Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Kamala Harris's Brahminical roots

 Kamala Harris began visiting her ancestral Chennai- or Madras as it was known then- at a time when the anti-Brahmin Dravidian movement had taken power. The film industry played a big role in this dramatic reversal of fortunes for the Brahmin community. But then, after the death of the film star Chief Minister M.G Ramachandran, his mantle was inherited by a Brahmin Screen Queen- Jayalalitha who, despite corruption charges and spells in jail, went on to dominate Tamil politics till her somewhat untimely death four years ago. It was strange to see a Brahmin lady running a State whose official ideology is almost entirely centred on anti-Brahminism.

There is something equally bizarre about the notion that Harris can represent African Americans. True, her father came from Jamaica. He had ancestors who were slaves. But, in Jamaica, a lot of freedwomen and their descendants themselves owned slaves. There is a story of a Creole who had inherited some slaves and who decided to cross over to America to build a plantation there. But, in America, by the one drop rule, he was himself classed as a slave! His descendants prospered only after Emancipation which came to America 30 years later than it did to Jamaica. What America didn't have was a notion of caste based on degree of miscegenation and whether you were owned or you owned others. Jamaica did have a notion of caste- as did Tamil Nadu. The educated elites thought of themselves as inheriting the traditions of the Colonial Masters. If they emigrated to America, they did very well because of their brain-power. Colin Powell and Malcolm Gladwell belong to this class of West Indians. Kamala Harris's mother belonged to its equivalent East Indian caste. 

Harris's father, like Sir Arthur Lewis, the first African descent person to be awarded a Nobel Prize, was a heterodox Academic Economist. Unlike indigenous African American Economists, Harris retained the Left Liberal idealism of the Sixties. But people of Harris's class were uneasy with the popular urban culture of their Islands of origin. They had differentiated themselves from the 'proles' a century ago. Their sons had to speak the Queen's English at home. If Daddy caught them speaking 'Rude Boy' patois on the phone, Mum would take her shoe to them. There was also an ancestral disdain of 'new money'. Commerce was disreputable. Popular culture, but also popular religion, was regarded as atavism- a dangerous return to the Jungle. V.S. Naipaul was the voice of this class. But Naipaul was a cretin. Thomas Sowell & Clarence Thomas represented the path of sanity. But both provoked an atavistic fear. These were the genuine Witch Doctors because they were concerned with the genuine forces that shape the world. It is safer to live in a genteel, but make believe, world. 

For Kamala, the Tamil movies of Jayalalitha, must have been an eye-opener. They showed that histrionics is politics- otherwise, how on earth could a Brahmin woman end up heading a very macho anti-Brahmin party which glorifies the ancient Tamil warrior Kings while grading women on the basis of the supposed power generated by their degree of chastity? 

California, surprisingly, wasn't so different from Tamil Nadu. Reagan became Governor of that State, a position Schwarznegger would later occupy, before MGR became C.M of Tamil Nadu. Furthermore, Religious identities were fluid. You could be a Brahmin Baptist or a Zen Jew or a Gay Greek Orthodox Saint. But Harris wasn't exactly a 'Governor Moonbeam'. There was a rigidity to her thinking and a tendency to be a 'free rider' on existing bandwagons. This may be no bad thing. It boosts productivity when you are young. But it also means that Harris won't supply 'blue sky' thinking. Like her maternal grandfather, who rose by merit through the ranks of the Indian bureaucracy, she may be inclined to 'work within a system' where her merits have allowed her to rise. The problem here is that 'work product' has external, structural, effects. The product may be good but the effect may be bad. Furthermore, systems break down at precisely the moment when the attempt is made to reform them. The example of Tamil Nadu shows that 'populism' can yield better outcomes than meritocratic elitism. Trump isn't exactly a laid off coal-miner or bankrupt dairy farmer. But then Jayalaitha was an educated Brahmin in a State which had decided Brahmins were at the root of all evil. Jayalalitha prevailed as Trump may yet prevail. Why? The choice facing America is Clintonism- and its ability to be captured by Money and to capture those who appear to be against Money- which it has had plenty of, and...what? Something indigenous. Something 'anti-Brahmin'. Something 'blue sky'. Who knows what that might be?

I never thought the son of a Luo Economist would become President, not of Kenya, but America. I think the grand-daughter of a TamBram Civil Servant will become Veep. But because I am always wrong about these things, she won't. Shame. But there it is. 


Why Biden-Harris is a losing ticket

 There has been no 'silent generation' President, though there have been three 'boomers'- all born in the same year- in the White House. Biden has picked 'boomer' Kamala Harris- a Tamil Brahmin on her mother's side- so as to reproduce the magic of his own bromance with 'boomer' Obama. What could possibly go wrong?

Trump thinks he has the answer. Kamala could outshine Biden- that's bad for a Presidential candidate. Remember Geraldine Ferraro? Who was she running with? I must admit I'd forgotten. I had to Google it. Turns out it was Walter Mondale. 

At one time Bush Snr was supposed to be a serious rival to Reagan but Reagan, 'the great communicator', dominated him completely. Where my theory comes unstuck is with Dick Cheney. But Cheney had quit politics some years previously. Bush Jnr. brought him in from Haliburton to pick a Veep and ended up offering him the job. Clearly Junior needed a minder- an old family retainer- an Alfred to his Batman. But Cheney was probably the most personally unpopular Veep ever. He's the reason Americans don't want Veeps who are smarter and more capable than the President. This is what Trump is getting at. Of course, he over-eggs the cake by trying to make out that Harris is a crazy Marxist who wants to kill White people rather than a CNAS supported, centrist, Clintonista. But the fact remains, Americans don't want a scheming Veep running circles round the President. What if she engineers a crisis so the old man just decides to quit? The other point is, is Biden, who is already the age Reagan was when he demitted office, a possible 2 term President? Will he be a 'lame duck' even in his first administration? In that case, this election is really Trump v Hillary all over again. 

On the other hand, Harris isn't Clinton. She is of purely immigrant descent. She represents a 'Saltwater' elite Paideia which is cozily in bed with both Political Correctness and the Global Power of Finance Capital. Will this election become Harris v Trump? Perhaps it should. Harris is a prosecutor. Trump fears and loathes her. But Harris, unlike Obama, has no American roots whatsoever. She represents Feminism of an Academic or Meritocratic kind. She has no children. Her parents were divorced. She only got married quite recently. These are the things which the Republicans will pick at. She is everything Pence is not. No doubt, they will try to smear her husband with some financial impropriety- Geraldine Ferraro was damaged by allegations about her husband- but the real question is about the strength of her Baptist commitment. It may be cool to be both Hindu and Baptist in California but what about the fly-over states? Who is it the dot Indians worship? Some guy with an Elephant's head? That's so not okay. 

All this won't matter at all if Harris acts demure and submissive and lets Biden shine. But will Biden shine? So far he has done so only by reflected light. Why were there no 'Silent Generation' Presidents? Kerry and McCain did get their Party's tickets. Both put up quite a good show though, with hindsight, they made poor Veep picks. Were they trying to shine by standing next to more charismatic and personable younger people? Did this consideration prevent them trusting their gut re. their running mate's character flaws? 

 Maybe a 'Dan Quayle' strategy is only required of Republicans. Perhaps, being more secure in their manhood, Democrats can afford to have an intelligent Veep. But then, at one time, Al Gore was considered bright. Clinton must have known differently, but kept it under his hat. 

Why did Biden not choose a nice quiet Churchy woman with Red State appeal? Why not an indigenous Black rather than someone whose Daddy came from somewhere else to do a PhD at a top College? These are foolish questions. Biden picked the candidate who scored best all round though it does seem there was some last minute lobbying by powerful vested interests. Still, perhaps we should think of it as gutsy and a sign that Biden does not hold grudges. He's a grown-up not a perpetually babyish boomer. 

I suppose we will see a new and demure Kamala cooking for her step-kids and holding hands with her hubby in Church. This brings out Biden's fatherly qualities and lets him look decisive. He will probably still get support from other potential female Veep picks precisely because the selection process seems to have been based on an objective metric rather than male ego.

