single one of the thousands of those self-created Jatis (all over India) was constantly obsessed with the need to show it was somehow “higher” than the others in its immediate neighborhood? But it get better.. or worse. Not only did the concept of Jati create dozens of ‘castes’ in even a medium-sized village, it also permanently separated their social worlds. So, for example, it was possible for two extended families of different ‘castes’ to live in adjacent houses/ farms for decades or even centuries with almost no worthwhile informal social interactions between them. Compare that a similarly sized village in medieval Europe or China- where peasants, artisans and laborers knew exactly which social class they belonged to.

Imagine the levels of chronic tension in a society with totally arbitrary rules about who you could marry, dine or even informally socialize with- and all with the end purpose of showing who was higher on the “caste ladder”. To make matters worse, one ‘caste’ could split into two or more and this process could keep on repeating itself till nobody was sure about the relative social position of their latest ‘caste’ on the “caste ladder”- a concept for which there was, also, no universally accepted definition. Now you can start understanding why Indian society has always been so prolific at producing traitors and defectors. I mean.. what positive incentives does the ‘caste’ system have to prevent or reduce defections? Can you think of any?

It is therefore no wonder that after the 10th Century AD, significantly smaller but much more cohesive armies of Muslims and Europeans could defeat larger but highly disorganized and non-cohesive armies of local Hindu kings. To make matters worse, the ‘caste’ system had an overall narrative that people who worked with their hands were somehow belonged to innately lower and unworthy species. That is why, for example, archers (who almost exclusively came from the lower castes) were not considered worthy of the honor of fighting alongside warrior castes. Also, the Indian longbow progressively became a “dirty” weapon and was therefore shunned by the warrior castes. Surely nothing bad can come from such beliefs.. right?

It is worth pointing out that longbows were probably the best weapons against cavalry of the type used by Muslim invaders. But it gets even better.. or worse. Repeated defeats against Muslim cavalry units did nothing to make the warrior castes or Indian society reconsider the weapons they used, let alone analyse each defeat and develop counter-measures, because nobody wanted to go against the allegedly “ancient” ways or do anything which might increase ritual pollution, since by that time everyone was mentally invested in perpetuating the ‘caste’ or Jati system. The fact that each Jati had a vocation which allegedly determined its position on the “caste ladder” was also the reason an incredibly useful weapons such as the Crossbow never caught on in India. Confused by that statement? Let me explain..

Hindu warrior castes usually decided how “clean” or “high” a weapon was by two criteria- cost and tradition. So a quality steel sword, which was both expensive to make and traditional, was held in far higher esteem than something like the Longbow. The Crossbow, which almost certainly arrived in (South) India through indirect trade with China through South-East Asia in the first few centuries AD never caught on because it was relatively inexpensive to make and not traditional. Also, nobody wanted to start a totally new caste to build crossbows- because newer castes were lower on the “caste ladder” than more established ones. A similar reason was also behind the grudgingly slow adoption of gunpowder weapons in India.

Well.. I am almost a thousand words into this post and the topics I intend to tackle next such as the connection between vegetarianism and caste system and role of arranged marriages in perpetuating this abomination require at least the same number of words. I also hope to show you the connection between the demise of Buddhism and India and the rise of the caste system. More importantly, I will talk about why the ‘caste’ system most likely started as something imposed from above by a particular north Indian dynasty which ruled between 4th and 6th century of the common era.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 2

August 28, 2018 6 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how many of seemingly peculiar but extremely damaging problems seen in India, even today, can be traced back to the Varna and Jati system. In that post, I also hinted that the ‘caste’ system as we know if today is not much more than a thousand years old in most parts of India. In case you wondered how I came to that approximate date, you will find out by the end of this post (at least partially).

