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Posts Tagged ‘india’

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 1

August 26, 2018 23 comments

I have been thinking, for some time, about writing a long-ish series on this controversial topic. To be clear, condemning it is not the controversial part, as any decent human being can clearly see that it was bad. Instead, I will talk about the incredible and systematic levels of damage caused by that system, both in the past and to an a lesser extent, even today. Along the way, readers will find out why I refer to what most western readers call ‘caste’ as Varna and Jati systems. As you will also find out, both those two systems are actually somewhat independent of each other, but combine in real life to create a far bigger fuckup than either one could by itself.

In future parts of this series- I will show you the connection between Hinduism ceasing to be a proselytizing religion and formation of a fairly rigid ‘caste’ system at around the same time (between the 4th-7th century AD). I will also explain why endogenous technological innovation of any sort ceased at round the same time. You will see the connection between the ‘caste’ system and medieval Hindu armies barely using archers (unlike previous eras) and never adopting the crossbow. We will also go into some detail about how belief in the ‘caste’ fragmented Indian society to such an extent that even small invading armies (Muslims) or a smaller bunch of merchants (British) could conquer large parts of India.

In subsequent parts, I will talk about how belief in the ‘caste’ system made it ridiculously easy for foreign Non-Hindu rulers to keep ruling India for centuries. I hope to show you why belief in the ‘caste’ system is so closely linked to the unusually high rate of treachery seen throughout Indian history. We will go into the connection of this belief with the apparent lack of interest in recording real history by Indians. You will find out how this belief affected who was in charge of artillery and why guns were looked down upon as weapons of war. You will also see how this belief retarded the adoption of newer military tactics in India and does (to a lesser extent) even today.

At the risk of making this preamble a bit too long, I hope to show you how this belief system destroyed the ability of Indians to study and figure out other people (especially their adversaries) with tragic results. You will start understanding such oddities as why Indians ignored the printing press for almost 300 years or why Indian kings never built warships during the era of sail even though they had the craftsmen and raw material to do so. Hopefully you will understand why many Indians are obsessed with vegetarianism though they have zero interest in animal welfare.. and yes, it has something to do with ‘caste’ system. Or why they pay so much attention to symbolic and ritualistic bullshit as opposed to actual actions and behavior.

I also hope to cover topics such as how the low social status of skilled craftsman and other people who work with their hands had a huge negative effect on technological progress in India. You will finally understand why China had no problem becoming ‘the world’s factory’ while India struggles (and has historically struggled) with manufacturing stuff. You might also understand why post-1947 India has produced an almost continuous stream of ineffectual and highly corrupt leaders (at national as well as regional levels) with almost no vision or capacity for strategic thought.. and yes, it has something to do with long-term secondary effects of belief in ‘caste’ system.

Well.. we are already at a bit over 600 words and the first topic I want to explore is going to take almost (or over) a thousand. So, I will close this part by talking a bit about the next one. In case you are wondering, the first topic is basically an introduction to the concept of Varna and Jati and how they often overlap and complement each other in ancient India. I will focus on how both evolved from something analogous to ‘class’ and ‘vocation’ respectively to the grotesque system they later became- and why this occurred between 4th-7th century AD. I will also talk about why so many Indians willingly went along with the ‘caste’ system at that time and yet somehow it could not spread outside the subcontinent.

What do you think? Comments?

Attempts to Implement a Beef Ban in India Will Backfire Badly

May 30, 2017 6 comments

A few of you might have heard about recent attempts by the right-wing-ish ruling party in India to implement a ban of people eating beef through a number of laws and rules. While I seldom write posts about events in India, especially nowadays, this attempt to implement a beef ban in India is very likely to generate a particularly nasty and systemic backlash against that party.

First, a bit of background. See.. many of you think Indians don’t consume Beef and worship Cows etc. However that is not true, especially in certain parts of India. Most Muslims in India, which has the second largest Muslim population in the world, eat Beef. Perhaps more importantly, non-Muslims in certain parts of India such as the North-east, Kerala, Goa and much of the west coast of India, large Metropolitan areas do eat Beef- even if they might not cook it in their homes.

Furthermore, the livelihood of many hundreds of thousands of people in India is linked to butchering and processing cattle for meat, leather etc. More problematically, many of those people belong to certain religions, castes and ethnicities- the reasons for which will become clearer later in the post. Then there is the problem of collateral antagonism from such actions. Anyway, I think it is best to list all the reasons why this Beef ban has an extremely high likelihood of backfiring on the ruling party.