I can't see how a Biden-Harris ticket could possibly lose. Thus, they will lose for sure. I'm not American. I just don't get that country. 


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Pratap Bhanu Mehta vs Amit Shah

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is no longer speaking to Lord Ram. He is now speaking to readers of the Indian Express. He asks-

Probing questions are being asked about the failures of secularism to get to the roots of India’s current crisis. One characteristically introspective piece in this vein was by Yogendra Yadav, ‘Secularism gave up language of religion. Ayodhya bhoomi pujan is a result of that’ (The Print, August 5). Yogendra and I agree about several things: The plutocracy of the old order, the reductive intellectual approaches of the Left that disabled any serious understanding of Indian culture. Secularism became synonymous with the politics of opportunism, setting up a dynamic of competitive victimisation.

So Mehta says the 'politics of opportunism...the dynamism of competitive victimization' failed. Did he expect it to succeed? Why speak of the end of a bad thing as causing crisis? Indeed, apart from Mehta and Yadav and a few other has-beens, nobody thinks India faces any crisis to do with the building of a Temple regarding which a Law had been enacted back in 1993- a month after the disputed structure was razed.

 India Today reported- The Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Ordinance was promulgated by then President Shankar Dayal Sharma on January 7, 1993. Later, a Bill was introduced in Parliament by then Union Home Minister SB Chavan. After being passed, the Bill came to be known as the Ayodhya Act.

The problem was that nobody could agree as to what should be built there and how it should be built. So the President referred the matter to the Supreme Court which upheld the Ayodhya Act but allowed the original dispute, featuring the original claimants, to continue to wind its way through the Courts. Once the Supreme Court gave a final judgment, the path was cleared for the construction of the Temple. The BJP has been rather deft in the manner it has managed things and, it appears, Modi has benefited politically. This may put some noses out of joint, but those noses had already been ground into the dust by repeated electoral losses. India has a public health crisis and an economic crisis. But it does not have a crisis concerning Temples or Mosques or other places of worship. 

But Yogendra also writes, “Secularism was defeated because it disavowed our languages, because it failed to connect with the language of traditions, because it refused to learn or speak the language of our religions. Specifically, secularism was defeated because it chose to mock Hinduism instead of developing a new interpretation of Hinduism suitable for our times.”

Yadav is a Hindi speaker. He notices that the Hindi press has been triumphalist in its reportage on the new Temple. Other Hindi speaking journalists have pointed out that the Leftist Hindi editors and writers kept themselves at a distance from religious language out of complacency or for fear of being labelled 'Rightists'. English language 'public intellectuals', however, where playing to a foreign gallery and attacked Hinduism with vim and vigor. This led to a backlash such that the minute Anglophile class switched allegiance to the BJP. Anyway, both the Congress and the Left had terrible leadership. There was literally no alternative- at least at the Center. 

This is a fashionable claim with surface plausibility. But, on reflection, this claim is historically problematic, philosophically dubious and culturally dangerous.

On whose reflection? Mehta's? But this is a guy who talks to God and ticks off the Deity! He thinks one should not say 'Allahu Akbar' or 'Our Lord who art in Heaven' because to do so 'diminishes' the Godhead! What 'historical' or 'philosophical' or 'cultural' danger or problematic could this cretin possibly identify? 

The Indian republic was born in the shadow of the violent catastrophe of Partition.

No. That was Independence. The Republic was born along with the Constitution. Partition was over and done with. The new Government was firmly in the saddle.  

Virtually every nationalist leader outside of the Marxist Left was crafting an idiom of politics that was suffused with religious language.

When had this not been the case? Has this man never heard of Mahatma Gandhi? What about the Khilafat movement? But going back to the time of Viceroy Landsdowne, we find that British officials were saying 'cow protection' is what gave the I.N.C grass-roots support. The Marxist Left supported the creation of Israel and Pakistan on a confessional basis. They used, and still use, a theological language to attack established religions. Anyway, India had plenty of 'Liberation Theologians' who posed as interlocutors with the Maoists. Could Mehta have forgotten Swami Agnivesh so soon?  

They were creatively trying to craft a distinct Indian modernity within an Indian vocabulary, trying to transcend tradition without making tradition despicable. But as Gandhi recognised, that project was, in one sense, a failure: It did not prevent India’s communalisation.

Gandhi said to Bihari Congressmen that he knew which of them had organised pogroms of innocent Muslims. But then, his first foray into Indian mass politics occurred in Champaran at a time when the Muslims of Bihar were being attacked and forced to give up cow-slaughter by a very well organised campaign against which the British were powerless. 

But Partition was not caused by any specifically religious issue. The Muslims wanted a bigger share of power but non-Muslims rejected this. Thus, they prevailed where they were the majority and could chase away non-Muslims while the opposite happened where the non-Muslims were stronger.  

Gandhi’s example could exercise a residual moral force. But whenever religious themes were brought into politics, whether in the quotidian policies that were enacted after Congress governments were elected in 1935, or in the larger ideological project or idiom, they generated conflict. So the idea that taking religion seriously as a political matter will solve the communal problem is a historically dubious proposition. Modern religious politics is born in the crucible of democracy and nationalism, not theology.

But if so, Secularism is meaningless. Let the Courts decide who owns what. If the majority wants some particular site then Laws- like the Ayodhya act- can be enacted and the Courts will uphold them. This is what has actually happened. Stupid cretins like Mehta talking to Lord Ram and saying 'today you have been diminished' aren't doing anything 'political' at all. They are merely displaying hypocrisy or moral imbecility. The fact is God is not 'diminished' by being called 'Great' or by being worshipped in Temples or Mosques or Churches. 

The lesson in the wake of Partition was that to avoid violence, you need

to send in the police, and, if necessary, the Army to shoot rioters and put all potential troublemakers under preventive detention. That is the only thing which works. Mahatmas fasting or Prime Ministers making speeches won't cut any ice whatsoever. Look at the Nehru-Liaqat pact. It didn't stop ethnic cleansing from East Pakistan. By contrast, Modi sending in the Army stopped the further ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Gujarat dead in its tracks. 

to lower the stakes of politics by keeping religion out of it.

This is wholly irrelevant. What matters is if troublemakers know they might get shot if they run amok. 

The animating impulse of Indian secularism was to produce peace by trying not to make religion a matter of public contestation.

No. Indian politics started with caste based Associations which then learned to play nice with each other because castes were internally divided between reformers and the ultra-orthodox. The reformers saw that their own sub-caste- like Gandhi's Modh Banias, or Rajendra Prasad's Bihari Kayasthas- wouldn't give up hyperorthodox practices till they were assured that their rival castes were doing the same thing. In other words, 'Nationalist' politics broke a 'concurrency' deadlock. Prasad had wanted to 'cross the black water' like Mahatma Gandhi or Motilal Nehru. He had wanted to end 'purdah' for Bihari Kayastha women. So, once Gandhi appeared in rural Bihar, he could fully embrace Reformist 'Hindutva' Hinduism while retaining respect as a religious man whose grand-daughters would get the best grooms at the time of marriage. 

Indian Nationalism had the biggest pay-off for orthodox Hindu sub-castes because it gave them a spiritual and moral excuse to shed horrible restrictions upon their own freedom. One reason why the Hindu Mahasabha lost salience after Independence, save where there was a Muslim threat or revanchist sentiments against Muslims, was because it seemed on the side of orthodoxy. The rest of us- more particularly 'Forward Castes'- wanted all sorts of reforms to Hindu personal law. Sometimes, as Madhu Kishwar pointed out with respect to anti-Dowry law, the thing backfires. But most of us- unlike Mehta- are poor. We can't afford much dowry in the first place. We did insist that a wasteful and stupid Higher Education system come into existence so that we could say 'our daughter has education, not wealth. That is her dowry.' But, it was only after wives and daughters started earning that we ourselves could rise a little above bare, vegetarian, subsistence.

Mehta, who is from a prominent Jain family and who had a very expensive foreign education, thinks the petty clerks and munims, from whom the Hindu middle class is sprung, were concerned with theology!

