Reply…

I will take a stab at a careful reply to this.

1) Regarding Sonia, I took exception to the author’s statement that the congressmen debased themselves “because” of her white skin. They would have debased themselves whether she was white, black, yellow, green, or any other color. I am not concerned with why people voted for congress. That is purely election math as you have pointed out.

In essence, I think Gautier’s “white worship” criticism is wrong.

———————————————————–

2)Regarding your other points, they go much deeper than a superficial “slave mentality” attribution.

Your take is that slave mentality is manifested in two forms. “First is unjustified respect and excessive tolerance for all that is non-Indian. Be it arts, literature, history, medicine, religion etc. The second is outright debasement of all that is Indian -spirituality, religion, customs, traditions, medicine, arts etc.”

I think one has to distinguish between the “educational system” and the “post liberalization economic and social environment”. The outcome of the first is the non religious Hindu – the person with scepticism of many rituals, – the person who says I don’t mind, sometimes I even like the rituals, sometimes I don’t, but I am not particularly concerned either.”

I have never been too far down that non believer path, but to an extent, I symbolise one of the manifestations you speak of. i.e. “the debasement of all that is Indian – spirituality, religion, customs, traditions, medicine, arts etc”. Debasement is a hard word. No doubt there are some who debase, but my personal opinion is most people don’t. It is just a natural consequence of the educational setup that we have chosen that most people have ended up with a very laidback attitude about religion. Now if that is a bad thing, I am not so sure. But I will come to that later.

In your mind, religion and culture are inter-connected. My own belief is that while that is so, the two can still be treated as “independent entities”. I believe one can revive the Indian cultural context without resorting to religious awakening at the same time. One can still revive in the “non believer Hindu” an appreciation for Indian culture – its literature, its music, its dance forms, its medicine, its art. It is too large a leap (and consequently will spark opposition) for a non believer to turn a believer and start learning the vedas and scriptures, but it is not so large a leap to build in him an appreciation for cultural traditions. The attempt I feel should be to distinguish the two. The religious/Ram Temple orientation of Hindutva defeats that purpose.

Now the outcome of “the post liberalization economic and social environment” is the first manifestation you speak of – i.e. unjustified respect and excessive tolerance for all that is non-Indian. I agree with you, but let me say this – This is a far more troublesome problem than the second, for this is a consequence of the capitalistic social order and organization. There are two ways to attack this – the easier option is to withdraw, or to engage in direct confrontation – i.e. either the leftist, or the fundamentalist option. But you will (I hope :-)) agree that there are too many pluses in favour of capitalism that neither of these two can be a lasting solution. The more effective way to deal with this is to counter the second manifestation, as I have mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Neither of these manifestations you speak of is a reflection of a slave mentality. It is simply a consequence of the systems we have chosen – educational, economic, social. Educational most of all. Of these, we cannot, or rather, should not, change the economic environment. Capitalism works.

Educational, yes, you are right. We need reform there – an appreciation of Indian culture should be built irrespective of one’s religious affiliations. But the religious elements of education must be at home, not in the schools. In a sense, our opinions at 30 are shaped by what we learnt till we are 13. The home is as much the place to impart those beliefs as the school is. I personlly think the challenge in a sense is to try to convince The Pink Floydians to make their children learn Kathak, and study Sanskrit. But my own impression is that there are many more today, who are touching base with Indian traditions, than say 15 years ago. That challenge also implies putting the Ram Temple (I use the Ram Temple as an euphemism for the BJP’s style of Hindu reformation) to the backburner.

Now, getting back to the most troublesome point – Most people have ended up with a very laidback attitude about religion. I said I am not so sure if that is necessarily a bad thing. I will correct myself. I think it has been in many ways a good thing. It has helped disown caste based discrimination, a substantial victory in itself. But like you, I believe that religion is important. And a laidback approach has to be tempered with true understanding. While I don’t know how to rebuild that, I have a feeling it will repair itself if we can rebuild an appreciation for our cultural context.

I hope I am making some sense.

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Posted on May 21, 2004, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very well written. In fact, I don’t know if I’m seriously disagreeing with you at all! 🙂 Anyways, let me just put down my thoughts…

    The points you have written about religion and culture starting at home, and inclucated by parents is very true. Unfortunately, the problems start when parents neglect this critical duty, and instead foolishly imagine that education alone gives everything necessary for the healthy development of an individual. This is something I don’t agree with. And knowing that generations of kids are growing up without any such guidance from parents, plus the opposing influence of media on the other hand, makes me cry out in anguish. The role of modern education is often overstated and exaggerated.

    And debasement is a hard word. And most people don’t do it. Unfortunately, I seem to be surrounded by the minority of those who do, which makes me take up an even more radical stance than I normally do!

    The reason why I tend to mix culture and religion is that without one, the other will not flourish. See, hinduism is not a religion that prescribes ten commandments, or eight paths to nirvana. In its essense, hinduism shows a way of life, and by living that way, it shows the way to spiritual realization. That way of life is culture. Simiarly, the cultural aspects of india (such as our food and diet, medicinal systems, arts, literature) are all intricately linked with religion if one looks deep enough. When you cut this link, most of this culture will begin to make no sense and will perish. So while non-believers (like the foreign tourists) can come and spend one week in India, try to have a glimpse of its culture and go back in awe, they will never understand its true significance or the extent it influences Indian life. However, we Indians should never forget that and cannot start behaving like these tourists in our own country. Which is how most people whom I meet seem to be behaving! I told you some time back how ayurveda is taught in medical colleges today, and the disastrous results it produces (in terms of not being able to read even Susrutha’s texts, or not being able to innovate and document due to lack of sanskrit knowledge and belief in the underlying scriptures). That’s a good example of the results “secularising” culture.

    Oh, I agree that capitalism works. For all its faults, it seems to produce some visible results. But then, we can’t take a very laid back attitude with capitalism either. Just as we cannot embrace it in a full-fledged manner, we cannot afford to throw away the system either because of its side effects such as huge rich-poor disparities or serious unstability in society.

    In the same way, because caste discrimination (which is a distortion) is an ugly reality, we cannot throw away religion, or adopt a laid back attitude. Instead, we should try to minimize such effects, and look at the overall good that spirituality and religion produces. “Tempered with true understanding” is the perfect word. 🙂 Isn’t that how we’re dealing with capitalism?

    We don’t need another Ram temple – in fact, we have too many temples and not enough worshipers!! But when radicals start atacking the religious sentiments of people, we need to demonstrate that Hindustan will remain under the strong rule of Hindus. Unfortunately, the threat of such aggression is very much real and very much underplayed by the “secular” press. We don’t want another Mohammad Gazni to invade us and destroy Shiva Lingams. We’ve faced enough such violence in the past. That’s the only true purpose of the Ram temple. Something like nuclear detterence, if you will. When the need to demonstrate this does not arise, I will be the happiest man.

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