So let me start by asking a peculiar question. Was (what we today call) ‘Hinduism’ ever a normal proselytizing religion? While the connection between that question and the topic of this series is not obvious right now, it will be as we go along. But why did I ask that question in the first place? Well.. because almost every single Indian you might pose this question will either say that it was never a proselytizing religion or it might have been in some very distant past. And they then will also claim that ‘caste’ system is somehow linked to that religion or is an integral part of it.

But is that really the case? Well.. let us look at the history of regions and countries adjacent to India. The world’s largest Hindu temple complex, Angkor Wat, built in 12th century AD is in present day Cambodia. It commissioned by a local king called Suryavarman II and completed by Jayavarman VII. Which begs the question- why is there no evidence of anything similar to the Indian ‘caste’ system in Cambodia either then or now? Sure.. the Khmer empire had a priestly class, warrior class, merchant class, everyone else and perhaps slaves. But that sort of social stratification is seen in almost every single pre-industrial society regardless of race or location.

So why didn’t the hideously complex ‘caste’ system co-migrate to other regions in Asia along with worship of Hindu deities? Before converting to Islam sometime in the 15-16th century, Indonesia was (for the lack of a better term) a region that worshiped Hindu/Buddhist deities. But for some mysterious reason, its ‘caste’ structure too never came to resemble its Indian counterpart and basically stuck to the priest, warrior, merchant and everybody else formula. Something similar is seen in what is today Thailand, in that worship of Hindu and Buddhist deities for many centuries somehow did not result in the establishment of anything approaching the ‘caste’ system in India.

Even the ‘caste’ system in a country as geographically and culturally close to India as Sri Lanka never reached anything close to what it did in India (especially among the majority Sinhalese). So what is going on? Why didn’t the ‘caste’ system in India co-migrate with worship of Indian deities and religion outside its geographical boundaries. How come it could not even cross over into present day Myanmar (Burma) even though a lot of Indian cultural and religious influence evidently did. To stretch it further, how is it that Indian cultural influence on Japan through a syncretic version of Hinduism and Buddhism did not also transfer the idea of its ‘caste’ system.

To make a long story short, what we today recognize as ‘Hinduism’ was once a proselytizing religion- just like any other. Furthermore, it remained so as late as the 7th-8th century AD (at least in some of the far-eastern and southern parts of modern-day India). Perhaps more relevantly- the worldview, belief systems and deities of Indic religions spread much further than the ‘caste’ system, even though most Indians today believe them to inseparable. And this brings us how the ‘caste’ system might became so closely intertwined with Hinduism in India.

Let us look at the first and chronologically earlier part (and version) of the ‘caste’ system aka Varna. The elevator pitch version of that system is as follows: There are four groups: Priests, Warriors, Merchants (and perhaps farmers with large holdings) and everybody else. Sure there is some bullshit about relative social position of each group in certain older texts which few people ever read, but overall it sounds very similar to that of almost every other proto-feudal and feudal society. One can therefore make an educated guess that it functioned in a similar manner.

Indeed, accounts of the Varna system in older Buddhist texts (~ 300 BC- 500 AD) suggest that it was fairly flexible and people did change their birth Varna, usually because they wanted to do something else or make more money. In that respect Varna operated, for many centuries, in a manner similar to class in our society- where for example, it helps to have university educated parents to attend university or rich parents and their social network to be successful at business. But we also have accounts starting in the 4th and 6th century AD which suggest that the ‘caste’ system, as we know it today, was getting firmly established in North Indian kingdoms.

So why and when did things start their terminal descent in the region of present day India? More interestingly, why didn’t this incredibly stupid idea (aka the full-blown ‘caste’ system) spread beyond the borders of present day India, even though other ideas (both religious and secular) did? What is the role of thoughtless ritualistic “vegetarianism” and other self-defeating dietary proscriptions in the caste system? Why are religions such as Islam and Christianity whose followers later conquered and ruled India for centuries far more egalitarian at their core- at least in theory? Why did Buddhism disappear from India at around the same time as the full-blown ‘caste’ system came into being? I will tackle these questions in an upcoming part of this series.

What do you think? Comments?