And a lot of our compromises were a result of that. This was an impossible position to hold, because the reforms of the modern state require intervening in religion, to liberate individuals from oppressive and hierarchical religious hierarchies.

It was Brahmans who felt that hierarchy to be most oppressive. A few could get a full stomach by championing the old order. But the vast majority could not feed themselves in this fashion. They had perforce to become 'Niyogi'. Some did get big bungalows through the Nationalist movement. But most were just trying to have a less restricted life as petty clerks and munims. They were secretly very glad when their wives and daughters could take 'respectable' employment. Indeed, they had found that the small 'child widow' stipend, which only rich families could pay, had been hugely valuable in preventing 'respectable' families sliding into destitution. Many of the Nationalists and Reformers in Maharashtra had been helped by a sister who was a 'child widow'. Indeed, such women played a big role in the Independence movement. 

Mehta does not understand that endogamous castes compete with each other for status by placing restrictions (arising out of elite emulation) on what their people can or can't do. Those within the caste who can't follow these restrictions are in danger of being downgraded into a lower sub-caste. But, if they are very successful and gain Regional or National recognition, they become the target for Tardean imitation. Motilal Nehru heard that some in his community were muttering against his decision to 'cross the black water'. He made it known that he would prosecute any such person and render him bankrupt. This was force majeure. Indian customary law says that it creates 'Apadh dharma'- exigent circumstances- such that you can cheerfully acquiesce in what is happening. Thus Motilal was able to marry off his children very advantageously. Indeed, the youngest daughter married into one of the best Jain Merchant-Prince dynasties even though her people were 'non-veg'. By then, of course, Mahatma Gandhi's influence was at noon-tide. The Jains- Dr. Pranjivan Mehta in particular- had done a lot to ensure this outcome. No wonder, people like Mehta feel they have a proprietary interest in the subsequent trajectory of Nehru-Gandhian India. What they don't understand is why the impecunious 'bildungsburgertum' of the Forward Caste had to embrace Gandhianism so as to destroy the fabric of 'madi' type 'ritual purity rules' which were holding them back. Consider the case of a 'Brahmin' school teacher posted to a remote village. If there is no one of his sub-caste living there, the poor fellow has to cook his own food! The fate of his sister might be far worse. That is why the young gravitated first to Reform movements, then to Hindutva and, when the going was good, Gandhianism and Nehruism and even Leftist Bollocks. Only when each of these was shown to involve macro-economic imbecility were they abandoned. Once people could do well in the Private Sector, the preference was for technocratic leaders. Modi initially presented himself as a technocrat. He said he had never contested an election before becoming Gujarat's C.M. Furthermore, he said he'd give more money to any Panchayat which elected members unanimously. He projected himself as a bespectacled 'back room boy'. Now, it seems he has grown an impressive beard and looks like a holy man. But, when elections come round, we may see a reversion to 'suited booted' Modi pressing the flesh of leading Global industrialists and inking MOUs- if that is what the Indian economy needs at the time. Alternatively, he may be accoutred as a paratrooper- if that is what is required.

Sometimes this intervention was asymmetrically applied to some groups more than others.

Hindus were the majority, so Hindus got the reforms they thought they needed till they saw that only economic reform matters.  

But do these infirmities explain the legitimising of a whole-scale majoritarianism?

The British were a tiny minority. That is why they had to go. The Muslims were a more sizable minority. They still lost a substantial share of power. Many went, if they had somewhere to go to. But this also happened to certain Forward Castes. It may be happening to 'creamy layer' OBCs. Even dynastic Dalits are not safe.  

The current contest is hardly over traditional forms of religiosity; most Hindus have made their ideological peace with modernity and preserved religiosity. The current contest is over nationalism that has colonised both religion and secularism.

This had happened by 1921. There was once an Indian Liberal Party. Its moment in the Sun was the second Round Table Conference. But it failed spectacularly and became a Gandhian rump.  

Who gets to be a member of this political community, do its dominant narratives have space for its diverse histories? It is not primarily about the pieties of religion. Let us not beat around the bush over what defines the current moment. It is largely about marginalising Muslims from the Indian narrative.

Mehta is beating around a particular bush which everybody across the globe knows about- viz. the rise of internationalist Jihadi ideology. There was a time in the UK and Germany and so on when crazy guys with long beards and peculiar accents could demand Sharia Courts and so forth in the name of 'multi kulti'. Those days are gone, because, as Merkel said a decade ago, Muslims must either assimilate or face the consequences. They won't get special treatment. If they blow things up and run around knifing people, they will be shot. Their home countries will be subject to drone strikes. More importantly, their bank accounts will be frozen or drained. 

The Muslim narrative, like the Nazi narrative, is not just marginalized it is actively stigmatized. Consider the fate of the anti-Zionist BDS movement. Its sponsors are now running scared. They themselves have been blacklisted or they fear this will happen. A new McCarthyism? Sure. Don't forget McCarthyism worked. Reagan and Nixon- but also Kennedy- entered politics under that rubric.  


Let us grant, as Yogendra and I always have, the political opportunism behind secular political parties.

Why not also grant the opportunism behind both Yadav and Mehta's foolish feuilletonism? What have they achieved? Absolutely nothing. They were pointing in the wrong direction in the belief that the great mass of the people were behind them. The truth is, everybody had turned their backs- if not their naked backsides- on them long ago. 

Let us grant that some communal bigots abound in any large religious community, Hindus or Muslims. Let us grant that the Left played fast and loose with historical narratives. Does this really license what we are witnessing today: The saturation and legitimation of venomous anti-Muslim prejudice?

Nobody cares about some nutters running fast and loose with narratives. Terrorists and marauding mobs concentrated minds. It is the steely determination to avenge Jihadi violence which has united the world. Look at Sri Lanka after the Easter attacks. Burqas are now banned.  

These causes that Yogendra cites, are not causes. They are, to use Edmund Burke’s phrase, pretexts. Pretexts for prejudice across the religious-non religious binary.

A man can't have a pretext he does not know about. He can have a lively hatred based on a clear and present danger which is of a global sort. It is foolish at this late hour to say that 'Orientalism' created ISIS or that some stupid Professor teaching a useless subject can contribute anything to policy making.  


To take religion seriously is to preserve the conditions of religious freedom for all, letting each person discover the law of their own Being.

No it isn't. All that matters is whether the Law and its enforcement is taken seriously. Courts don't need to take Wicca seriously. They can protect the rights of Wiccans to get up to some things- but not others.  

I tremble at the thought of a politicised public sphere taking religion seriously.

Because you are a cretin. One moment you are reproving God for having places of Worship. The next you are trembling because 'public sphere' is politicized . Fuck is wrong with you?  

It usually means someone else gets to define who you are, it usually means creating authoritative versions of religion that benchmark good or bad believers, it means sanitising religious histories of their pasts so that they become comforting narratives for people, and it means instrumentalising religion to political purposes.

So what? Provided the Rule of Law is upheld, nothing much changes. I may define Mehta as a pussy cat, but he can get a Court order preventing me from making him sit on my lap. 

We do not need another version of what it means to be a good Hindu.

Nonsense! We always need a better version of what it means to be a good person more particularly if we belong to a Religion which claims to be able to make us better people and, at the end of the day, save our immortal soul. 

Who can be presumptuous enough to define or benchmark that?

Each Sect is welcome to have its own 'buck stopped', protocol bound, juristic procedure in this regard. Some may choose not to bother. The thing may or may not be justiciable.  

What we need is a genuine commitment to freedom, with all its risks, self- doubts and fashioning and refashioning of identities.

There is no way of discriminating 'genuine' from 'fake' commitments in this regard unless there is a 'separating equilibrium' based on 'costly signals'. 

I don't think Mehta has any genuine commitment to freedom. Otherwise, he would have availed of his own constitutionally protected rights to pretend to be a pussy cat and to come and sit on my lap when I call out 'Mehta, pussykins, where are you? Come sit on my lap and we'll watch 'Aristocats' together.'  

There was a kind of reductive cultural crudeness in a lot of Left engagement with Indian culture.

