G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Institutionalised Racism Runs Deep amongst Middle and Upper Class Urban Indians

Indian media are rejoicing today.

Times of India January 30, 2008 screams: “Monkey off Bhajji’s back.” And then gives all five instances of Harbhajan Singh’s violation of the ICC code of conduct.

“But Bhajji won’t be racial. He’s our boy.”

Sounds like typical Indian parents defending their spoilt children.

The same paper asked for annulment of Sydney test.

I wonder if they will ask annulment of medals table of 2008 Beijing Olympics if- as is likely- India fails to get on to it and Indian athletes are found doping.

Economic & Political Weekly January 12, 2008 said:

“The hysteria in the past week over l’affiare Sydney Cricket Test has shown urban India at its sanctimonious worst; quick to don the robes of the victim and at the same time ready to flex its financial muscle to dictate its orders to the rest of the cricketing world. It is not the emotions that have been expressed in this cricket-crazy society that have been surprising. It is that most commentators have refused to use the opportunity to engage in any introspection or reasoned discussion – be it of matters cricket or Indian society’s attitude to racism and colour prejudice.

To begin with the more important issue of racism in sport: Here was an opportunity for the media and public opinion to use the following cricket has in India to confront the issue of prejudice on colour. Instead, the overwhelming response has been either denial or a resort to homilies about India’s record in fighting racial discrimination.

The first thing to note is that the moral high ground that urban India has sought to occupy compares poorly with the fair amount of diversity, self-criticism and condemnation of the national cricket team that has been expressed in Australian public opinion…

…The fact is that colour prejudice, if not institutionalised racism, runs deep amongst middle and upper class urban Indians. How easily we forget that skin whitening cream is the largest selling “wellness” product in India, that matrimonial advertisements need to draw attention to colour and at times hide the dark complexion of the bride-to-be by describing it as “wheatish” and that for a baby to be born with a fair complexion is a source of immense pride to the family. No black visiting India leaves the country without being horrified at Indian expression of colour prejudice. And in cricket, for years spectators have often taunted West Indians for being, yes, “monkeys”…”

From January 12-26, 2008, from time to time, I was amidst marriage party gathered at Pune. We had a few guests from US. Two of them were white females, one of them Anglo-Saxon. That gave me one more opportunity to witness colour prejudices in our society.

What are we as a nation capable of?

SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR Times of India SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2003:

“…India says the UN should sanction any war on Iraq. Did India ask the UN permission for its 1971 war with Pakistan? Not at all, it acted unilaterally. It used its buddy, the Soviet Union, to veto peace moves by the UN. Officially, India claims that Pakistan started that war through an air attack on December 3. In fact the Pakistan Air Force was simply responding to the intrusion of Indian troops into East Pakistan on November 21, an invasion reported by the international press but blanked out totally by the tame Indian press…”

3 comments:

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

I just found your blog when Google searching for a dimly recalled cartoon "Now, here's my plan." I wanted to refer to it as providing perspective on my idea for changing the structure of an online workshop that had been scheduled to begin this afternoon. The topic is Diversity, Engagement, and Technology [in higher education].

Now I'm intrigued by your blog. I like your sense of humor and choice of quotations. And I noticed your concern about diversity related issues from a very different perspective than that of most the people with whom I work.

If you're interested in corresponding about this more, perhaps participating in some of our online sessions, pls email to me at stevegilbert@tltgroup.org.

You can see more about our beginning work on Diversity, Engagement, and Technology at
http://www.tltgroup.org/fridaylive/dangerousdiscussions/diversityengagementtechnology.htm
and at
http://www.tltgroup.org/TailoredWebsites-gigs/LeagueCIT2007/DiversityEngagementTechnology.htm

I think that we should seriously consider the role of humor in our work on diversity, etc. and that we should humorously consider the more profound implications!

Thanks for your writings.

And, by the way, how did you find those cartoons and get them into your blog?

Steve Gilbert

Chetan said...

“But Bhajji won’t be racial. He’s our boy.”

This reminded me of FDR's quote on Nicaraguan President Anastasio Samoza

"Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

The tragedy is that Indians are shying away from acknowledging the crime that would qualify Harbhajan to be called a 'son of a bitch.'

Whether or not Indians are racists, however, should not be a used as an excuse for not protesting the fact that Harbhajan was convicted by Mike Procter without any unequivocal proof of his crime. That goes against the first principles of jurisprudence. So, even though it is a shame that our media which could have used this opportunity to explore the issue of racism and Indians' response to it in depth rather than pandering tp jingoistic tendencies,it should not justify condoning of Procter's faulty decision.

