Sunday, 30 June 2013

Ranajit Guha & the praxis of stupidity

Ranajit Guha is an historian. He is over 90 years old. He was born in India and only emigrated some 12 years after Independence. Thus he must have known that the vast majority of Indian peasants under the Raj
1) couldn't read or write any language, let alone lawyerly English, and literary Persian and scholarly Sanskrit and so on.
2) didn't know the 'series of codes which defined his very existence'- because some of those codes were written in lawyerly English and very very few of the people who knew lawyerly English also knew precisely what 'series of codes' obtained and how they related to each other. The Viceroy didn't know-he'd ask his Principal Secretary. The Principal Secretary didn't know but thought he might meet someone at the Club willing to chance his arm and venture a guess. This guess if sufficiently canvassed and contested by vested interests might call forth a countervailing guess and mark the beginnings of a debate which might trundle on noiselessly, decade after decade, in dry-as-dust academic circles such as those in which the 'Subaltern' school of Indian historians displayed their Revolutionary credentials to each other as part of a Crendentialist Ponzi scheme.
Why does Guha tell us such absurd lies about the Indian peasant?
Well, he wants to prove that-
1) Peasants who rebelled under the Raj did not do so because they were at the end of their tether. Not at all. You see they were all, each and everyone of them, expert philosophical hermeneuts with plenty of leisure and cognitive capacity to just go on 'manipulating the familiar symbols they saw around them'- as in a Lullian zairja, or Glass Bead game,  so as to 'extract a meaning out of the harsh world around him and live with it'.
In other words, peasants under the Raj- though underfed, overworked, suffering from chronic and debilitating ailments, subject to corporal punishment and so on- nevertheless burnt up precious calories, not learning to read and write, but reading 'the familiar signs around them' so as to 'manipulate them and extract meaning'. Why? Well it's coz if they didn't undertake this very complicated hermeneutic task then their life would be unbearable and they'd rebel but do so in mere absence of mind.
I mean, suppose you took Heidegger and Gadamer and Ricouer and you beat them and starved them and forced them to work in the fields, what would happen? Would they 'manipulate the familiar symbols' of your whip and your cane and your gun so as to 'extract meanings' of the sort that can be found in the books they wrote while living comfortably off their Professor's salaries? Certainly not. They'd either rebel or die or get real depressed. Indian peasants, under the Raj, however were quite a different breed of men. Even when they did rebel it was simply part of this exhausting and exhaustive process of 'manipulating familiar symbols to extract meaning'.  That's why real history, genuine historiography, aint about how and why and when people at the end of their tether can and do rebel, nor is it about studying how those rebellions can succeed in making things better- no, perish the thought!, what a vulgar suggestion! you see, real history, real historiography- at least when we speak of Indian peasants under the Raj- is actually something highly cerebral and baroque- like sabak-e-hindi mystic poetry, where wine doesn't mean wine, it means mystic illumination, or Sanskrit verse, where 'the laundress with big breasts' doesn't mean a hot chick with big bazoongas but mystic illumination, or Aurobindo's verse where mystic illumination doesn't mean mystic illumination but 'T.S. Eliot is shite at Greek and fucks up soooo bad in Latin it aint even funny.'

2) if the Raj disappeared or went into occultation or suspended its operations- as in fact constantly happened at the margin and on a wider scale from time to time- the the peasant could afford to rebel in a state of absent mindedness. Since it is only safe to rebel absent mindedly when no serious sanction attaches to so doing, it follows that Ranajit Guha believes that there was some magic punitive power invested in those codes maintained by the Raj which alone posed an existential threat to the peasant. In other words, suppose Lord Curzon got drunk and said to the Imperial Code Conservator-in-Chief 'Tell you what, old boy, just you suspend them codes for the weekend. Don't tell anybody. It will be our little secret.'-what would then happen is the peasants would rebel. Kitchener would get the fright of his life and his mustache would uncurl completely. Of course, on the Monday, the Rebellion would collapse on its own because the Codes would be back in place and so the Indian peasant would have to go back to his drudgery of reading the familiar signs around him and manipulating them and extracting a meaning from them and that would keep him busy.

Why does Guha want to make such an absurd claim? Well, it is because he wants to show that Indian peasants weren't ordinary human beings. They didn't act or react like ordinary human who have been pushed too far or have had enough and decide to rebel. You see, these expert hermeneuts were actually doing something quite different and magical called the praxis of rebellion. 

Prior to Guha, Historiography was very nasty and mean to the Indian peasants. It said stuff like- 'they were angry about x and so they rebelled' or 'they scented an opportunity to throw off their shackles and so they rebelled' or 'believing such and such rumors, they rebelled'- which is tooootally unfair and diabolical and Racist and Eurocentric and Bourgeois and like CULTURAL RAPE AND GENOCIDE SAME AS McDONALDS & COCA COLA!

Now, while we can all agree that Historiography is fucked because people who get PhDs in History have shit for brains, it does not follow that Indian peasants, under the Raj or otherwise, have been fucked over by Historiography. This is because peasants know that who owns what and who owes what is determined by dominant coalitions- indeed, as I have written elsewhere, village politics is much more sensitive to barometric shifts in Shapley values and shadow prices (indeed, this has a seasonal aspect) arising from the underlying core stability dynamics than are our psephological computer models- and, moreover, unlike the proletariat, peasants can change both their class and inter-class status through rebellion- something Indian vernacular history amply testifies to.

What militates against this is not Manu, or the Manchester School of Econ,  but Marx- at least the corrupt, Credentialist, Marxist Historiography which valorizes peasant rebellion as having a deep hermeneutics of an Idealist type rather than representing an instrumentalisable  pragmatics from which the body politic can benefit Economically.

Indeed, the Developmental State in its take-off phase is nothing but a series of bloodless insurrections of this type. Read Vishvevaraiah's Plan from the 30's. He wanted 10 per cent growth. The Industrialists behind the Bombay Plan settled for 7.5 per cent because they were frightened by the Marxists. Once the Leftists gained ascendancy this was scaled back more and more.


Guha emigrated to the U.K in 1959. He currently lives in Vienna.
The odd thing is that he rose to fame in India at precisely the time when the true desires and potential of the Indian peasantry were becoming apparent. Historiography, it seems, only fucks up its own. For which, I need hardly add, I personally blame David Cameron.
That boy aint right.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Barzakh in the Mahabharata

Women are Water tho' into the World they bring
Vedic Earth, Fire & an heir to the King.
 No Bhishma, I, tho' my head's uncrowned
My Ganga is but babies drowned

Beowulf & barzakh- the Babu version

All who kill are Cain save their Loaf-Lord live

& to Murder's Mummy, Blood Money give

Or, patripassian son, by beot's lofgeornost

Tread the barzakh wyrd of Tiamat lost

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Coming home

In the dozen years since he last saw her, his mother had grown old. The skin around her neck was loose and fell in folds, like her flesh coloured tights around her ankles that last time he battered down the door of the downstairs cloakroom and slit her throat as she sat frozen on the commode.
As ever, she didn't recognize him. Instead, her fury was directed against the big Cameroonian Community Psychiatric Nurse though it was actually the tiny- not dumb but, Trinity Coll., Dublin- blonde from the Housing Association who was most culpable for this latest bureaucratic balls-up.
'It's the bed-room tax, Missus', boomed the big, black, apprentice Fanon, trying to hide his Francophone accent the way he'd been taught on the Atos crash-course on the cost-effective handling of Alzheimer's patients.
  'Aren't you the lucky one now,  what with yer sonny boy moving in with yer and looking after you when there's many as wouldn't give de toime o' day to thaar own macushla?' the little colleen chirped, tactically exaggerating her strategically affected brogue.
'You can't do this to me!' but the old woman's protests were already feeble for she'd made the same protest too many times before. 'It was all a mix-up at the hospital. I only went in for a gallbladder operation.  Then, out of the blue, you people turned up on my doorstep insisting I'd had a son. I was just 17 and not even married! And then, thanks to the baby, I never could be. Every ten or twelve years he tries to saw my head off. Surely, it must be somebody else's turn?'
'Yaas, Missus, yo' is the lucky one sho' nuff. Yo'r son dun come look after you somefin chronic, Alleluia!'
'Och, and him a broth of a boy, may yer shadder ne'er grow less, bigob & begorrah!' the winsome blonde, who too had attended that same Atos course, enthusiastically attested, dashing a  professional tear from her cheek preparatory to signing off on the case & re-holstering her Nexus 7.
Now all eyes were upon our soon to be Big Brother hero. But eyes seeking confirmation of which class or ethnic stereotype? Things are so confused these days. Generic English English will have to do.
'Hello Mum,' he said and walked past her into the kitchen where the knives whispered welcome. Thank you, Clegg & Cameron. It's good to be home.



Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Why Pico dreams of Paris

 A friend sent me this link to a recent piece by Pico Iyer in which he asks why he so often dreams of Paris, a City he has rarely visited.