But it was their economic imbecility which did for them. Marxism was supposed to be Scientific. It was supposed to lift us up into prosperity. It wasn't supposed to end in shitheads quoting Foucault.  

But let us get real. The Left may have the commanding heights of maybe half a dozen universities; but most universities were vernacularised in the Seventies. V D Mahajan was probably more widely read as a textbook than JNU historians. Doordarshan could rightly telecast Ramayana and Mahabharata, Delhi University’s obtuseness over including them in its syllabus notwithstanding. In short, the cultural prestige and importance of the Left in shaping Indian culture has been hugely exaggerated. They played conformist academic politics. But the idea that Hindus have been culturally marginalised is a trope that feeds into the convenient victimology of some Hindus, more than it describes a reality.

The reason the Left's 'long march through the Institutions' was tolerated was because it was reasonable to believe- more especially in 2004- that they had a big electoral following.  There was bound to be a backlash against 'globalisation' and we all thought the Left would cash in on it. Even with Shaheen Bagh we thought- 'aha! this marks the turning point'. But there was no turning point. Just further decline. The Muslims roundly abused the Left . They and Congress were wiped out in the Assembly elections. Kejriwal's triumph over Yadav was complete. Now it looks like the Bench has lost patience with Prashant Bhushan. Mehta and his ilk are now a laughing stock. 

Yogendra is right that in North India there is a peculiar politics of resentment generated over the status of Hindi.

This was the case. But the 'angrezi hatao' crowd sent their sons and daughters to Western Universities. The fact is over half of MPs speak Hindi as their first 'Indic' language. Patnaik is a Hindi speaker who promised to learn Oriya when he became CM there 20 years ago. Then he discovered his voters didn't care how he spoke. Language is not the issue it once way. Only Money matters. We want more of it. Governance must improve for this to happen.  

But there is an implication here that secularists somehow disavowed Indian languages. This is odd because it seems to map secularism onto English. Every Indian language crafted a new vernacular version of secularism. The Hindi sphere had, for example, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Dharamvir Bharati, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Kunwar Narain and others. They constituted the sphere of religiously engaged but modernist public criticism. They were not sidelined by English but by the Hindiwallahs.

The problem with these guys is that they were complacent and insular. There was a time when Hindi journalists were breaking big stories. Then their editors lost interest. They just translated the English of their sister publications into Hindi while complacently feathering their own nest. But what else could they do? The BJP was winning hearts and minds. Its rivals were creating glamorous uber-rich dynasties. But there were diminishing returns to patrimonialism. 

The active secular, culturally nuanced Hindi public sphere was bowdlerised by the new generation of vernacular newspaper owners. The crisis is internal to Hindi and again feeds on the convenient trope the BJP uses that somehow a small cabal of metropolitan intellectuals is to blame for India’s woes.

That small cabal is to blame for the woes it itself discovers and hypocritically weeps over. As a Socioproctologist, I took responsibility- not all of it, but the main part of it- for the terrible explosion in Beirut. The fact is I should have invited the Lebanese officials responsible to turn into cats and to come sit on my lap. Only a deeper commitment to a culturally nuanced Socioproctology can save Lebanon now. 

In a post-mortem of secularism, we are hand wringing over religion, not because we lost the key there, but because there seems to be light there.

No. You are hand wringing because you have hands and think you are important. You should turn into a cat and come sit on my lap. If you try wringing your paws I will gently but firmly say 'bad kitty! No!'  

The deeper question is not these ideological debates; after all, differences are inevitable and can be managed. It is the growing tolerance for prejudice and the unleashing of a ferocious darkness. Let us name the beast for what it is and not hide behind the pieties of secularism or religion.

Modi is Hitler. OMG, Gestapo is coming for me!  

Recovering the project will not mean a return to religion, but a confidence in the promise of a new freedom struggle

against whom? Mehta's previous essay spoke of Hinduism as being colonized. Being born into a Jain family, he may well feel that he should conquer Hinduism and 'liberate' it from subjugation by Hindus. The problem is Amit Shah too is a Jain. He seems to have no such agenda. Moreover he is a lot smarter than Mehta.  

to salvage individual dignity and rights, not continually play out resentments against the Other.

Mehta's alterity is Amit Shah. Mehta is deeply resentful. But he has no 'individual dignity' left to salvage. So we must expect more such embarrassing articles from him which the Indian Express will publish just to remind readers that though things are bad now, they could be so much worse if Congress and its durbari intellectuals ever returns to power.  

Monday, 10 August 2020

Loubna El Amine, Partha Chatterjee & Lebanese Slapperjees

Prof. Loubna El Amine writes in the LRB-
In Nationalist Discourse and the Colonial World (1986), Partha Chatterjee looks for – and fails to find – a postcolonial nationalism distinct from the colonial ideas it had fought against.
Chatterjee was unaware that the first modern Nation State was the USA. It wasn't Imperial. Portugal had a huge Empire. But it wasn't modern. Japan became a modern Nation State within a generation. But its political ideas remained deeply Japanese. It is a different matter that all countries modify their Judicial and Legislative arrangements. Partly, this is because of mimetic effects. Thus the UK introduced a Supreme Court to come into conformity with European Law and Practice.

Chatterjee wrote-
All countries have no historical alternative but to either remain as they are or change in the same manner as their neighbors. Some change in an opposite manner to their neighbors. Generally, this ends badly and they have to revert to the straight and narrow path of Tardean emulation.

Chatterjee speaks of a 'world order'. Surely this was defined by the US and the USSR? Neither were 'colonial powers'. Both ensured that Europe was shorn of its colonial possessions. However, neither could enforce their diktat by force of arms- as America's debacle in Vietnam, or the Soviet debacle in Afghanistan- was to show. Some countries, it is true, copied their sensible neighbors and rose up. Others did not and turned into shitholes. But this had nothing to do with any 'World Order' or black helicopters or Aliens in Flying Saucers or shape-shifting Lizard People from Planet X.

Chatterjee thought only the West could look for and find stuff because of 'the hegemony of Western rationalism'.
Yet Japan was Eastern. It was doing better than many European countries. Singapore is Eastern. It is now ahead of the UK or Australia and, in PPP terms, better off than the US.
Rationalism is not Western or Eastern. Only Racists believe otherwise. As for 'hegemony'- the thing is about as real as 'good vibrations'.

Chatterjee was saying, 'if the East tries to look for and find stuff in a non-Western way, it wouldn't be able to get out of bed coz 'thematically', the East is shit as Niradh Babu showed in his 'Autobiography of an unknown Indian'. However, if it uses a Western way of looking for and finding its way out of bed, then it won't be Eastern at all which is 'problematic'. Boo hoo, whatever are brown Babus supposed to do?'

 Chatterjee thinks that chatting- or discourse, as he calls it- has to change such that Chatterjees clearly demarcate Colonial discourse from Nationalist discourse. But, simply by speaking Bengali, not English, Bengalis could do this easily enough. Suppose they used an English idea in a Bengali sentence. Then, they could hire a guy to slap them till they gave up this evil habit. Thus, the creation of a caste of Slapperjees would have solved the big problem Chatterjee identifies. Why could Chatterjee not see this? The answer is that he did not understand that discourse changes when slapping occurs. Might is what creates 'Hegemony'. But, for Might to remain Mighty it has to do Sciencey stuff and find ways to pay for tech. That's 'Rationality'. That's how Modernity wins.
The plain fact is, killing and chasing away the Colonial or the Imperial forces is what creates Modern Nation States. George Washington showed this to the Americans long before Partha turned up there to talk bollocks.


India, it is true, had a different trajectory. Once the Raj could not pay its way, India became independent. 'Free money' and PL480 food shipments from Amrika enabled a pretense of Socialism to be kept up. But then LBJ demanded his pound of flesh vis a vis Vietnam. So India had to have a 'Green Revolution' and allow its people to start producing stuff- though, no doubt, this scandalized Chatterjee chatter-boxes in their Ivy League fox-holes.

