Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Reservations IX: I apologize


I have few favorite quotes that I keep telling myself. Sometimes, it’s amazing how a quote can influence someone so much. When in doubt, they act as guides and support you. They embolden you to take an action or give you encouragement to do something that’s deep inside you.

One of my favorite quotes (which I put in my profile) is:

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality. - Alighieri Dante

One could take a stand, be neutral or fight it out. There is a tendency amongst fiery youth to fight for a cause vehemently and vociferously. This has brought in many revolutions on the planet- both good and bad. The problem is when they do not want to see reason and want to uphold their belief no matter what.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. - Bertrand Russell

The problem is not with our youth, but with the way they are brought up. There is a practice inherent in our human evolution which involves parents teaching their kids lot of ‘rules’ to ensure their survivability. Example: It’s better to teach the kids to be wary of snakes instead of allowing the kid to experiment with it and find out. This teaching helped by sheer innocence and immense credulity on part of the kids is a very important trait in humans because it allows the kids to learn lot of stuff in a very short period of time so that they don’t have to waste time in experimentation to learn what many generations prior to them have already learnt. But there are some negative consequences to this teaching though. In addition to the basic skills and bare necessities, parents also teach kids their habits- both good and bad, customs- of religion and caste, idiosyncrasies, belief systems, and even prejudices. In an ideal environment the kid grows up to reevaluate what he has been taught, but that may not happen, especially when they are taught not to reevaluate. In societies like India, where the parents overdo that teaching part in selective direction, the kids grow up into youth and do not change their opinions on majority of the aspects.

I think there are two types of teaching- Intentional and Unintentional. Intentional teaching involves parent consciously teaching the kids- like how to pray, or ride a bicycle, eating habits, etc. Unintentional teaching could be dad smoking, mom scolding the maid, dad upholding secular principles while talking to others, mom talking negative against certain religions or caste, dad throwing garbage on the streets, etc. This kid who is trained to believe everything his parents teach also acquires these prejudices and habits without questioning them. While some kids are taught to reevaluate their learning, most others inherit all their parents' prejudices. For those who do not reevaluate, their ability to acquire new learning also diminishes and they continue to harbor the same prejudices all their life. If needed they fight vehemently and vociferously, blinded by faith. They do not know what they do not know and hence they seem to believe they know everything.

I am not young enough to know everything. - Oscar Wilde

I don’t consider myself wise. I don’t consider myself a fool either. I am in between somewhere trying to understand the complexities of this world. When in conflict or a dilemma, most often one can find the right path after certain amount of deliberation. Nobody needs media or other experts to deliberate it for them. But I guess most of them are just lazy. It’s extremely easy to believe than inquire.

Hence the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire. - Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s not like people cannot converge on a right path. It’s not like our eminent directors of institutes, business leaders, and famous doctors are not sensitive to the social issues of India. The problem occurs when accepting certain truths will shatter other truths that they already believe. Most often the right path is known to them, but it’s goddamn hard to take. When such path is actually found, many do not take it and move on to see if there is an easy one ahead.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened. - Sir Winston Churchill

In my discussions on Reservations I did not use too many statistics. Many are available at http://www.theotherindia.org/ I wanted myself to ask some basic questions and provide answers to instill healthy discussion and debate in a composed and calm manner instead of joining the bandwagon of jingoism. It pains me when I see NDTV or CNN-IBN covering sensitive issues. These journalists think they can ‘outsmart’ you. They phrase the question in such a way, that there is already a bias in that question though they feign equanimity. The debates are worse. People are shouting at each other. They are not ready to listen. I find it very immature- very childish in fact.

I borrowed the following from Gaddeswarup's blog

BenjaminFranklin at age of 81:

… for having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought were right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow the more apt I am to doubt my own judgement, and to pay more respect to the judgement of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error….

India needs a dose of maturity. I find it missing in the youth and unfortunately even in some of the so-called eminent role models. At least, it can be inculcated into our kids. They need to learn to deal with complexities of real life. Indian parents have a tendency to protect their kids all their lives never letting them go. Let go. Let your kids grow into mature adults. Let them learn to deal with complexities of life- let them know that AIDS exists and is spreading like wild fire in India, let them know that caste exists, let them know that they belong to a caste which was either oppressed or the oppressor. Let them know that a great portion of Kashmir is not with us. Let them know that we rule Kashmir at gun point and that we killed Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Let them know that nude paintings and sculptures of gods exists, in temples and in MF Husain’s art shows. Let them know that it’s OK to criticize and be criticized. Let them know that gender bias exists and teach them how to deal with it. Let them be OK with their color- whether they are fair or dark. Let them learn to respect other religions as well- so that they learn to be tolerant. Let them criticize their own religions, their rituals and traditions. Teach them not to throw garbage on the streets and set example by doing the same. The onus is on us, the present generation, to create the next generation far more mature than we are, not far more prejudiced than we are.