'Paris is always bright shopping streets, at Christmas time, at night; I’ve just flown in and, jetlagged, quickened, I race out to roam along the river, past the festive windows, through the dark.
'The content of my dreams has long ceased to interest me; but their proportions, the way they rearrange the things I thought I cared about, the life I imagined I was leading, won’t go away. Why do I almost never see my mother in my dreams, although, alone in her eighties, she fills my waking thoughts so much? And why, conversely, do I return again and again in sleep to Paris, a city I haven’t visited often in life, as if under some warm compulsion?
'I went there in life not long ago, to try to chase the connection down, but of course my search yielded nothing. Why, as I keep revisiting Paris in the night hours, do I very rarely see Santa Barbara, where I’ve been officially resident for almost fifty years? In my dreams, when it does appear, it’s simply a wilderness, a blank space in the hills next to which I stay, through which some cars are edging, tentative and lost.'
Why Paris? Well, for American writers, Paris has a special importance. Oscar Wilde said 'When good Americans die they go to Paris.' Henry James explained why this might be when he remarked- 'To be an American is an excellent preparation for Culture'. For Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, Paris was a finishing School. What aleatory alethia or dismal deontics might Paris represent for Pico? His oeuvre is unusual, for a man of his generation and profession- he taught writing at Harvard in the early Eighties- in its lack of engagement with French Post Modernism. Is Pico's Jungian unconscious trying to tell him that there is some trick he has missed in his training as a writer? After all, at Eton & Oxford, he could scarcely have been unaware of the traditional English feeling of of inferiority with respect to the Philosophically, Politically and Culturally synoecist quality of Parisian literature and thought. Pico was 11 in 1968- i.e. at the time when a child becomes politically conscious. What was happening in London was a pale reflection of the student unrest in Paris. Tariq Ali scarcely caused Harold Wilson a moment's disquiet. De Gaulle almost fled before Cohn-Bendit. In other words, Paris represents everything Pico and his Global Soul has refused to engage with, Intellectually, Politically and Culturally. At about the same time, of Pico's 'two fathers', one was throwing in his lot with the Club of Rome while the other continued to contribute to Vatican II. Spiritually, Pico rejected the latter and clove to the former thus making himself as irrelevant as his father. Irrelevant but armoured, irrelevant for armoured, in an unmeaning and mean spirited impassability. Perhaps this was the telephone message the father, voice choked with tears, left for his son shortly before he died.
Pico writes- My dreams are simply bringing forth what I think but don’t admit to myself, perhaps; they’re not revealing any truth so much as reflecting my projections back at me. 
In other words, Pico is saying 'my Jungian anima has no intuitive knowledge of the Truth about me. It's just an echoing chamber for my own insecurities which- precisely because they are mine- aren't true at all because I can change them. There is no Man within me who is angry with me- it's just a projection on my part and so doesn't mean anything. But, then, why should anything mean anything at all? '
Thus Pico feels able to go on to say- 'Yet the way they (i.e. my dreams) upend what I think I think speaks for some intuitive truth: the least important moments may transform our lives more radically than crises do. I stopped off for an overnight stay at Narita Airport in 1983, and those few hours moved me to relocate to Japan. Meanwhile, the times when I have watched people go mad, try to take their lives in front of me, or die, seem barely to have left a trace.
So Jungian synchronicity- i.e. spooky chance happenings-  is important but not because it is linked to the search for wisdom, the yearning for wholeness, the project of individual metanoia but because, in a sense, one's life is preordained and has a seamless quality which makes the sufferings of other people irrelevant- even if they 'go mad and try to take their lives in front of me, or die'
Pico carries on- 'Perhaps it’s the very chanceness of a chance encounter that suggests to us that it’s observing some secret logic deeper than the one we recognize? Certainly, my subconscious—doesn’t every writer find this?—returns again and again to an idle morning along the Malecon in Havana and never seems able to do anything with all the real Shakespearean drama of my, or any life.
Perhaps we impute too much to dreams precisely because we cannot control them; we infer that they come to us from some larger or at least external place that knows things that we don’t. Certainly my interest in their reapportioning of the dimensions of my life began to rise when I recently spent eight years writing on the kinship I felt with the unmet novelist Graham Greene. The fact that there was scant basis for my sense of affinity was precisely what gave my presumed connection potency; what one can’t explain away keeps echoing inside one as the explicable never does.

From the "Dream/Life" series, Sydney, Australia, 2002
That, I felt, was the basis of Greene’s own faith, hedged and reluctant though it was; he may not have allowed himself to believe in God, but he certainly had a strong belief in the inexplicable, in mystery (even in the devil), which made it hard for him to rule out anything and be as skeptical as he would have liked. His life as a novelist, a professional conspirator with the subconscious, only deepened this sense of the dark places around him (or inside him): he wrote in a story about a dead woman found in a British railway station and, four months later, a woman was actually found dead in a British railway station; he dreamed of a ship going down in the sea, again and again, and, again and again, awoke to find out that a ship had truly gone down in the night.
Let us compare Greene and Pico. What do we find? Everytime Greene wrote a book about a far away place something awful happened there. Greene's dreams were prescient nightmares. Pico's dreams and books are the reverse. Does Video Nights in Kathmandu predict the massacre of the Royal family and the Communist Revolution? No. It's a silly magazine fluff piece. Does 'Lady & the Monk' predict the Japanese economic malaise? No. It's superficial tosh. What about Greene? This is an extract from my book 'Tigers of Wrath' 
Pico dreams, Pico travels, Pico writes- Greene did the same things. Why is Greene an artist and Pico a shit-head? Greene cares for poor people. His Heraclitean fire is a Patripassian flame. Worldly injustice is the Passion of Christ. What about Pico, pal of the Dalai Lama, and meditator in a Benedictine Monastery? What keeps him awake at night? Nothing. He dreams. But his dreams have nothing to say to him. This Brown Man is just so goddam superior to Greene- gotta bless them Iyer genes.