Chatterjee came from a Hindu comprador class which was enriching itself off the backs of mainly Muslim peasants in East Bengal. This meant the nationalism of his class cut its own financial throat and led to its ethnic cleansing from the East. There is a good reason why they were so ineffectual. Naturally, it was Hindus from Hindu majority regions who would lead the Independence struggle. Chatterjee focuses on Gandhi and Nehru. But both acquired political power by going to jail for long periods. Their ideology wasn't important. Gandhi could raise money because of his caste and where he was from. Nehru could rule the country because he was a Hindi speaker of the right caste. That's it. That's the whole story.

Curtis Smith, reviewing Chatterjee's book, writes-
There were plenty of crackpots 'decrying the modern' as well as a lot of engineers and Doctors and Economists who wanted a 'powerful modern nation-state'. But they didn't put in the jail time or, if they did, they were from the wrong caste or region. Chatterjee does not mention Ambedkar- who had Doctorates in Econ from Columbia and the LSE- and who is the only 'Founding Father' whose intellect we still respect- but Chatterjee's schematics would not allow him to do so. Why? Ambedkar was attacking untouchability which does not exist in the West. It is pointless to speak of 'Western rationalism' when discussing a problem which the West has never known. But this is the case for all the idiographic problems any Nation State is confronted with. There are no off the peg solutions. Ideology and 'discourse' are no use. You have to roll up your sleeves and do piece-meal 'mechanism design' and then see what works and whether the thing can be scaled up.

Loubna is from Lebanon- a deeply divided country which has its present shape because the French wanted a 'Christian' client state in the Region. But the French weren't there long- less than 30 years. It remained what it was before except in so far as the commercial genius of its own people had scope to reshape its Economy. Had Britain, not France, been the mandatory power, it would be like Jordan. Why? The Brits were not as stupid as the French. They believed in the Rule of Law. But it is folly to think they imposed their culture on anybody. Chatterjees continued to wear dhotis and eat sandesh though they had been British compradors for two hundred years. They did, however, show a great appetite for meretricious French scholarship. But this was because they were blathershites.

Lebanon is unfortunately situated. Unlike Syria, which is equally diverse, it never had a strongman. It is possible that, if it hadn't been the site of a proxy war, it would have prospered simply because of the talent and hard work of its people.

But does the accident of geography, the cruel role of geopolitics, have anything to do with 'colonial categories'? Loubna, who teaches ancient Chinese Political Philosophy at North Western, thinks so. For heaven's sake, why?
The postcolonial world is structurally bound by colonial categories, limited in its ability to move beyond them.
What does she mean? I suppose she is railing against lines drawn on a map by White guys a hundred years ago. But those lines don't seem to have meant shit to the Israelis. Maps can be redrawn. Lots of people in the region keep trying to do so. If lines on maps remain it is because such lines are actually quite useful- though of course, they can be ignored if that is more convenient.

The fact of the matter is that Europe had mandates in the region for only about twenty or thirty years. They first had to adapt to the lay of the land and by the time they got the hang of things, they had to leave.

Why is Loubna suggesting otherwise? The answer is that Lebanon is turning into a shithole. Macron looks better than any of its own politicians. Apparently 50,000 people have signed a petition asking for France to come back and take over the running of the country. Niradh Babu, it will be remembered, ended his 'Autobiography of a self-hating Indian' by piteously whining for Whitey- any sort of Whitey- to come back and rule the bestial Bengalis. But nobody was tempted. You have to say your country is rich and well run before anyone offers to take it off your hands.
Before the explosion, the only practical option available to Lebanon was a structural adjustment programme. There is perhaps now a second option on the table, involving one version or another of French tutelage. But there is also potentially a third, revealed by those now cleaning the debris, and vowing to fight for the lives lost. The mass protests of last October may have petered out, but the revolutionary spirit behind them endures. May it succeed against all odds.
In other words, the Lebanese will rebuild their country. They will get rid of stupid rules about what Religion the President or the PM or the Speaker has to be. They will copy other successful trading nations. They will innovate. What they won't do is quote Partha Chatterjee. Otherwise, the 'cunning of history' will turn them into a caste of Slapperjees to prevent their country catching up with West Bengal in terms of per capita income.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Aunindyo Chakravarty's Foucauldian imbecility

Is Bengal a part of India? Sometimes one has to wonder. Consider the following article by Aunindo Chakravarty in Scroll.In.

Sometime in the 1970s, a troupe of urban musicians travelled through Uttar Pradesh to collect local songs about the Ramayana.
Why did they do so? It was because Lord Ram was born in Uttar Pradesh. That is where worship of him is most intense.
Every now and then, they would perform these songs in villages where they had camped for the night. People reacted in entranced euphoria. In one village, an old man began to dance, tears streaming down his cheeks, as he sang along to a popular ditty – “Aaj mere Jeevan mein Ram prabhu aaye.” Today, Lord Ram has graced my life.


This came as a revelation to the Bengali leader of the troupe.
Why? He had gone to U.P specifically to gather folk-songs about Lord Ram. What did he expect to find? That the local people would demand songs about Spiderman? That they would get grumpy if they had to listen to their own devotional music?
Ram has never been a primary deity in Bengal.
But Bengal is not Uttar Pradesh! Don't Bengalis know that?
That place belongs to Durga-Kali, several mother-goddess cults, and to a lesser extent, Shiva and Krishna. Even in death, where people in the North chant “Ram naam satya hai”, Bengalis say “Bolo hori, hori bol”, invoking Hari or Krishna.
So, it seems Bengalis are amazed that non-Bengalis have different customs and traditions. Even if a guy specifically goes elsewhere to gather material about those different customs he becomes amazed when the local people actually adhere to those non-Bengali ways.
This is mostly true for much of the southern states, where Shiva, Vishnu, Murugan, Ayyappan, and other local deities rule the religious imagination. So, is it possible that the entire nation could be united by the idea of a Ram Mandir?
Yes. This is because Lord Ram is a Hindu deity. But all deities are considered the emanation of the same univocal Godhead. Hinduism is the religion of more than 80 per cent of the population. Furthermore, back in the Eighties, there was a popular TV serial on the Ramayana. Viewership was estimated at 82 per cent.
Does it really “fulfil the dreams of a billion Indians” as one news channel claimed?
Yes. If India can build a Temple, it can also defend its borders and help poor people rise up. If it can't even build a Temple, it can do nothing.
Even a decade ago, the answer would have been a resounding no.
The question then was whether India would punish Pakistan for the terrorist attack on Bombay. The answer was a resounding no because the Nation was ruled by a corrupt coterie of incompetents and cowards.
The limited affective response to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement outside the Hindi-belt, marked the limit to the BJP’s expansion in other states.
The BJP and its allies did well in Gujarat and Maharashtra- which are not Hindi speaking. However, they are predominantly Hindu.
The rise of political parties claiming to represent backward castes and Dalits in the 1990s – and their continued dominance in UP and Bihar for much of the 2000s – made a cross-caste alliance of Hindus extremely difficult.
But the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. The Congress Government put in an Ordinance permitting a Temple to be built on the site. The problem was that nobody could agree on what that should look like or how it should be done. Thus the thing had to be resolved by the Courts. The question was which party would gain credit for building it.

The author thinks the rise of Dalit and OBC parties mattered in this connection. This was not the case. They are still Hindu. The problem was that the Left was still powerful. Everybody paid lip service to 'Socialism' and 'Secularism' because when they were growing up the Soviet Union was believed to be wealthy and powerful. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Indian left- especially in Bengal- looked strong. The fact is, Jyoti Basu could have become P.M in the mid Nineties. The CPM could have become a National Party and Congress's biggest rival. But the gerontocrats of the politburo rejected this option for some obscure ideological reasons. This did not mean the Left was a spent force. In 2004 they were the indispensable ally which permitted Congress to form a Government. But they were as stupid as ever. They objected to the US nuclear deal. Manmohan Singh showed unexpected resolve. Then Left hooliganism in Bengal went too far and they lost to Mamta whose goons have beaten the shit out of them. They are now utterly moribund. For the first time in history, the BJP is the main rival to the ruling party in that State. They are unlikely to prevail. They don't seem  to have a CM candidate. In any case, Bengali politics is a criminalized affair. Best to steer clear of it.