Also, this may be a point where I may touch a raw nerve of the other commenters of this blog and even with you, but, I think that left-liberals (socialists) have a tendency of confusing co-relation and causation. My grandfather (a staunch one) and my parents (not so hardcode) were socialists who admired the idealism of Sane Guruji and subscribed to Sadhna. There seemed to me a proclivity amongst them to favour social engineering in order to get rid of what they viewed as the ills of society. They believed, and still do, in the power of the state, the media etc to pass laws to curb these 'ills.' One just has to read Vijay Tendulkar's Kanyadaan to know the limitations of such an arrangement.

I know that the issue of racism, just like the caste system is not a simple one to address in a comment on a blog. However, let me share an anecdote with you regarding the use of Fair and Lovely ads and matrimonial ads seeking fair brides as means to establish racism in Indian society. I offered a similar argument to a conservative (Hindutvavadi) friend of mine. He counterposed a question to me saying that those same matrimonial ads also talk about height of the bride. You will always see a bias in every society around the world regarding a person's height and its relation in the context of beauty, marriage etc. He said that just as there were offensive words used against people of dark skin or skin colour different than your own such as negro, kalya etc., there are also offensive words in the context of people of short stature; such as, butlya, butkya, thengnya, midget etc. How many times, he asked me, had I objected to that practice, calling it Heightism? His reasoning was that so long as there is no 'direct' discrimination in society in terms of livelihood opportunities commensurate with one's abilities, motives such as racism, casteism etc. should be not be ascribed to such phenomena.

I know that this is part sophistry on his part and that caste and race are much more complex than to be discarded with such a frivolous analogy. However, the larger point remains. If, we (progressives in the society) want to raise objections on these issues we better argue with some causal examples where 'discrimination' has actually occurred on account of a racial/casteist slight rather than a call to 'soft' examples which may have other explanation apart from or in addition to 'racism/casteism' etc.

At this point I would like to say that my comments may seem juvenile here. I belong to a much different age group compared to you and the other commenters to follow your blog. As such, you and others may have already considered these points, pondered over them, have developed objections, counterarguments and after rearranging your views based on your experiences may have discarded. acknowledged, or supported the views I am pointing out here and yet may feel strongly about institutionalised racism. In that case please care to present your views and I would be glad to get acquainted with them and enlighten myself. My comments may make me seem to be someone who objects just for the sake of objecting. I just want to assure you that even though my comments mostly take a contrary position to what you have written, they are not meant to be derogatory or dismissive of your views. It is just that in my quest for understanding this world better that I present counterarguments to things I myself believe in, in order to clarify my own thoughts and to listen to and internalise objections to my own positions which may result from your comments defending your position against my objections.

So, all this explanation is a ruse to ensure that you take my comments in the right spirit.

This comment (and my allusions to socialistic tendencies) stems not only from this post alone but also from the endorsement you gave to the New Quest magazine. I am sure there are many literary reasons to endorse that magazine but the ideological bent provided by the article by Rangnath Pathare, part of which is available online, was infuriating in its arrogance stemming from ignorance. I know I am being blunt here and probably am being disrespectful towards the author in question. But if such intellectually lazy arguments and objections against globalization and its impact are all that socialists can come up with, I think they are seriously underestimating the intelligence and experience of their audience. I haven't seen such shoddy logic, blatant hypocrisy, patronisation and cherry picking of examples bolstering your viewpoint even in Outlook which is a self-proclaimed propaganda piece for left-liberal views.

Apropos to nothing, since you seem to be a fan of Mardhekar's poems and their interpretations, do you know Vinay Hardikar? He is the author of Janancha Pravaha and writes columns in various Marathi publications? Do let me know if you have read or heard about him. Thanks. Once again my apologies if I hurt anyone's views or have been unduly and unwarrantably harsh on views not reflecting my own.

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Thanks Chetan.

One request. Never apologize for what you express here as long as you do it with certain amount of decency. "son of a bitch" is fine!

You have done this not just with decency but grace. Thanks again.

Kanyadan. My favourite. All my life, since I read it, I have tried NOT to be "Kanyadan socialist"!

I am not sure if you miss my CENTRAL point sometimes. All I am saying is that it's likely Bhajji made a mistake as we all do and we must grab every opportunity to introspect.

I apologize to my wife and my son and many other people all the time because I think I make mistakes. Some times horrendous ones.

I am not opposed to globalization. I am its ardent supporter. I don't endorse NEW Quest. In fact, I endorse nothing other than some great writers like Marathi saint-poets, artists and some ordinary people who have been very kind to me and loved me without any conditions, like my mother and my wife.

I know Vinay Hardikar. He used to write for now defunct "Manoos". I haven't read his writing enough to post my comments on that.

Your comments are not juvenile at all. They are "young" and that is their beauty. I might say the same thing as you say here although I must say I don't write English as well as you.

Yes, race, caste are very complex. No easy solutions there. But doesn't mean we cannot try incremental things.

Lastly on my writing, remember John Maynard Keynes's words: "Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking".

I guess you too follow Keynes!