Monday, 24 June 2013

Pico Iyer's Global Soul

Why was the soul invented?
One theory, I'm thinking of Obeyesekere, is that'Small-scale Societies' used the notion of metempsychosis to reinforce O.L.G bride exchange and notional agnatic kinship ties. State and Tribe formation instrumentalized this for elite coalition stability and the more general political purpose of manufacturing an ethos for ethnicity.
Another theory, suggested by Bruce Chatwin's 'Songlines', is that the soul is linked to a landscape in a manner that invests it with inter-subjective landmarks and meanings of a collectively adaptive type.
Finally, there is the notion that the soul is the locus of a therapeutic practice which itself arose out of mutual grooming and the exchange of marking services. This easily links up with the other two ideas creating a geographically delimited healing community based on the notion that certain maladies and metanoias are group and terrain specific.
However, such a notion would be intrinsically unstable, dissolving by reason of either metic immigration or emigration beyond the pale, and yielding place to a vertical, Euhemrist and Universalising, ontology whereby terrains reincarnate each other by a methexis of something on High which is also the soul's true fountain and bourn of repose.
When did the soul become Global and Historicised as opposed to Universal and Transcendent? My guess is- the second half of the Nineteenth Century when the American fad of Spiritualism, which the Russians called 'Spiritizm' and which Mendeleev vainly battled, gained global currency and suddenly every drawing-room and boarding house harbored some dotty little charmer with recovered memories of having been Cleopatra, a Red Indian Chief, a Japanese Samurai, and, of course, Napoleon, in a previous life.
The Theosophical Society, started by, the Russian, Madam Blavatsky and, the American, Col. Olcott, was perhaps the most successful attempt to institutionalize and define something otherwise inchoate and omnivorous- in short a wild-fire in danger of destroying the fuel by which it spread leaving, in its wake, not just 'burned over districts' but a burned out world.
Annie Besant's conversion to Theosophy and her leadership of this World Movement from Adyar, South India, firmly yoked its propagation in India to progressive ideas, reaching a peak of influence with Besant's election as President of the Indian National Congress in 1917. However, it was Besant's endorsement, in 1909, of the notion that a young South Indian Brahmin boy, Jeddu Krishnamurti, was the new 'Universal Teacher' which gave a sort of extra soteriological force to her support for Indian Home Rule. This was because Besant, whose mother had been a House Matron at Harrow, had wanted to educate Krishnamurti at Eton and Oxford, thus qualifying him to take a leading role in the elite Indian politics of that period (to which Gandhi, a Mahatma of a distinctly non-Theosophical sort, put paid) and combine the twin roles of World Statesman and Universal Teacher.` It was not to be. Besant herself was marginalized within India and Jeddu, who had settled in California, while retaining and returning her love, renounced the role of 'World Teacher'.
Still, Adyar's ambition of producing a Universal Messiah did not die with Jiddu's self-abnegating act. The Tamil Brahmin had tasted strong meat and would not meekly return to thair-shadam. Such was the case with U.G. Krishnamurti- history repeating itself as farce-who at least managed to attend a couple of years of College, though he didn't get a degree and thus qualify himself to be a Nariyal Panee wallah- as in Krishna Iyer Yem Ay- who lifts his lungi to show disco in the film Agneepath.
Around the same time that U.G. was confirming himself in a belief in his own genius, another young Tam Bram- Raghavan Iyer- was sweeping up all the glittering prizes- a first class M.A from Elphinstone at the age of 18, a Rhodes Scholarship, and a long and distinguished career as 'an expert on East-West cultures'. True, his books are shite; you can take the Tam Bram out of his agraharam, you can even send him to University where even he is bound to realize the extent of his own ignorance,  but you can't beat him to death every time he starts talking meaningless high minded shite because that's against the fucking Law so just unhand me, Madam, and go about your business. Mind it kindly.
Anyway, unlike the 2 Krishnamurthis- whose love lives were tangled- Raghavan was the beau ideal of the bloodless Tambram boy. His love marriage with Nalini Nanak Mehta- a sound Religious scholar in her own right- was, from the first, purged of carnality; the couple did not commence marital relations till they were ready to conceive, but that was not in India but the England to which they had returned. The fruit of this immaculate conception was Pico Iyer who amply justified their self abnegating decision not merely by the precocious intellectual qualities he showed but something more which speaks to a strength of character, perhaps even a belief in his own destiny, of a type which must always be rare and unheimlich. I say this because, when his parents moved to California, Pico persuaded them to let him attend Eton and then Oxford despite the fact that every Public School boy in the moribund England of the Sixties yearned for nothing more intensely than South California with its sun kissed blondes and spunk bleached beaches. It seemed that, at last, Besant's dream of an Eton & Oxford educated Theosophical Messiah was on the point of being realized.
However, Pico's self-abnegation did not stop there. Returning to America and gaining instant recognition, indeed a measure of celebrity, for his suave, nay beautiful, Keynesian Beauty Contest, style of journalism, Pico chose not to develop into a Dinesh D'Souza or Fareed Zakaria or Arianna Huffington or even Christopher Hitchens, but, instead, to devote himself to the most meretricious branch of magazine journalism- viz. travel writing, that too of the most superficial and self-regarding sort. Surely, this was a penance, a metaphorical hair-shirt, a deliberate seeking of that which must most embitter the spirit and exhaust the soul, an intellectual inedia, an anorexia of the heart, a shameless junk food bulimia of idées reçues- this is the Magazine columnist being infected by the heroin chic of the cat walk hunger-artistes whose glossy photos punctuate his fluffy pieces and add a pair of dazzled and famished eyes, riddled with the flash-gun's lead, to disclose a point of view which is the blindness of Narcissus now Liriope is as a polluted Love Canal, its waters but flame.
There was a moment when Pico might have changed trajectory and at last lived up to his promise- 'the Lady & the Monk' could have been the germ from which our generation got its own Lafcadio Hearn- but it wasn't to be. Even Steven Segal has Pico beat.
Why? What went wrong?
My guess is that the Theosophical project of a Global Soul was always Knowledge based. The failure of the two Krishnamurthis to run with that ball comes down to their imbecilic Tambram know-it-all mentality. Raghavan Iyer, though bright, also passes up on real Economics, real Internationalism, for Club of Rome shite which shades into witless Gandhism of the stupidest sort.
Behind Theosophy there was the notion that Evolution might have led to a migration, from our physical world to the astral plane, of certain adepts who remain in touch with good people here so as to lead us to a better destiny. Clearly, one can easily abandon Clairvoyance or Jungian shite for a notion of Schelling salience or Canonicity w.r.t  what it would profit us all to agree is the message from these 'Mahatmas' on an imaginary but still Stalnaker-Lewis 'closest possible' Universe. But this immediately makes travel-writing not witless Magazine fodder but central to 'theoria', central to 'teerth darshan', central to Hajj.
England- and Pico is very English- has produced great travel writers. But they do a lot of research before setting out. They learn the language. If they can't do that, at least they'd have the Classical sources at their finger-tips. They identify and interview those people who are making history in that country. They bring something back from their travels which is not mere meretricious ephemera nor sententious spiritual aridity.
Why? How so?
They have been touched by the flames of a Herostratian Pentecost and been transfigured by Heraclitus' patripassian fire. They have brayed with the ass of Apuleius and have snuffled for acorns beside the skirts of Circe; they have gone down to the Sea in ships and, tossed to the Heavens, plunged in the depths, done such great business that they have torn out their own hearts as a sacrifice upon the altar of the Unknown God. They have felt Majnun's shame in the desert and Buddha's humiliation in the jungle.  They have looked upon Ozymandias and known despair. They return, yes, 'untaught by the wisdom they have uttered, the Laws they have revealed', but what is that to them now save a memory of strange music, the sharp stab of a nameless odor, for at home, discovering Poverty, they find Charity and, in an atmosphere of intimate domesticity, that brave and cheerful face put up against every blitzkrieg unleashed by such Evil as ever roosts atop the high places of this World.
This is the realization of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam- the oneness of the Human family- yes- but only via the desert-wandering travails of the vivikta-sevi.
Pico learnt Greek and Latin. Sanskrit, of the above sort, would have been child's play to him. I don't say he should have returned to his ancestral roots, 'to imbibe pure milk of Spirituality, sans Sexy Shanigans, from pulpy breasts of Mother'- us guys are stupid enough on our own; fuck we need more Iyers turning up to lecture us on fucking Advaita and Cow worship or whatever shit it is that our Ancient Culture flings around when in party mood?
Still, Skt. opens doors to Zen, to Sufism, to both Jerusalem and Athens; it establishes a bardo, or barzakh, or 'antarabhaava' between things such that not a boundary, not a limit, but an imaginal passage or isthmus is created and, if only for people with Pico's talent, writing needn't be shite.
Or perhaps it does. I don't know. There's probably some malevolent karmic reason for Pico's almost infinitely foolish and self-regarding 'Global Soul'. Has he really not seen 'The accidental Tourist'? It came out in 1988 dude! Fuck is wrong with you? The answer, of course, is we made him this way. Publishing is a business. We are his market. We dragged him down to our level just so fuckwits like me can sneer at him. Perhaps Heidegger- great Nazi turd that he was- got it right. This is that 'planetary technology' whose 'Global Soul' is the Moloch to which us soi disant savants sacrificed our childhoods in vain.



Saturday, 22 June 2013

Sceve, the Saone & 'le sujet surpasse le disant'

If I knew the City where now you are
I'd shed my tears in its Reservoir
As it is, I can but sigh
Thy peignoir perilous else skin to dry

 Midons! As blason is, a rough tongue- thy towel
& as to the Saone, that sad Celt eliding vowel
Peace hath a Prince! now, turning away the meek
Mine the lachrymae with no terroir in your cheek.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Pliny 28.13

13
Vestales nostras hodie credimus nondum egressa urbe mancipia fugitiva retinere in loco precatione, cum, si semel recipiatur ea ratio, et deos preces aliquas exaudire aut ullis moveri verbis, confitendum sit de tota coniectatione.


Thy Vestal fury, to my back, a rod
Am I the altar of the Unknown God?
Your eyes and lips yet concur
Some kissing of you might occur

Gabrielle

Go to her now her Beauty dims & this World's glory has faded
& tho' she still calls out to her kids, my ears have grown jaded
Thou blessed among gossips, God, this truth also tell
To serve in thy Heaven she must reign in my Hell

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Properties are theft

Foci diametrically lustrated in every fibration
Heart hurts the head by its each vibration
Yet my frozen, geometrically frustrated, rime
Is holocaust to many fingered Time

Envoi-
Properties are theft & to Essence hurdles.
Prince! if God's proof lessens Godel's

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Poetry's Wine is its own Klein bottle


  Why might a poet, even a crap poet like me, feel a need to believe his oeuvre has, at least potentially, properties we might call closure and connectivity? In other words, why might a poet want everything he writes to be mutually contiguous or inter-navigable? 
   A reporter does not have any such desire or expectation of his body of work. Today, he is covering a gangland killing, tomorrow it's a fashion show, the day after a Party Political Conference, and finally he might end his days running a Trade Magazine for Chemical Engineers or Pigeon fanciers or whatever it is that pays enough to keep him out of jail for defaulting on alimony or child support from his string of failed marriages.
   Why can't poets be like reporters?
 Why do they instead insist on aping that most contemptible type of journalist who begins with gossamer jeu d' esprits then graduates to spinning out eccentric feuilletons before- now firmly stuck to the auriferous thread connecting every Beaverbrook's ring of bright water to Shelob & Sauron's eye of blazing fire- finally settling down to a Midas like senescence of Inedia recycling the same old bromide or jeremiad for the Op Ed columns while still believing it to be gold not dross?
One answer is that perhaps poets see themselves as 'the unacknowledged legislators of the world' and therefore are committed to knitting everything together according to a principle of harmonious construction made prescriptive by the lyric beauty of its 'bright line' aesthetic judgements.
   If this is the case, can neglect, as opposed to obloquy,  ever really constitute a sufficiently condign sanction against the  unimpeded practice of the poet's vocation? Masturbation, at least on this side of the North Sea, is still stigmatized, yet to be called a versifier no longer carries the same freight of opprobrium as the ubiquitous 'Wanker!' with which not just our elderly Mums, or the avuncular  Emeritus Professors we've kept in touch with, but virtually everybody we turn to hoping to discuss the finer things in life, greets our effusions and either slams down the phone or unfriends us on Face Book.
  One important reason for the de-stigmatisation, if not rise in status, of the practice of writing verse has to do with the wide-spread belief that it is now confined to menstruating women of mean intelligence, recovering alcoholics of extreme belligerence and such moralising lunatics and inept terrorists as harbor a malice against the common weal not even its own all too dramatic, or democratic, self-destruction can blunt.
  Another, perhaps actually intimately related, point has to do with the manner that the persona of the poet has been individuated and abstracted out of both the craft of poetry and that which it navigates.This means that any two poets can constitute a barzakh- an isthmus between two bodies of water, one salt, one sweet- and writing poetry becomes the project of populating that imaginal limbo. However, something topologically more complicated- like the Hopf fibration pictured above-  obtains when a poet identifies more than two poets as providing a 'covering set' for his poetic universe.