This was not just a problem for the BJP in the field of electoral politics
This is mad! The fact is the BJP was able to run a Government from 1998 to 2004. In the late Eighties it had just 2 Members of Parliament. It was the Temple agitation which put them on the map.
but also for the Sangh Parivar in cultural-ideological terms.
Without Advani's 'rath yatra', they had nothing except sonorous oratory and, to some extent, a reputation for being less corrupt than Congress and not as crazy as the Left.
Backward caste politics was often accompanied by an attack on the Great Tradition in Hinduism by calling it Manuvaad.
Only at the elite level and only within Dalit circles. Nobody else knows who or what a 'Manuvaad' is.  OBCs voted for increased 'reservations' and for their own corrupt or criminal leaders in the hope that some money would trickle down to them. But they could be both pro 'Mandal and pro 'Mandir.'
As OBCs and Dalits got access to power, they promoted their own Little Traditions within Hinduism, challenging the Sangh’s version.
Nonsense! An OBC politician had to pretend to be a hayseed. He'd have looked a fool if he started getting worked up about Theology. Some Dalit academics may have talked bollocks, but all academics talk bollocks. What made Mayawati a successful C.M of UP was her own extraordinary courage as well as good old fashioned caste-arithmetic.

What changed in the past 10 years?
Rahul Gandhi was expected to take over the running of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 the way his Dad had taken over the running of the Asian Games in 1982. When he didn't do so, we thought it was because he'd decided to channel popular anger at the corruption and incompetence of the Congress old guard so as to sweep them aside and lead his Party into the Elections as a 'Mr. Clean' representing 'Young India'. But he refused to step up to the plate. Congress had no P.M candidate. Nobody, apart from the BJP, did. It was a case of Modi or Nobody. True, Mulayam Singh said he wouldn't mind being P.M because voters in UP had decided to make his son, not him, CM. But having been rejected by your own people is no recommendation for the top job.

Congress and the Left have declined in a stunning fashion. That is what has happened over the last ten years. This Bengali author must have noticed that Mamta trounced the Commies in 2011. Why does he think that happened? Being Bengali, the poor schmuck thinks it must have something to do with Finanz Kapital or Globalised Neoliberalism or Capitalism's final crisis or some such shite.
A new hegemony
The process was set up in the decade before that.
But the processes of that decade were set up in the decade before it and so on and so forth.
This was the rise of finance capital in India.
So, Narasimha Rao was to blame! But Rao inherited an empty Treasury! The IMF put a gun to India's head. Manmohan Singh took the bold step of scrapping a whole bunch of stupid regulations. But none of this would have happened if Rajiv Gandhi had not been profligate.
As we know today, India’s illusory economic boom between 2003-’08 was mostly driven by finance.
This was true of every country. But the economy had already grown substantially.
Companies raised big money from banks and the stock markets, and invested it to build capacities. Expressways, airports, mega power plants, steel and cement factories were being planned and launched every day, way beyond what domestic demand could support.
You could write this of every country under the Sun! What was unique to India was that the savings of ordinary people were trapped in Government Institutions which lent that money, often in a corrupt way, to Corporates. But this had been true under Rajiv and Indira as well.
It was a valuation game.
That may be true of America or Europe. In India the thing was corrupt. But this had always been a problem. Back in the Sixties, Nehru got the Government to back a 'Nuclear Physicist', Dr. J.D Teja, to set up a 'Shipping Empire'. Unusually, he actually spent a little time in jail.

The writer thinks India is America where Markets matter more than Corrupt deals.
The markets rewarded companies that were expanding, without looking at their earnings potential. Analysts invented new ways to make companies with low-earnings look attractive – sum-of-the-parts, replacement cost, value-unlocking, acquisition potential. Those who understood finance became the most valuable employees in the corporate world, because they both provided finance and sourced it.

Sales and marketing also took centre stage, especially in the fast-growing telecom, durables, automobiles and consumer goods sectors. Like the finance department, people working in the sales and marketing divisions ended up with the biggest bonuses. Engineers, designers, administrators, shop-floor managers, began to tell their children that it was best to get an MBA and specialise in finance.
But, if you wanted to be a billionaire, not work for one, you needed to give a suitcase full of cash to the Manager of a Nationalised Bank or other such Government Institution.
The rise of finance and trade had a significant impact on the hierarchy within the elite. Traditionally, mercantile groups within India’s forward castes have dominated finance. It was but natural that people belonging to these caste groups would occupy key positions in trade, finance and entrepreneurship in the post-liberalisation world. But their influence on India’s political life had been historically limited.
Has this guy never heard of Mahatma Gandhi? Who does he think financed him? It was these Jain-Vaishnava-Marwari merchants, with their conservative values and obsession with Ahimsa, who took over the Indian National Congress from the Anglophile 'barristocrats'. Even the Parsis, who speak Gujerati, had to toe the line- or atleast the richest of them had to toe the line. The lower middle class was pro-British and many emigrated after Independence.
Mainstream political scientists have tended to ignore the savarna influence on Indian liberalism.
For the excellent reason that it was Parsi led and focused on Economic grievances. The 'savarna' element was vernacular and mobilized popular Religion. Viceroy Landsdowne remarked that 'Cow Protection' was what had given Congress grass roots support. Liberals were not interested in Ganapati festivals and holy cows and so forth.
I submit that this was a Brahmin-Kayastha vision, which developed during the Raj, privileging the pursuit of knowledge, statecraft, law, and treating trade and business with disdain.
This may be true of Bengali compradors or rentiers living in Calcutta. But Calcutta continuously declined in political influence. Had it not been for the martial skills of non-Bengali Sikhs and Hindus, it would have gone to Pakistan.

Rajendra Prasad was Kayastha. He got his start organizing the Bihari Kayasthas against the Bengalis. But his thinking was very different from that of his Bengali caste-fellows. One can speak of him as having a 'savarna' mentality. But, it is notable that he gave up everything to follow the Mahatma. Another case in point is Jayprakash Narayan. Compare his trajectory to that of Bengali Kayasthas who had studied in America.

It seems this Bengali author, who thinks Indian Corporate Finance works in the same way as American Corporate Finance, is completely ignorant of what was happening outside Calcutta!
This left constitutive traces in the way post-Independence Nehruvian-Socialism constructed the state’s ideology.
Nonsense! Nehru was initially rather cautious in his approach to the Economy. He appointed non-Congress 'rightists' like Deshmukh and TTK. But they surrendered to the lure of what Nehru's cousin, Ambassador Kaul, called 'free money'. Mahalanobis, a Bengali, did- it is true- preside over this shit-show. Why? He was too much of a gentleman to understand that 'Agency Capture' had occurred. The Planning Commission was a corrupt tool in the hands of a few Business Houses. On the other hand, it did strangle the Textile and 'Wage Good' sector in the belief that this would hurt particular 'conservative' mercantile groups. It also resolutely opposed the Green Revolution. But by the mid Sixties it was obvious that it was completely useless. Bengali Mathematical Economists and even Philosophers! were only useful because they put an honest face on a corrupt practice. That is why Indira chose Amartya Sen's first mentor to be Planning Chief while a Philosopher was her Industries Minister. Obviously, this was for the benefit of Sanjay and his cronies.

There was a time when IAS candidates had to pretend there was a 'Gandhi-Nehru ideology'. But that time has long gone. There was a Gandhian fantasy- paid for by mercantile castes- and there was a Nehruvian fantasy- paid for by the US. Then the Chinese invaded and the threat of Famine loomed. Begging bowl diplomacy is all very well, unless there is a big hole in the begging bowl. So, Indira turned her back on fantasies. But not on corruption.
This got amplified in the Indira period, especially in the 1970s, when she ideologically aligned with the Left.
The Left, on orders from Moscow, became her poodle. She showed her contempt for them by letting their 'long march' be through Institutions as worthless as JNU. If the Commies don't have a dynastic arse to lick they sulk and withdraw into themselves. That's why they wouldn't let Jyoti Basu become PM. A Commies job is to wait till there is a Dynast, or Mummy of a Dynast, whose arse they can lick.
But this dominant national culture began to erode
when kids with Post Graduate degrees could not get jobs. On the other hand, if they emigrated and sold hot dogs on the street, they could rise up. I recall a senior Indian diplomat who had visited his former boss, Sir Raghavan Pillai, who had gone into the private sector in the UK. This diplomat found that Pillai had to iron his own shirts! Chee Chee! Not even having a khansama to bring chota hazari and bed tea! The silly man should have got a UN sinecure after retirement! Alternatively, if he had become a hopeless alcoholic, he should have got a Directorship in some Nationalized venture so as to provide for his family.