1] Imposing your dietary beliefs, especially if they are based in religion, onto other people is likely to generate an especially harsh backlash. Have you ever wondered why previous national governments in India never seriously tried to ban butchering cattle? Here is a hint- they wanted to rule, and steal from the people, in relative peace. The simple fact is that India is not (and never was) a mono-religious or mono-ethnic country. Functional governance of such a diverse country requires the accommodation of populations with conflicting beliefs aka being pragmatic.

2] Most people who profess Hinduism in India are not especially religious. I would go so far as to say that making money is (and always has been) the real religion of India. Consequently, most Hindus do not see butchering cattle as inherently problematic, as long as they are not the ones doing it. It is no secret that most dairy farmers in India love the money made from selling older cattle to slaughterhouses for meat. Let us be realistic, why would dairy farmers keep on feeding livestock cattle who no longer serve their main function?

3] Butchering and handling dead animals has, for some fucked up religious reasons, been traditionally seen as lower-caste professions in India. Then again, jobs which involve honest and useful work are usually seen as low-caste in Hinduism. The end result of this belief system is that those involved in the whole business of butchering and processing animals are from the so-called “untouchable” castes or Muslims. Did I mention that those belonging to those castes and religions have no interest in being good Hindus? Also they do vote, in very high percentages.

4] The ruling party trying to push the Beef ban, known as the BJP, has historically been seen as the party of reactionary small businessmen from certain castes. In other words, most people in India have a less than favorable opinion of that party. The two main reasons why the BJP came into power in mid-2014 was the collapse of the previous ruling party and the current prime minister being able to project the image of being a competent and fairly secular manager. In other words, the ability of BJP to win any future elections depends on it being able to provide secular, as opposed to religious, goods and services.

5] The current prime minister (Narendra Modi) and his underlings have, so far, been able to provide competent and relatively scandal-free governance. They have been able to approve and speed up many important infrastructure projects, reform government rules and regulations, improve government transparency etc. To put it another way, the first three years of their five-year term have been reasonably good. However over the last three months, they have started dabbling into areas that are not linked to providing secular goods and services.

6] Some of their dabbling into non-secular areas, such as trying to make muslim divorce laws fairer towards women, have been generally well received. However that particular (and still ongoing attempt) at such intervention is largely seen as beneficial in secular terms. In contrast to that, immiserating and impoverishing millions of people via a Beef ban is likely to some up against very determined and prolonged opposition. Also, unlike attempts to reform muslim personal law, such laws will be perceived as religious discrimination.

7] While most muslims in India are fairly moderate and not that religious, it is likely that laws which discriminate against and impoverish them will lead to prolonged civil agitation- to put it mildly. At this stage it is also worth mentioning that many of the so-called “untouchable” castes, who are also involved in the business of processing animals, will likely see this as an attack on their identity and livelihood by a party made up of middle-caste small businessmen Hindus. It is not a good idea to piss off and motivate 20-25% of your population against yourself, especially if the reason for doing so are minor.

8] The popularity of Narendra Modi in India is largely linked to his ability to, so far, efficiently deliver secular goods and services. His administration has also, so far, been able to avoid major civil disturbances and breakdown of governance in most of India. In other words, the popularity of him (and the BJP party) are contingent on providing increasing prosperity AND security. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that any legislation which would create prolonged civil disturbances would not be helpful for improving public perception about internal safety and security.

9] But perhaps most importantly, most Hindus (especially in the more affluent parts of India) have little interest in inconveniencing themselves over something trivial as butchering cattle. Also certain states in India have enough people who consume Beef or depend on cattle butchering as a livelihood for such legislation to make implementation of such legislation very problematic- to put it mildly. Furthermore, the majority of Indians have (for very good reasons) a pretty unfavorable view of government rules and regulations. My point is that trying to push such laws and rules will encounter much more determined resistance than support.

In summary, this attempt by the BJP to target muslims and certain so-called “untouchable” castes is a remarkably stupid idea- especially from the point of maintaining political power. The best case scenario is that they will soon read the writing on the proverbial wall and cut their losses. The worse case scenario is that they end up creating conditions for prolonged civil disturbances in addition to losing power in 2019. Either way, the BJP fucked up with their attempt at banning Beef.

What do you think? Comments?