   For example, the American poet, Jessica Greenbaum, writes-
'Here is the handful of poems that cover the thought-world particular to me:
“Under One Small Star,” by Wisława Szymborska
“Brief for the Defense,” by Jack Gilbert (this can alternate with “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” by Adam Zagajewski)
   The problem here is that though the resultant covering militates for closed paths,  orientability- think  of the Klein bottle- is going to be a much taller order because the fiber bundle constituted by the covering poets is going to generate holes and toruses and Moebius strip like weirdness and, for some cardinalities, Strangeness so beautiful it must be true.
  Now, the older notion of poetry as something impersonal, like Math, meant that you could simply turn poets into ideal types, or make them synonymous with specific lemmas or Research Programs so that the covering space defined by a list of poets is orientable and has a canonical or high salience Schelling type solution- so partial ordering comes as standard. Here, just as in the barzakh of the ghazal- or the type of poetry that arises from the conjunction of two poets- e.g. Dante and Laforgue for early Eliot- the task of populating the isthmus or limbo between them can proceed with high orientability and algorithmic or zairja like fecundity. Milton is into both the Bible and boring epics- no problem, Satan can soliloquise and Angels fire canons. Michael Madhusudhan likes both Valmiki and Tasso- no problem, we get the interminable Meghnad Bodh Kavya.

  Those were the good old days. Greenbaum, naming her covering set of poets, asks  'Is there any blank space left for a new poem, old subjects? 

  My concern is less noble
Not that Heaven we blame that our throats are dry
Nor our drunken Mullah's obscene reply
But that all these years we've of the Saqi thought ill
When Poetry's Wine is its own Klein bottle



Friday, 14 June 2013

The riddle of Rushdie- revenge of the Anima

Salman Rushdie, from childhood, stood out in three respects
1)  verbal dexterity and linguistic prowess
2) outstanding logico-analytical left-brain skills  making him a good scholar marked for success in our ‘enlightenment’ day-time culture.
3)  Rushdie had a powerful anima, in other words a strong right brain, and ability to process information in this non-linear, visual /symbol dominated hemisphere. 

This meant that his transition from childhood heteronomy to autonomy happened at both the level of submission/internalisation of the law (Kantian autonomy)- thus qualifying him to be a spokesman of the ‘Enlightenment’- as well as the level of the anima, the unconscious.
 My guess is that Phantasms of early infancy were what he mapped the powerful but unpredictable beings and forces around him onto. (His father, bitter at being denied 'Heaven Born' I.C.S status by reason of a trifling technicality, developed problems with alcohol and had a chip on his shoulder against the son he himself had insisted on Anglicizing).

Thus following the non-linear, ‘magical’, adventures of these phantasms enabled Rushdie to achieve autonomy- not in the complete sense of having a fully predictive model of his milieu inside his own head- but a feeling of familiarity, a sufficient sense of security to be able to follow the adventures of those phantasms in the knowledge that ultimately wisdom would be gained, everything explained.
In other words by putting himself in the hand of his anima- like a foreshadowning of Al Khidr in a Sufi dastaan- Rushdie would gain a intuitive type of wisdom.


If it is the case that left brain logic operates in a binary manner- good/bad, boy/girl/ etc- whereas the spandrels of the anima permit a more complex, multi dimensional ranking of judgements then it follows that Rushdie’s strong anima would give him superior tolerance, by making him less judgemental and moreover have further boosted his powers of observation by reducing cognitive dissonance. In other words, he, Rushdie, gets a comparative advantage as actor or novelist.

However there is a price to being anima ridden. The anima rebels strongly against changes in its milieu which cause the left hand side to impose a new ‘Universal Law’ to regulate cognition and therefore behaviour. The anima’s night time rebellion forces the individual into a manic protestation of ego-unassailability  against an abrupt and abject reversion to infantile heteronomy,which takes the shape of attitudinising, posturing, in other words turning into a prancing ninny. Now elite coteries have a soft spot for  prancing ninnies- they consider ninnydom a hallmark of authenticity, while prancing is a ticket to the inner circle . Indeed the Cambridge Apostles cult of Nous rapidly degenerated (or, if you actually went to Cambridge) achieved apotheosis as the cult of the prancing ninny.
Now the psychology of migration is actually (for most people) about a strenghtening of left brain autonomy- i.e. the emergence from the thymotic to the legalistic and contractual. Thus, though elite sub-cultures may encourage their ethnic college chums to represent the migrant as prancing ninny and ludicrously celebrate this as a reclaiming of authenticity, no actual migrant (i.e. a guy who moved for a better life) does this. Rather you see migrants focusing on legal and institutional matters. Nostalgia is a different kettle of fish- it brings on poetic or mystic reveries but, clearly, it is not of such stuff that prancing ninnies are made.


If Rushdie was to achieve ego-integration he would have needed to compartmentalise his life- the enlightenment part of himself working with others in a rational Weberian organisation, the prancing ninny- who at any moment (by the clemency of the anima) might turn into a real mime- like that Memphis who could communicate the whole of the Pythagorean philosophy with a twitch of his butt cheeks- the prancing ninny part of Rushdie could have been employed in experimental theatre or lunatic fringe politics or cult religion or something like that- while the anima ridden part of Rushdie could have had a night-time career as a fantasy novelist. In other words Rushdie could have followed his phantasms wherever they led and thus furnished the world with a topography of a lost continent of our own unconsciousness.


Rushdie, who I believe had a Jungian theory of himself coz that was the zeitgeist of the time, refused however to so compartmentalise himself. That was the way the pre-independence provincials had played things, greatly to the benefit of their vernaculars, but Rushdie was determined to be different. He felt he owed it to the spirit of the times to use all three parts of himself in his next book-Midnight's Children- his big gamble. He almost pulled it off. He actually had all three qualities needed. All the information was available to him. Yet he failed. Why? His anima rebelled. It wouldn’t work to order. So powerful were the villains he conjured up, his power to make balanced judgements deserted him. He reverted to prancing ninnydom & thus made his name & sealed his fate. Ultimately he was the prancing ninny chased off the stage by the pantomime horrors he had himself cut out of garish coloured cardboard. Rushdie’s life became more fantastic than his books.


But was this inevitable? Not at all. Let us look at the concept for his Midnight’s children. It is based on Attar’s parliament of the birds. Now Attar shows how Spirituality and Social Reconstruction on the basis of equality of outcome are mirror images, two sides to the same coin. Thus, the book Rushdie is really writing exactly parallels  the Gandhian novels of Social Reconstruction of the late 20's and early ’30’s- or the Marxist novels of the succeeding generation. Rushdie could have been doing something similar except in a New Age idiom which would provide a template for individual metanoia going hand in hand with mutuality and Social Reconstruction. Rushdie’s left brain was on the side of the angels. Yet his anima subverted the project, brought the roof down on him and condemned a whole generation or his sedulous apes to prancing ninnydom. Why? He had tried to force her and she will not be forced.Rushdie, as prancing ninny has to depict authority figures as Pantomime villains. That strain of vulgarity in Rushdie we would like to mistake for the joi de vivre of a Mumbaikar untraumatised by Partition and unashamed of his ‘post-colonial’ status is actually nothing of the sort. Rather it  is the uttering of obscenities by a priggish child who is so terrified of the bogey man under his bed, he is trying to prove to the grown ups that he is actually a tough little street-urchin.


Now, Rushdie as prancing ninny, becoming the Solzhenitsyn of Islam is exactly what the doctor ordered as far as his Cambridge was concerned. But, how does it help us Indians? Prancing ninnies from Cambridge fucked up the economy, the polity, the legal system- and were richly rewarded for their pains. Even where their own Frankensteins rose up to strike them down- think Bhutto, Bandarnaike, Indira, Rajiv, Benazir- it was only so they could become immortal and fuck us all up for all eternity. In this context, why people  call Rushdie a great author is totally beyond me. In every book, he attempts something interesting and then totally fucks it up to incarnate the apotheosis of the prancing ninny. If Rushdie were serving himself (his real self, the object of his literary metanoia) fine. Praise him. A guy who is doing well for himself should be celebrated so that there is a template for others to follow. But if he’s fucking himself up- what’s the point? The only answer is in terms of the crudest sort of Girardian mimetic desire. 

The real tragedy is that the anima had actually given Rushdie a degree of prescience- like a great actor whose skills verge spookily on that of the Spiritualist Medium- except, like most Mediums, once attuned he channeled increasing silliness- still, that's something no one else had. Take his novel 'Fury' - read the first few pages and you think 'this was written just before 9/11- WOW!"- except it soon disintegrates into utter silliness.
So where's the tragedy? Well it has to do with the Kashmir 'intifada' which- coz of the Gandhi-Abdullah poll fixing pact- started shortly after, the M.P, Syed Shahabuddin had written his infamous letter demanding the banning of Satanic Verses. 
We all thought Rushdie, being a Cambridge man, only wrote shite coz, being a Cambridge man, he knew we could digest nothing better. However, now his life was being threatened, he'd turn into the ultimate street-fighter and kick Shahabuddin in the goolies.
This was easy for him to do. Rushdie just needed to pick up the phone and talk to any Indian journalist here in London. He'd have found out that Shahabuddin was a former diplomat,  inducted into Politics by the B.J.P., who had visited , the previous year, the Sankaracharya of Kanchi (a sort of Hindu Pope) in company with, his friend, the infamous pro-Zionist, Dr. Subramaniyam Swamy (whom Harvard has sacked for his rabidly anti-Muslim views).