Only later did this bureaucrat realize that Pillai- as well as the people who sold hot dogs in the street so as to save enough to start a proper business- gained more satisfaction by doing something useful and beneficial for Society rather than talking bollocks while leading a parasitic existence.
with the introduction of economic reforms in the mid-1980s.
But, the brain drain had begun well before that. People with useful skills in Public Sector industries emigrated so as to exercise their talents properly. Some grew rich. Some did not- but they had the satisfaction of making the world a better place by doing what they loved.
By the end of the 2000s, the tables had turned. The idea of entrepreneurship dominated public imagination.
This may be true of Calcutta. But when has the Gujarati or Punjabi or Chettiar or 'Andhrapreneur' turned up his nose at entrepreneurship? Look at the Patels or other 'dominant' agricultural castes. The may, as a hedge for the family, put one or two sons or daughters into the Public Sector, but they pool their savings to start businesses.
And with that, the culture of the traditional mercantile castes acquired hegemonic status.
Gandhi achieved 'hegemonic' status because he was from a traditional mercantile caste and was supported by others of his ilk. Only a stupid Bengali would blather about hegemony at this late hour.
I would argue that contemporary Hindutva is the ideology of these dominant caste and class groups.
who are oppressing the proletariat, innit? The vast masses of India worship Marx and Lenin and Che Guevara. These 'dominant castes' are trying to brainwash our people into the worship of Rama and Sita and Krishna and so on. This is all the fault of Finanz Kapital! Boo to Capitalism!
While it has a history that is at least a century old, this Hindutva was refashioned in the past 20 years using artefacts and signs that were already available in public discourse – Bollywood movies, TV soaps, Amar Chitra Katha, calendar art, and hagiographies of business-leaders. Like all hegemonic ideologies, this too is being adopted by other castes and classes as well.
Very true! Look at Kipling's 'the Bridge Builders'. It shows that the ignorant masses of India were chanting the name of Karl Marx, not Kali Ma. One British officer said 'hey, coolie, have you heard of Lord Ram?' 'Ram?' the coolie replied. 'Do you mean Rousseau? Listen, old boy, Rousseau is old hat. You should read Das Kapital.'
A new social coalition
There was a parallel process taking place in the world of backward caste politics. Most political parties founded by backward caste leaders in North India had privileged single dominant OBC groups within their power structure. They even tried to build cross-caste alliances with forward castes, to avoid sharing power with other backward castes or Dalit groups.
So what? That is how caste politics works. The fact is, the demand for OBC reservations dates back to the Fifties. Anyway, it was in the South that anti-Brahmin parties first broke the Congress monopoly on power. But this trend had existed much earlier in the Century when the Justice Party was winning on a restricted franchise. But, such movements came to be seen as too chummy with the Brits so the spadework had to begin all over again.

This has completely disrupted the caste-arithmetic in states like UP and Bihar,
That 'disruption' was visible in the Sixties. Lohia and JP retain their importance in Indian political history because they opened the gates for 'peasant leaders' like Charan Singh.
which together account for more than one-fifth of Lok Sabha seats. The most backward castes and non-dominant Dalit groups are no longer swayed by anti-upper caste rhetoric. The BJP has been able to persuade them that it offers them a greater share in political power than the Yadav-dominated Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar.
How? That is the crucial question. No doubt, this fellow thinks it has nothing to do with better Governance or 'last mile delivery'. It is all the fault of FinanzKapital and Gramscian hegemony and other such puerile shite.
Anecdotal evidence tells us there has been a renewal of ‘sanskritisation’ amongst some of these caste groups where they are reviving origin-stories which position them as ‘fallen’ Brahmins or Kshatriyas. This is a fertile ground for contemporary Hindutva.
Genuine research shows people now want to be seen as Vaishya or Bania but with the benefit of reservations. Interestingly, a lot of people are adopting 'Jain-Vaishnava' diet. This is the opposite of Srinivas's 'Sanskritization'. Moreover, people prefer to quote vernacular 'riti' texts- e.g. Tulsi or Kamban- though great Sages like Valmiki retain their place. But Valmiki is claimed by a Dalit community.
The process through which the new Modi-Shah BJP
Modi is Ghanchi, i.e. OBC. Shah is Jain. So much for 'Sanskritization'.
has been able to assimilate social groups, which would have otherwise been outside the party’s fold, is obviously much more complicated.
There is nothing complicated about 'assimilating' patriotic Indians by biffing India's enemies and providing better governance.
One crucial method has been to use government subsidies and schemes to directly target the poorest, who often happen to be the most backward castes and marginalised Dalits.
But this must be done in a caste-blind manner. The fact is almost all Indians are poor or are related to the poor. Livelihoods are precarious as the lockdown has shown. We need 'one nation, one ration card' immediately. My guess is that all our Cities are going to go in for things like Tamil Nadu's 'Amma canteens'- where you get good quality subsidized cooked food.
The state has created a welfare network, on which sits new electoral alliances. For many, the Sangh Parivar’s social network has been the route to access the state.
That defeats the purpose as Mamta has realised. She disintermediated her party goons from 'last mile delivery' because they kept raping everybody and demanding kickbacks.

If a political party uses its own 'network' to distribute goodies, then bad guys enter the party so as to control the distribution of goodies and make money for themselves. But, as the Communists in West Bengal discovered, they won't risk their lives fighting for you even if you enriched them. When the going gets tough they will turn their coats.

In effect, for them, Hindutva represents – to coin a term – a “state-community”, where the state and society are indistinguishable.
No. Hindutva has always meant that Hindus should put aside their theological differences and work together to get rid of casteism and dynasticism and cowardice and corruption in high places. A democratic nation is one where Society and State are distinguishable in the sense that the latter serves and is subordinate to the former.
This process has helped the BJP win the majority of seats in UP in 2019, in spite of the formidable alliance of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party.
Pakistan helped Modi win big. For the first time, India was hitting the bad guys on their home turf. Why speak of a BSP/SP alliance as 'formidable'? One may as well speak of cats and dogs as presenting a United Front in the Struggle against Fascism.
New aspirations
The deliberate communalisation of public discourse through social media – ably aided by mainstream media – has indeed played a huge role in gathering these groups together under the Hindutva umbrella.
This silly man and the people he worked for deliberately turned public discourse into elitist shite. They pretended they were part of a battle against Fascism. But Indians don't know what that word means.

The fact is the resurgence of violent Islam has caused all whom they attack to cluster together under a confessional identity. Why? Because if we don't hang together, we will hang apart.
Much has been written about it. What has probably been ignored is how certain regional cultures have acquired hegemony over everyday practices, especially of the middle-class.
Very true! Just see how Tamil people have taken to talking Gujarati! Bengalis now refuse to eat sandesh. They demand shrikhand.
The status that Bengal had in producing cultural ideals
disappeared long ago. Those guys continued to think of themselves as smart long after everybody else gave up on them. This author tweets ' Our liberal pundits who blame the opposition's "lack of effort" for India's political climate, should read a bit of Foucault, if they aren't smart enough to read Marx.'

