The Myth of the New India

NY Times is running an intersting story about India. You know what? Somehow “I knew it all along” just doesn’t quite say it this time. Here are some intersting comments from Slashdot(the text within the square brackets are other comments to which the reply is given):

The problems go beyong economic to cultural. The problems stem from thousand years old caste systems, people being born into a status and being unable to leave, thereby restricting upward mobility in the most powerful sense. For any nation to really rise to what it can potentially be (The US included) we need to abandon our primitive thought processes (and we all have them, every country on this flying rock)
Note: This isn’t racist, or culturist, or any thing else -ist. And if you think it is, I no longer care.


[I mean, look at the language you use. “Backward caste” “Lower caste”. I’m not saying that India hasn’t made great strides; obviously it has. But just looking at your post gives one a sense of how deeply ingrained it is culturally]

That is not something I invented. It is how the government and they themselves refer to themselves. What am I supposed to do? Call them the caste-formerly-known-as-the-lower-caste? Sheesh!
If a white person in America is proud of the achievements of all the white men that came before her and if she knows the difference between the races (but doesn’t give a flying fuck about the differences), does that make her racist? I am proud of my caste. I am proud of belonging to the oldest surviving line of philosophers, mystics and poets. Does that make me a casteist?

[As in the US, there are forces of resistance to such change]

You know, the funny part is, I never gave thought to this whole issue of caste until I came up to the undergrad level. Over there, in spite of having really good marks in the entrance test, I didn’t get through to the college I wanted. Why? Because I was born in a higher caste. So half the seats went to people from the lower caste who hadn’t got two thirds of the marks I had. That was when this whole caste thing cropped up.

And with all due respect, casteism these days is practiced the other way round. My uncle, his father and grandfather before him, had practiced medicine in a village a hundred kilometres from Pune. Whole generations had been treated by them from birth to death. But now, these same people who got excellent medical care at my uncle’s hands are contesting that since he’s a brahmin, he should leave the place (without being adequately compensated for whatever medical infrastructure he raised almost single handedly) and should hand over his hospital to a young upstart who belongs to the backward caste. THAT IS CASTEISM today.


[I am proud of belonging to the oldest surviving line of philosophers, mystics and poets. Does that make me a casteist?]

Yes, because you’re evincing pride in achievements you haven’t made, by people you had no way of influencing. You’ve done nothing to deserve the pride you feel. It’s this innate and undeserved feeling of superiority that makes you a casteist.

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