So all Rushdie has to do is play the Kashmir card.  He had good credentials. "Midnight's children' had attacked Mrs. Gandhi. He'd written his anti-American book about Nicaragua. 'Shame' had won a prize in Iran. Khomeini and Khatami were totally on side re. Kashmir- they had a history of allying with 'secular' lefties for strategic purposes. The Pak I.S.I would have got the Mirpuris in Bradford to demonstrate outside India House in favor of Rushdie- how dare an Uncle Tom Muslim M.P call the Religious faith of one of their own into question? They take our land, they humiliate and torture us- but now the Hindus have gone too far! They use one of their 'token' Muslim M.P's- to utter a libel upon a true son of Kashmir, such that he may appear a blasphemer and an apostate! Take my life, spit on me, humiliate me, but do not impugn my faith! Just see, the cunning of the tyrannical Pandits  has overstepped all bounds! The want to continue humiliating and denigrating an innocent Muslim Kashmiri- even after he has escaped, even after he has got British Citizenship- why? What is his crime? Hubb al watan min al Iman. Love of country is part of Faith. But love of Kashmir is the crime for which this Muslim is being denounced as an apostate! But by whom? Nimrod! The tyrant, the idolator! How long shall we keep silent? 


In any case, plenty of academics would have come forward to show Rushdie had written a satire on Saidian 'Orientalism'. 

Once Rushdie played the Kashmir card, he would have humbled Rajiv and emerged as the Edward Said or Noam Chomsky of the sub-continent. The Indian intelligentsia- once Rushdie had cleared himself of having written a 'Rangeela Rusool' type porn novel- would have fallen on their knees to Rushdie. Nobel Prizes rather than Bookers would have rained down on him.
Deservedly so. If Rushdie had been on Kashmir watch, the Centre would scarcely have sent Jagmohan there. Frankly, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved. South Asian history might have developed very differently.
But, no. 
Rushdie was and is a prancing ninny and greatly honored for being a prancing ninny coz of where he comes from. Supply and Demand, I'm afraid. The Market knows best.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Ramachandra Guha on Pluralism in China & India

What is 'Pluralism'? Essentially it means the peaceful but separate co-existence, as in a salad bowl, not a melting pot, within a unitary polity, of different ''user defined' ethnic, linguistic, occupational or confessional groups. If these groups are defined by statute or a formal power-sharing agreement, then what we have is consociationalism.

However, for large societies with multiple overlapping identity categories, it is unlikely that any statutory provision or agreement of this sort could be achieved and sustained for any length of time save by a dynamics of elite accommodation so extensive and all consuming as to constitute what is in effect a separate Governing class engaged in Rotten Borough Politics. In this case, Pluralism re-emerges only in the form of an elite discourse matching reified notions of social collectives to, what are conjectured to be, the empirical facts of the case.

1) Such Pluralism could be said to arise on the basis of communities occupying different geographical or ecological niches & thus not competing directly with each other or creating a Social Gradient for Tardean imitation or Girardian confilict.

Here, according to the elite's theory, Pluralism is imperilled if a geographical area becomes attractive to immigrants from other areas or else is found to possess some natural resource yielding a rent, thus sparking rivalry  between groups, or else if an ecological niche is contested or comes to be seen as either exploitative or repugnant.

In the last case, for the Muslim League, the Hindus were identified with exploitative Banias (businessmen) who, Jinnah said, were able to buy out Muslim businesses when the proprietor died because Muslim inheritance law (except that of Jinnah's own natal Khoja or Bohra sects which followed Hindu custom) broke up the Estate thus imposing a check on the continuity of the underlying business.

 Iqbal, though mentioning the Muslim belief that the Bania was sucking their blood, laid greater emphasis on his conviction that Islam provided a firmer foundation for Socialism. He believed Nehru was bound to fail because the Caste Hindus would rebel against him.

Burma also acted to reduce Pluralism of this type,  which the British Civil Servant, Furnivall, had delineated, by getting rid of minorities involved in trade and finance on the avowed basis of a Socialist belief in the essentially parasitic nature of such activities.

Within India, it is notable that, in Bihar, Hindu Debtors of Afghan usurers used the opportunity of Partition to get rid of that particular ecological niche in exactly the same way that Muslim majority areas got rid of their Hindu bania and zamindar (landlord) class. Interestingly, the Pakistanis imposed a ban on Hindu scavengers (i.e. the guys who did the dirty work) fleeing the new country along with the farmers, businessmen and professionals who competed with dominant Muslim castes.

Generally speaking, in India, dominant localized castes or ethnicities have been able to either get rid of 'niche' Pluralism or else to extract a rent from it for the indigenous, localized, power elite. In non-niche activities, obviously,  the dominant group drives out the weaker by fair or foul means till a sort of Kaldor equilibrium is achieved and minority participation yields, at the margin, as much external benefit to the majority as private benefit to the person from the minority.

Similarly, 'repugnancy market'  niches have either been eliminated or forced to pay a rent- sometimes by increasing the underlying nuisance or criminality in question.

2) Alternatively, the elite may cognize Pluralism as arising from different communities coming under different legal, normative or other jurisdictions- e.g. the Ottoman 'Millat' systems- which might also be based on extra-territorial Power, either of a foreign State, or a Religious Pontiff, or that of Organized Crime.  This type of Pluralism can be camouflaged by Coalition Politics or else can exist on the basis of a Pragmatic Sanction by the National Security State.

3) There can also be an theory of Pluralism on the basis of an Elite valorisation of Diversity or Pluritropic collective meta-preference underpinned perhaps by an Economic ideology or theory that such policies yield a sort of Tiebout manorial rent- this is a route to stealing a march on rival Polities and getting wealthier as a community.

4)  Finally, there can be a demotic Pluralism supposedly arising on a purely Ethical basis and gaining a sort of sullen acquiescence from the Masses by dint of continual chiding by soi-disant Great Men valorized by the bien pensant intelligentsia- i.e. lies and hypocrisy spouted by thinly disguised racial chauvinists or paid apologists for the regime.

Which last brings us to Ramachandra Guha- perhaps the most vapid and thus widely read contemporary Indian historian- who has published an essay in Caravan Magazine on a recent Conference he attended in China focused on fostering Diversity and Pluralism and only committing genocide on Minorities when there's really nothing good on TV and, anyway, the troops need the exercise.

He makes a number of claims which, I imagine, might not be a catalogue of wishful thinking peculiar to himself but  actually quite wide-spread amongst the moronic Magazine (as opposed to Blog) reading public. I think it is worthwhile to list these claims and examine whether they bear any relation to Reality and if not, why not.

Regarding China, Guha writes
1)  'In the early years of Communist rule, there was no political diversity, since China was ruled by a single Party.'
Guha's statement makes sense if, in Politics, you begin with something undifferentiated which then shows variation  and, in the absence of repression, gives rise to diversity. In the case of China, Guha believes the Chinese Communist Party was homogeneous at the point when it eliminated all rivals and established its hegemony. Is this true? The answer, put simply, is no. All sorts of disparate elements had united under the banner of the Communist Party, more especially because of the severe strains put on China by Warlordism and Famine and, of course, Japanese aggression such that people had to pick sides from a narrowing menu. Thus the Communist Party, at its moment of triumph was more diverse than it subsequently became. Evolution is just as much about canalisation as it is about capacitance diversity. Even multi-party systems see canalisation and convergence on long standing issues while diversity may flourish in new areas of interest- arising out of technological changes or demographic shifts or a variation in Globalising forces. Even in these areas, cananlisation and convergence operate to thin out phenotypal diversity.

2)  'But (in the early years of Communist rule in China) even talk of cultural diversity was not encouraged. Regardless of one’s ethnic or linguistic background, all citizens were commanded to commit themselves to the strengthening of the Chinese state and the construction of an economic basis for socialism.'
If Guha is right, then the first thing the Chinese would have done when they, with the acquiescence of Nehru, claimed sovereignty over Tibet, would have been to demand that the Tibetans hand over resources to the Center and also eliminate their own bourgeoisie. This did not happen. The Chinese subsidized Tibet and enriched its middle class who used the money to, for example, send their kids to English Medium Schools and Colleges in Darjeeling and Calcutta. Similarly, in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, the new regime rather aimed to conciliate than to crush and to take delight in diversity- thus sending a signal to Ulan Bator & Pynongyang- rather than seek to impose uniformity. Sinkiang however posed a double threat- its economy had been integrated into the Soviet sphere but an Islamic and Pan Turkic threat potential in the region could destabilize both Communist giants. In other words, heavy handed Chinese policies were double-edged in that they were pushing out the Soviets but also unleashing Red Terror.  Land Reform affecting Waqfs (Land held by Religious Trusts) wasn't necessarily unpopular so it was really massive Government sponsored Han immigration which presented an existential threat to the Uighurs. Ultimately, when China broke with the Soviets, in 1962, a hundred thousand Uighurs fled along with Soviet personnel.

However, where no strategic interest was at stake, China in the 50's was anxious to appear Pluralist. Minority areas were exempt from Collectivization- save where it had the political objective of crushing their spirit of Independence and destroying their capacity to rebel- just as, at a later time, they were exempt from the One Child policy.