Foucault literally died of ignorance. Meanwhile, the Chinese Communists actually read Marx and discovered he had said 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution.' Marx wrote badly but he isn't difficult to read at all. Anyway, Kantorovich had given Marxian Economics a coherent mathematical model for the Labour Theory by the end of the Sixties.
is now occupied by Gujarat and Punjab. The Gujarat-model is not just an economic ideal, it is a lifestyle.
I would say Delhi and Mumbai are objects of Tardean mimetics. Nobody wants to be a farmer. Gujarat has Prohibition. Nobody wants that- at least in the author's own profession.
Punjab is presented in popular imagination as a combination of affluent farmers and Non-Resident Indians. Bollywood cinema and Hindi soaps promote these cultures – albeit as stereotypes of wealth and prosperity.
This may have been true 20 years ago. Has this cretin not seen Udta Punjab?
It is telling that Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata, ahead of the 2019 elections, had garba and bhangra performances.
Why? Because a lot of donors, or potential donors, are Gujjus and Punjabis who made Kolkata their home a hundred years ago. It was the most developed part of India back then.
The BJP’s show managers had clearly realised that these cultures had become aspirational for the average Calcuttan, who once treated everything non-Bengali with scorn.
I doubt this is the case. I personally thought Shah damaged his party by his antics. Those guys need to project a good CM candidate. Garba and bhangra and Vivekananda are all irrelevant.
It would, therefore, not be surprising if people outside the Hindi belt also feel emotionally connected to the idea of a Ram Mandir. It is also a byproduct of the overall process of the spread of Hindi, and the cultural practices associated with the language, across non-Hindi speaking states.
This is nonsense. All Hindus care about is that another Temple is coming up. We each have our own 'kuladevam' but there's no harm in going to the shrine of some other deity because, it turns out, they are all avatars of each other.
The Modi-Shah BJP has also reimagined the relationship between the state and the people. Elections are not central to this vision.
No. They are its foundation.
The objective is to create a community of subjects, who are no longer citizens. They owe absolute allegiance to the leader.
Yes, yes. We get it. Modi is Hitler. Shah is Mussolini. But all is the fault of FinanzKapital. Boo to Capitalism! Hegemony is causing coolies to forget their devotion to, if not Karl Marx, then Foucault (coz many of them aren't very smart at all). Instead they are being brainwashed into thinking they are Hindus! Yet, as ten gazillion Bengali public intellectuals have discovered through painstaking research, Hinduism was invented by a British guy called Lord John Smith. He also invented garbha and bhangra and bharatnatyam. This was all a cunning trick played by FinanzKapital which had discovered that Indian coolies were constantly turning the pages of Das Kapital and underlining portions of it and writing in the margin 'How True!'.
They are children, and he is their guardian. He takes decisions for them, in their best interest. The leader’s decisions do not need the active support of the subjects. Indeed, at times, the people might even suffer for the larger goal envisioned by the leader.
This cretin thinks we are children. So he tells us a nice story about FinanzKapital and some British guy who invented Hinduism and then some evil Fascists, who were not from Bengal, who used Gramscian Hegemony to brainwash Foucault reading coolies into the false belief that they were actually members of the same pan-Indian Religion.
This is carefully played out in the idea of the Ram Mandir, and the attendant iconography, where Modi is seen to be larger than the deity himself, holding his hand and taking him to his rightful abode.
Not just Modi, everybody else there was bigger than the deity- Ram Lalla. Some of those priests looked bigger than Modi. This means he was their liddle babykins. That's how 'iconography' works- right? If you see a President or Prime Minister flanked by tall and muscular Security Personnel, you immediately say- 'how sweeet! Look at that cute little baby! I could eat him up with a spoon'.
Modi, with his longer hair and almost flowing beard, is presented as a Rajarshi – a king who has attained the status of a sage.
But he was still just an itty bitty baby because some others present were bigger than him.
The “state-community” finds its purest representation in the Ram Mandir, where India returns to an imaginary Ram Rajya, outside the “western” idea of democracy.
Very true! I remember what happened here in England when Theresa May was chief guest at the Swami Narayan temple. Suddenly everybody started wearing saree and dancing garbha. This cretin isn't telling stupid lies at all.
This is a crucial moment in India’s politics
Nonsense! The Supreme Court settled a long running property dispute. The BJP seems to have managed things quite well. If the Temple is up and running by 2014, this may sway a few votes in the area. But the thing does not matter very much. India has more urgent problems.
– one that completely reverses what the liberal vision of the nation tried to establish.
There was no 'liberal vision'. There was a 'Communist' vision, but it turned out to be shite- except in Kerala where it was meritocratic. Liberals don't care if Temples go up all over the place. Commies get very upset- but they are shite.
It is not just about secularism, it is about modern-liberal ideas of liberty, individualism and rights.
The Supreme Court decided the Case on the basis of Legal Rights. That is how Liberalism works.
That project stands defeated in this battle. The question is whether this is the end of the war.
What war? Look at West Bengal. Where did all the Commies run off too? Mamta's goons kicked the shit out of them. They have gone back to reading Foucault in a forlorn and dejected manner. Much good may it do them.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Narendra is a but Modi oeuvre

Do Fathers belong to the same Race as Sons?
Are bullets of the same sort as guns? 
For so frequently shot under us, as a matter of course,
 In Smara we find Dad playing horse 

Envoi-
Means Narendra is a but Modi oeuvre. 


Friday, 7 August 2020

Matthew Kramer on 'Interest' v 'Will' theories of Rights

Rights are things you have which allow you to do certain other things even if they are bad for you or bad for other people. Of course, for rights to be effective, it may be necessary that there is an 'obligation holder' who steps in to ensure you get to do what you want in accordance with your rights. 

Rights may be held by non-human entities provided there is a prior recognition of what those rights entail. This does not mean there has to be any agreement of whether the right is being exercised volitionally or beneficially. Either the thing exists in law or it doesn't. 

Is there any point going much beyond this sort of 'common sense' pronouncement? No. It would be like a General Equilibrium theory of Econ trying to take over Biology and Physics and the 'hard' problem of Consciousness. There is no point shitting above your arsehole if people think of you as basically just a jumped up clerk of some sort. 

Consider the following from Matthew Kramer

Why stipulate anything to do with 'benefit'? Who knows what will be or won't be beneficial? Either the right exists in the sense that there is an obligation holder under a viculum juris, or, for jurisprudence there is nothing justiciable.

 Kramer draws a distinction between 'Interest' and 'Will' theories.
What about a Hindu deity- who has won a recent court case in India which has resulted in a Temple for him being built?
How do we know that the Deity benefits from a Temple? How do we know, miserable mortals that we are, that we do not lose treasure in heaven any time the police intervene to secure us from rape and torture at the hands of psychopaths?

What is the point of having rights if fools can prose over whether they are beneficial or harmful to us?

It seems both the 'Will' and the 'Interest' theory agree that rights exist where there is an obligation holder but the 'Interest' theory drags in considerations of what is or isn't 'beneficial'.

So, the Will theory is superior. The following sounds perfectly reasonable-
The problem, of course, as Kramer points out, is that we don't want all the onus of proceeding against a criminal to lie with his victim. We want to be able to arrest him and get him to feel very sorry for himself without any delay or 'by your leave'.
But, this isn't really a big problem. We say that an offense has been committed against the Crown or the Realm or whatever.
The problem with both the 'Will' and the 'Interest' view is that there is an emphasis on either 'benefit' or 'agency'. Yet it may be beneficial to 'sleep on one's rights' because sleep is beneficial! The scandal both face is that there's always someone who appears to be the right's holder but who can' possibly do anything 'beneficial' or involving 'agency' because of the facts of the case. But this scandal disappears when we consider that Jurisprudence is merely a service industry. Interest and Agency protect themselves in myriad ways or else have a nice comfy nap or get drunk and bump uglies with some other silly abstraction.

Kramer gives the example of Gopal Sreenivasan's hybrid theory as one which quickly yields silliness. But why assume 'Mechanism Design' is wholly justiciable? How could it be so, ab ovo? Like Econ, or Philosophy, or Psychology, Jurisprudence can't claim to be a complete theory of everything in the Social Configuration space. Indeed, that space is of far greater complexity and lacks commutativity with respect to its corresponding Physical configuration space.

Rights are hedges and may have Income effects. They are worth having only because of Knightian Uncertainty. It is foolish to think they are related to essentially contested notions such as Interest or Agency though, no doubt, these concepts may be analytically useful.