 In 1958, the right to leave the Collective was taken away from the Han Chinese.  To sweeten the blow, fantastic claims of impending mass plenty were circulated. Under the slogan 'to eat meat is glorious', farm animals were slaughtered and for a brief while peasants ate so much rich food in the new Communal canteens that they suffered indigestion. Had Mao's 'great leap forward' succeeded- i.e. if it really had been possible for the Han Chinese majority to grow ten times as much food on the same piece of ground while simultaneously producing millions of metric tons of high grade steel in their backyard furnaces, then perhaps the minorities could have been pampered to very surfeit. It was not to be. The failure of Magical Socialism meant that scapegoats had to be found- Rightists, 'Class enemies', feudal elements and, of course, the Minorities who were seen as being governed by precisely these elements and also as being too immature and under-developed to ever rid themselves of these evils. Thus only massive Han immigration could help them rise above their mental bondage.

No doubt, very harsh measures were taken against Minorities  in the Sixties and Seventies. But, by then, the whole country was a prison camp and so, contra Guha, it was a reversal of the early policy of which Wikipedeia has this to say-

Chinese Communist understanding of minorities had been heavily influenced by the Soviet models of Joseph Stalin. The Soviet's definition of minorities did not map cleanly onto this Chinese historical understanding. Stalinist thinking about minorities was that a nation was made up of those with a common language, historical culture, and territory. Each nation of these people then had the theoretical right to secede from a proposed federated government.[7] This differed from the previous way of thinking mainly in that instead of defining all those under imperial rule as Chinese, the nation (as defined as a space upon which power is projected) and ethnicity (the identity of the governed) were now separate; being under central rule no longer automatically meant being defined as Chinese. The Stalinist model as applied to China gave rise to the autonomous regions in China; these areas were thought to be their own nations that had theoretical autonomy from the central government.[8]
To determine how many of these nations existed within China after the revolution of 1949, a team of social scientists were assembled to enumerate the various ethnic nations. The problem that they immediately ran into was that there were many areas of China in which villages in one valley considered themselves to have a separate identity and culture from those one valley over.[11] According each village the status of nation would be absurd and would lead to the nonsensical result of filling the National People's Congress with delegates all representing individual villages. In response, the social scientists attempted to construct coherent groupings of minorities using language as the main criterion for differentiation. This led to a result in which villages that had very different cultural practices and histories were lumped under the same ethnic name. The Zhuang is one such example; the ethnic group largely served as a catch-all collection of various hill villages in Guangxi province.[12]
The actual census taking of who was and was not a minority further eroded the neat differentiating lines the social scientists had drawn up. Individual ethnic status was often awarded based on family tree histories. If one had a father (other mother, for ethnic groups that were considered matrilineal) that had a surname considered to belong to a particular ethnic group, then one was awarded the coveted minority status. This had the result that villages that had previously thought of themselves as homogenous and essentially Han were now divided between those with ethnic identity and those without.[13]
The team of social scientists that assembled the list of all the ethnic groups also described what they considered to be the key differentiating attributes between each group, including dress, music, and language. The center then used this list of attributes to select representatives of each group to perform on television and radio in an attempt to reinforce the government's narrative of China as a multi-ethnic state.[14] Particularly popular were more exoticised practices of minority groups - the claim of multi-ethnicity would not look strong if the minorities performed essentially the same rituals and songs as the Han. Many of those labeled as specific minorities were thus presented with images and representations of "their people" in the media that bore no relationship to the music, clothing, and other practices they themselves enacted in their own daily lives.
However, as China opened up and reformed post-1979, many Han acquired enough money to begin to travel. One of the favorite travel experiences of the wealthy was visits to minority areas, to see the purportedly exotic rituals of the minority peoples.[15][16] Responding to this interest, many minority entrepreneurs, despite themselves perhaps never having grown up practicing the dances, rituals, or songs themselves, began to cater to these tourists by performing acts similar to what was on the media. In this way, the groups of people named Zhuang or other named minorities have begun to have more in common with their fellow co-ethnics, as they have adopted similar self-conceptions in response to the economic demand of consumers for their performances.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was a shift in official conceptions of minorities in China: rather than defining them as "nationalities", they became "ethnic groups". The difference between "nationality" and "ethnicity", as Uradyn Erden-Bulag describes it, is that the former treats the minorities of China as societies with "a fully functional division of labor", history, and territory, while the latter treats minorities as a "category" and focuses on their maintenance of boundaries and their self-definition in relation to the majority group. These changes are reflected in uses of the term minzu and its translations. The official journal Minzu Tuanjie changed its English name from Nationality Unity to Ethnic Unity in 1995. Similarly, the Central University for Nationalities changed its name to Minzu University of China. Scholars began to prefer the term zuqun (族群) overminzu.[17]
The Wikipedia article is misleading on several counts. In 1949, China rejected the Soviet Model and opted for a 'unitary state with multiple Nationalities'- thus secession was never on the menu and, moreover, the irredentist aspirations of a Nationality were inherited by the Unitary State- thus giving China a claim over the territory of its neighbors which could not otherwise arise. Furthermore, tight control of Education, and the fact that all Higher Education was only in Chinese, meant that there was a disconnect between ideological protestations and the reality of two-tier assimilation endowing second class status even on minorities well within China's borders. The Manchus, however, tended to do better than average educationally and economically but the price paid was forgetting their own language.

 Potentially seditious nationalities- Uyghurs and Tibetans- on the other hand, were brutally treated, every effort being made to crush their spirit and bring every facet of their life under surveillance and official control. Finally, between 1968 and 1975, the culminating years of the Cultural Revolution, the very notion of minority status or differentiated nationality was rejected and traditional languages, scripts, customs, costumes, music, even medical practices, were banned as 'reactionary'. Henceforth, there would be no pretense of pampering the Minorities- they were to be dominated and 're-educated' if not butchered outright.
Guha, however, has a different take on what happened. Nobody's spirit was crushed. No genocide occurred. Not at all. It was just their new Masters were not properly encouraging of the Minorities, gushing praise and patting them on the back if they  managed to tie their own shoe-laces and giving them a big gold star for drawing a nice picture of a cat in Trigonometry class.
Thus, Guha tells us
3) 'The discouragement of minority aspirations led willy-nilly to a deepening of Han hegemony. This created discontent, especially among the Uyghurs and Tibetans, peoples with sophisticated written cultures and a proud sense of their religious heritage.' 
Hitler's discouragement of Jewish and Gypsy aspirations led willy-nilly to a deepening of S.S hegemony in the Concentration Camps. This created discontent, especially amongst the Jews being gassed in Belsen because they were people with a sophisticated written culture and a proud sense of their religious heritage.  

Guha writes-'In the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, both Tibet and Xinjiang witnessed violent clashes between local people and security forces. Now, some scholars, and even some party officials, had begun reflecting on the costs of imposing cultural uniformity on an extremely diverse nation.
The Fuzhou conference was held in a building guarded by a statue of Confucius, a thinker once berated by Mao but now making an impressive comeback in China. The meeting had some 25 participants. There were four Germans, and one Indian. The rest were all Chinese. They included university professors, party officials, and NGO workers. About half were Han in origin, but—given the theme of the conference—ethnic minorities such as the Tibetans, the Yi, and the Mongols were also represented.
In other words, no previously independent or autonomous ethnicity in China experienced Oppression, Genocide or had been rendered powerless or a cowed minority within its own homeland such that, as a matter of official policy, immigrant Han Chinese enjoyed wealth and privilege while the indigenous people suffered poverty and degradation. Still, those minorities were so resentful that their cultural aspirations were not being fulfilled that they created violent mayhem during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese Army and Police were totally at a loss. They went to give some nice teddy bears and sweeties to those violent minorities but received a terrible thrashing. What, oh what, are we going to do? Minorities are so angry and continually beating us and setting fire to things. How to placate them? Answer- let some German (!) N.G.O organize a Conference and invite Guha and some 10 people from minorities and another 10 from the Han majority and really discuss this matter and work out a solution. After all, we should show some consideration and humane feeling for those poor fellows in the Secret Police and Army who are constantly being raped and killed and pitilessly set alight by those Minorities who are so angry that everybody is not learning Uyghur or Tibetan while they themselves are having to learn Chinese and English and Maths and so on so as to get ahead in the world. It is a matter of great sensitivity.
Now let us turn to Guha's central thesis-
‘Diversity’ is a social condition; ‘pluralism’ is a political programme. China is almost as diverse as India, but infinitely less plural. For in India, the diversity of languages, religions, and political ideologies has been encouraged since the birth of the nation-state. India is a multi-party democracy based on universal adult franchise. The Indian Constitution does not privilege a single religion. And it encourages each province to administer itself in the language of its choice.
Firstly, let us look at what it means to say 'Diversity is a social condition'- what meaning is being given to the word 'Social' in this sentence? Is it that there is nothing in the way people interact with each others which militates for canalisation- i.e. there is no homogenizing force, like Tarde's 'law of imitation', at work in Social processes - and that, on the contrary, people just go on becoming more and more different from each other? If so, something very sinister is going on under the rubric of Globalisation. A few months ago I found myself dancing in a silly way and adopting 'Gangnam style' as a catchphrase. Why? It's because I've recently bought a Korean 3D tv and tablet computer. Globalised Capitalism is brainwashing me through secret electromagnetic waves emanating from my TV and tablet.  This is Cultural RAPE! I should be singing Tyagaraja's kirtis not 'Gangnam style' & 'Ato fato Gentleman'. Where oh where is the Mahatma Gandhi or Pundit Nehru to protect me from being deflowered by them evil Koreans and their Satanic technology? How is my Diversity to be preserved? Who will defend the Pluralism I represent?
Guha, no doubt, knows the answer- but he won't tell us. In fact there is a whole lot of things he is meanly keeping to himself.
An ordinary bloke like me thinks to himself- 'Even if Platonic as opposed to Revealed  Preferences really are Pluritropic and tend to infinite Diversity is it really the case that individuals face no Schelling type co-ordination problems? Was David Lewis on Conventions totally wrong? In the Economic realm,  can it really be that no externalities arise or public good provision is required or mechanism design becomes necessary such that the essence of Social interaction tends to reduce and canalise Diversity? If so, Minorities are themselves not stable. Within a couple of generations, the only minority would be Ann Rand's individual and Mrs. Thatcher's dictum 'no such thing as Society' would bear the unmistakable ring of Gospel Truth.'

Is Guha, a guy with a PhD, writing in June 2013, really making such a claim? Why? Is he a closet Randian cross-dressing randi pretending to be a nice Nehruvian bien pensant Uncle?
Even if this is so, Guha has either to commit to a 'Great Man' theory of Capitalist praxeology or else he has to explain how there can there be any Economics, any Politics, any non-empty domain of the Social, if there is indeed nothing militating for the canalisation of Preference Diversity such that it has the Goldilocks property of being 'not too little, not too much'? Has Guha discovered some mistake in the mathematics of Graciella Chichilnisky? Has he really uncovered some alternative to the theories of Darwin and Baldwin and Hamilton and Price and John Maynard Smith explaining how things co-evolve? If so, Modesty be damned, he should tell us rather than leaving us blindly groping in the dark.
What about Guha's dictum that 'pluralism is a political program'. Does it, in fact, mean anything? In this context- no. The Chinese Communist Party could have gone either way on Linguistic pluralism. Indeed, remembering their relationship with the Panchen Lama & Prince Shianouk, even Political Pluralism of a theocratic or monarchical type was not beyond the scope of that supremely pragmatic Nation.
We know for a fact that they can do Econo-Legal Regime pluralism- the case of Hong Kong- and it is entirely possible that they could have embraced 'Browderism' back in 1950 and permitted at least the cosmetic appearance of multi-partyism on the then contemporary Mexican model. Thus we see 'pluralism'- whether Economic or Linguistic or whatever- is not a program but a political instrumentality.

What about Guha's notion that 'China is almost as diverse as India'. That must be true, surely? Let's see. 92% of the Chinese population is Han Chinese. There is a lot of diversity in spoken language- some drift based, some cladistic- but the written language, as solving a co-ordination problem, has not suffered this infirmity for over two and a half millenia. Thus we can say that the Han Chinese are a group closed under written communication. What about India?  Even an extreme Hindutva type would have to accept that at best 30 % of the current population is sufficiently 'Sanskritized' to even potentially have a similar type of closure property. In other words one Han Chinese can communicate everything in his mental universe to another on the opposite end of the country without straying outside the boundaries of the common written language and stock of associations save with respect the subject of the communication. Thus if 2 Han Chinese are talking about Pentecostal Christianity or Quantum Mechanics then they are going out of their common language only with respect to that specific subject. A Punjabi Hindu communicating with a Tamil Hindu, on the other hand, will constantly find himself going outside the Sanskritic circle, even on issues arising from a common orthopraxy, because he is appealing to genealogically Islamic ideas, practices and institutions, long assimilated by his people to which the Tamil has no similar unproblematic access. My own, no doubt ludicrous, attempt to engage with Ibn Arabi's concept of 'barzakh' in Ghalib's poetry constantly throws this unpleasant fact in my ugly Hindutva face. What keeps me going is that my alterity is not Islam but that North Indian Hindu, like Tufta, for whom Ghalib has tenderness.

Anyway, for what it's worth,  my own unscholarly estimate is that, loosely speaking, Han China has 90 percent hermeneutic circle closure- 'Hindu' India, maybe 30 per cent.

So what? History shows us that State Formation and Secular Politics have little to do with cultural or ethnic homogeneity- the appearance of which arises spontaneously as a solution to underlying co-ordination problems for the realm of the 'Social'- and everything to do with coalition stability and mechanism design. Even on the abstract plane- questions such as 'what is the optimal currency area?' and, going forward, 'what is the external economy optimizing golden path' tend to trump Romantic notions of an Organic Community or 'Moral Economy' or 'Symbolic Ecology'.
The answer, for Guha, turns out to be that though 'Diversity as a Social Condition' does not have any importance, still it contributes something dramatic to the backdrop of what is truly important, nay magical!, which is how the actions of Great Men totally change History coz they just are so goddam special that's all.

Guha writes- Indian pluralism is a modern phenomenon, forged in the crucible of colonialism. There was no ‘Indian nation’ until the British came. It was they who unified the territory that the Republic now claims and controls. The unity the rulers brought about was artificial, and accidental—until the national movement gave the people of what was now ‘British India’ a common political and (in time) moral purpose.
Indian pluralism, such as it is, is the product of the hard work and conscious choices of many individuals and many organisations. I suppose if one had to single out one of each, it would be Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. Gandhi began expanding his horizons early. His best friend in school was a Muslim. As a young law student in London he mostly hung about with heterodox Christians. When he came back to India he acquired a Jain scholar as his preceptor. blah blah blah
Is Guha utterly mad? He says that some force from outside can artificially draw lines on the map and rule over it in a manner that 'unifies it'. So much so, that, quite spontaneously, individuals and organizations can arise who turn that artificiality into something not artificial at all. In other words, any artificial creation can turn into a 'proper', not artificial, Nation State. All that is needed is some yeasting agent which does not have to be deliberately introduced but is just freely floating about in the air. Once it gets embedded, it 'works hard' and makes 'conscious choices'- and, it so happens, one choice it can make is called 'pluralism'. If it opts for that choice then the now no longer artificial Nation State created by some foreigner will turn out to be 'Plural'. Otherwise, it won't.
Does Indian history confirm this view? Did the British conquer or otherwise acquire dominance over territory in the Indian sub-continent entirely 'against the grain', so to speak, of existing collectives? Or, was it rather the case, that their expansion was almost entirely subject to Market and Meta-Market (i.e. mechanism design) type kinetics and potentialities? Was British Imperialism a project created by some British King or Great Man? Is that its genealogy?
Let us look at the evidence. The British were in India for over a hundred years as traders before something surprising happened- Clive abandons the Clerk's quill for the Conquistador's sword and scores a succession of amazing victories- which the British power elite had neither planned nor were prepared to commit resources to till it became a fait accompli and the money power of the 'Nabobs' became a 'tail that wags the dog'.
Why speak of India as encountering Western Colonialism? That virus was engineered in Desi laboratories and, once unleashed from its test-tube, the first systematic protest against its evils is evidenced in the writings and speeches of British patriots like Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Richard Sheridan, who, with matchless eloquence if not Analytical rigor, expose the double threat it posed to both Britain and India.
Guha writes as though a Commercial Enterprise of a deeply corrupt and rent seeking type could create a Nation State entirely by its predatory dealings and greed driven Sociopathy. Do the facts support this belief?
Did John Company exercise a hegemony utterly independent of existing collectives? Was there ever, in the history of its operations in India, a signal nomological break such that we can say- this is something wholly foreign and imposed by the canon and bayonet? The answer is- no and no. Firstly, John Company had to respect existing customary and religious laws and administer that Law in their own courts till such a time that a critical mass was achieved and the project of Codification increased, not decreased, their legitimacy and salience. Secondly, the Brits had to adopt and adapt the vernacular languages and knowledge systems in all matters where something new was not being created. Thirdly, after formal annexation to Empire,  Servants of the Crown had to continually re-draw those 'lines on the map' in accordance with the interests and sentiments of dominant classes in each region. 
Even the yeast that supposedly floats around freely in the air which has the magic property of turning any arbitrary collection of people and territory into a 'proper' Nation State- even that yeast, it turns out, is something the British had to foster and seek to regulate. 
Guha tells us that Gandhi had a lot of friends from outside his own sub-caste and community. So did Jinnah. Gandhian yeasting drove Jinnah and Iqbal and so on in one direction and Jinnah and Iqbal's yeasting drove the Indian National Congress the other way. It oughtn't to have mattered if the State had retained its solvency and therefore salience as the obligatory passage point of every interessement strategy. But, the War had virtually bankrupted Britain. It had also bankrupted the political potential of the bien pensant National bourgeoisie. 
Field Marshall Wavell, as Viceroy, tells Whitehall bluntly that it was no longer a case of 'Top-Down' conspiracy- easily settled by arresting a few seditionary lawyers- but, rather, the beginnings of a full-scale  'Bottom-Up' insurrection which can't be checked and must inevitably flush the British out of India. He proposes an evacuation of the White population starting from the South and East and towards the North West for ultimate rescue by the Navy or else an overland journey to the ports of the Levant.
Guha tells us a different story. Why? Clearly he is a far better soldier and military strategist than Wavell who was an arrant coward. Indeed, it is widely known, that the British army does not engage in combat- they prefer to play with dolls. Wavell, because he burst into tears most often, was promoted to high office. Guha knows the inside story. When he visits England, the S.A.S all go and hide under the Queen Mother's bed. They refuse to come out till he has left the country.
But, Guha is full of such surprises. He tells us- 'Life in the diaspora gave Gandhi an understanding of the social and cultural heterogeneity of India that he would never have acquired had he worked in Rajkot or even in Bombay.' In other words, South Africa was more heterogenous than India. Now, if Gandhi had merged his political campaign in South Africa with those of the Chinese, the Coloureds, the Zulus, the Xhosa, the Trade Unions and so on, then Guha would have a point. But Gandhi explicitly says that his Satyagraha did not merge with the similar agitation of the Chinese. He makes no mention of the leader of the Coloureds and forged no close contact, despite geographical proximity, with Christianized Africans engaged in a similar enterprise. Even within the Gujerati community, his strange views proved polarizing. A leading Muslim merchant writes to Jinnah asking him to come over and help the Muslims. Gandhi's plan will pauperize them while giving the Hindu hawkers an advantage. Later, in India, when Gandhi meets Jinnah he stresses the latter's religious identity. He'd have been better off staying in Rajkot where his behavior at least had the excuse of being fostered by small town mentality, not to say rustic imbecility. Yet, the myth of the Mahatma depended crucially on the notion that he'd achieved something tremendous in South Africa and could do the same in India. Gokhale, it is true, knew different. He warned that there was less to Gandhi's achievement than was claimed and that negotiation ought not to be entrusted to him. But, Gokhale died. Why does Guha pretend that a Gandhi who remained in Rajkot could have become the leader of the Congress? What could he possibly have achieved there, or claim to have achieved there, which could endow him with charisma? As for the issue of heterogeneity- the fact is, the only thing which wrung concessions out of Smuts was the revolt of the working class Indians. Yes, Gandhi placed himself at the head of this moment- but if he hadn't done so, some other Indian lawyer or para-legal would have been happy to oblige. Since the I.N.C and individual capitalists like Dorabji Tata were happy to provide support and funds, they could claim credit for the victory of the workers. Gokhale and C.F. Andrews would have a template for interessement over similar agitations in India with a view to gradualist legislative and parliamentary reform without any need for Khilafat or Khaddar or other such nonsense. In that case, India gets Universal Suffrage and full Provincial Autonomy in 1930. No big drama, Muslims see that they get undivided Bengal and Punjab- the two jewels in the Crown and suddenly Partition is against their interests. Dalits see that things like Temple Entry actually change their status- they are not a 'concession' based on the Saintliness of the Mahatma which they have to earn again and again by giving up customary items in their diet and 'Sanskritizing' themselves. Ambedkar's talents aren't wasted- he's put in charge of the Monetary Policy Committee. There is no split between him and the pragmatic leaders like the young Jagjivan Ram.

 But perhaps we have strayed too far down the road of counterfactuals. Returning to Guha's article we find he writes- When Gandhi finally came back home and joined politics, he pushed the Congress towards an open recognition and avowal of this diversity. The party units were reorganised on linguistic lines. The party committed itself to the maintenance of religious harmony and to making women and low castes equal citizens in (and of) the nation.
Is Guha seriously suggesting that Gandhi didn't jump on any existing bandwagon- be it Khilafat or Swaraj? What has that to do with 'open recognition and avowal of diversity?' Was there anyone at all in India who did not understand that men are different from women, Hindus have a different Religion from Muslims, Tamils don't speak the same language as Kashmiris? Perhaps, they knew it but thought it was some terrible secret they had to keep. Then Gandhi comes back from South Africa and says 'Guess what guys? Women don't have the same kind of pee pee as us men. It used to be a deadly secret, but now, thanks to Satyagraha, we can at last openly recognize and avow that there is diversity in the matter of pee pees. Similarly, them Tamils aren't actually gargling or clearing their throats- they are speaking a different language. We  can openly avow that now, because Satyagraha is so splendid.' Did Gandhi really turn up from South Africa with these sorts of insights? Was he really the motive force in reorganizing the party on 'linguistic lines' (which did not actually happen in many parts of India)? Was there any contemporary party which did not pay lip service to minority protection and womens' rights and so on? In any case, is there any evidence that the outcome would have been different if any Party had written something different in its manifesto? Did elite politics, or bien pensant discussion really shape anything? Take the Modi-Lee agreement- arguably it pushes Japan down the militaristic path, thus contributing to the fall of the British Empire in Burma and India. But, did elite politics and bien pensant intellectuals- or pseudo-intellectuals, like Nehru- have any say in it whatsoever? No. Nehru's misgivings went for nothing. Churchill's protests won him obloquy. When money talks, even the most bloated wind-bags find themselves abruptly punctured.
Guha's view of Indian pluralism
Guha  makes three claims 
1) that Indian 'pluralism' was something 'hard fought' and that Gandhi should get the lion's share of credit 
2) that Universal Suffrage wasn't inevitable and Nehru pushed it through. 
3) that linguistic pluralism was a precondition of India’s unity and survival. 
Let us look at the facts
1) Did any indigenous Indian force have the power to suppress Pluralism more than has actually happened? Could Nehru, or anybody else, really have imposed Hindi on non-Hindi states? Think about it for a second. Suppose the Govt. imposes the language and people protest. The Police and then the Army are sent in. Why should they not seize power for themselves? The Politicians would be marginalized. Sooner or later the Generals will take over. Even if the P.M is completely stupid and tries this option, the political class as a whole will revolt. Why? Popular unrest  means power goes to the Police, who can extract a rent previously accruing to politicians- but the Police, too, are nervous that the Army will step in. Once that happens, the Police lose even their existing rents and, like the Politicians, get marginalized. But the Army knows it can't rule the whole country by force- its recruitment is too narrowly based and rebel areas can be supplied by Sea- so it will have to depend on the Navy. But why should the Navy accept a subordinate role? It can get a fiscal advantage by controlling maritime trade and gain a countervailing power to extract rents.
Such considerations mean the whole thing is a non-starter. Support will melt away from a P.M who tries any monkey-tricks. So, the truth is, the battle for securing Pluralism was not 'hard fought'. There was no battle- just some disorganized retreat in the face of demand for linguistic states and 'bhumiputra' reservations and even ethnic cleansing of non-dominants. The truth is, Mahatma Gandhi made no unique contribution- save that of endorsing Khilafat as being something even a Kaffir should morally support thus legitimizing the notion that a Plural state is 'dar ul harb' according to some higher Moral Law.
2) Ceylon got universal suffrage in 1931 because Sidney Webb put in strong minority protection and in any case the elite were Loyalist. Could India really have continued with restricted franchise even after the main reason for it- viz. avoiding Partition- had disappeared? Is Guha serious? There may have nut-jobs who wanted restrictive franchise. They would have been laughed out of office and then beaten and chased out of the country if they tried such a monkey-trick. Guha does not get that India is Democratic because that gives the existing power-elite the legitimacy to raise taxes. The moment democracy is suspended, though a 'rent' can be extracted, it is not sustainable. Everybody will prefer to bribe for a short term purpose rather than pay the tax to stay legal. If India could export enough teak or oil or just rely on Aid, then okay one could put off elections for a few years. But, after that, the house of cards will collapse.

3) Linguistic pluralism was a battle won before Independence, though the integration of Princely states only became possible with the departure of the Brits. After that, the Govt. conceded, not promoted, Linguistic States created so 'outsiders' didn't take sarkari jobs from the sons of the soil. Nothing at all to do with what Nehru thought or some Professor said. Guha does not seem to understand that if China is a single party state it is because that Party became an Army which conquered the country and killed off all opposition. Even once in power, it still kills anyone, including its own members, who pose a challenge. Minority aspirations have a lot to do with not being killed and rendered even further subservient to the newly established ethnic Han immigrant majority or dominant class in their own ancestral homeland.
There were and are plenty of Parties in India which have no truck with Pluralism even at the National level. My own Iyer Liberation Front demands the immediate reconquest of Ireland- our ancestral home- and like everybody buying me a Guinness with Jameson chaser and singing Val Doonican songs. Except Subramaniyam Swamy. Just fucking kill him. And don't forget to murli Mahohar Joshi while you're at it. 
With such an obviously sensible program, why, you may ask, is the Iyer Liberation Front, like other similar anti-Pluralist outfits, languishing in the doldrums? The answer is we don't have the strength, the cohesiveness, and are in any case too cowardly and corrupt, to enforce our will. 
It would be a different matter if we could hit upon an 'incentive compatible' coalition that would burgeon and grow till strong enough to take over the country. But, by then, it would be Pluricentric and convergent to pretty much the same trajectory as what obtains.
What, finally, is the point of Guha's article? Does he really believe what he himself writes? Can he really so systematically confuse the causes of Powerlessness with the effects of Public Policy?
Perhaps, there is some inscrutable Mandarin purpose or esoteric Qingtan 'Pure Conversation' aspect to his essay which we are simply too stupid to grasp. Or, perhaps, the truth is simpler. The Emperor is not merely and quite deliberately naked but also frenziedly masturbating and spunking copiously in our faces precisely because we continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that his limbs are in fact decorously sheathed in Professorial tweeds and it is with a tobacco pipe in his hands, not a turgid penis, that he gesticulates at us delinquents cowering in the back row of that Gandhi-Nehru Lecture Hall which, indeed, is vaster than the World and more deadly than Death.