You must be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi

I will start with myself. I apologize.

I apologize to all my fellow low-caste Indians who have been discriminated, persecuted, and ostracized for centuries. Millions of you have died without knowing what it means to read or write, not able to appreciate the beauty of poetry or the music of art. This land is considered great for inventing zero, and you could not enjoy knowing mathematics. This land produced Arthashastra, but you had no idea what it was about. For thousands of years, we have denied you access to religious places, our village wells, and our schools. I apologize on behalf of all my ancestors who have ill-treated you.

I shall teach my kids to be more tolerant of other kinds of people. I shall teach them to respect the oppressed for the pain they have endured for centuries. I shall teach my kids the evils of discrimination and take them to villages. Hopefully they will grow mature to respect and tolerate special rights given to certain people. Hopefully my kid will be able to understand and respect why this backward-caste kid has special rights to get into this institution while he cannot. I sincerely hope he will not be out there protesting, fasting and groveling on the streets to secure a place for himself.

I apologize to all the women whose only duty in this world was to serve, feed and produce kids. You have been discriminated for centuries in this country. When your husband died, we put you on his funeral pyre to die. You had no identity other than being attached to another man. Millions of you died not knowing what it means to be heard.

Finally, I apologize to all minority religions in India. As majority, it is our duty to ensure you are not targeted, but we have failed many a times.

I sincerely apologize.

17 comments:

  1. I want to begin by congratulating you Sujai. After a long time I have come across writings which go against the grain of public opinion- truly creating a discussion. I would have to agree with you on some level. I remember reading headline after headline in India—dalit woman burnt, paraded, stoned...the worst part, it didn’t even make it to the front page. It gnawed at me to read it, to know that I belonged to a country which had settled to live with that.

    Any woman brought up in India can identify with being oppressed, the rural or the urban elite. We live with the fear of the worst kind of oppression- rape. Would I want men to be punished for that, have fantasies about a world where men are hanged for it? Sure. But I know that it's a therapeutic fantasy not a cure.

    Because I know that the men who have matured to true egalitarianism come from families where women live as equals, commanding respect not demanding it. Not from oppressive families or even from families where women are coddled and protected.

    I am using this as an analogy to the caste situation, well one because it is analogous, and two, because it’s an oppression living out on every street, every corner in India.

    Castes are concepts embedded in names, we can still work to make them go away. But gender is embedded in our reality. And yet I don’t aspire to a world where women are treated as ‘special’ and men are persecuted for the past wrong doings. Gender, even as a reality should become redundant when it comes to the quality of life of a human being.

    We’re the country of caste divides, entrenched patriarchies, corrupted leaders—but we’re also the country of the soul; home to the most pristine philosophy that teaches man that the real god lives inside each one of us. That there is but one reality that is manifesting as everything in the universe, from the most picturesque to the most grotesque.

    It might begin with an apology, but the answer to these divides should not end with anything less than complete acceptance and embrace. There is never going to be a world without fractions, does that mean we should lower the ideal and teach any less to our kids? We should strive to believe- that every Indian, the rich, the downtrodden, the poor, the crooked, the holy, the ignorant, the foolish, the smart—from any creed, any religion, is our brother. And our evolution is tied to their upliftment.

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  2. I completely agree with you Sujai.
    I am bowing before you.Its my honor.

    A SC guy

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    Replies
    1. Dear Sujai ,

      delight to see your views very openly on these hot issues , not sure you are still active on the blog as this looks like a 6 year old page , keen to know more about you ,
      Murthy B S
      Ex- Communist

      Delete
  3. Well..... As I thought more about it, I found that we allowed more than what we denied... In fact we have denied only one aspect and have allowed other aspects

    We allowed you to break a big rock... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to carry those stones... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to build temples... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to climb the top gopuram and carve statues... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to cut woods... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to make doors and windows... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to dig iron and gold... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to dig make locks and jewels... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to cultivate cotton and silk... we did not deny you then...
    We allowed you to stitch clothes... we did not deny you then...
    But when you wanted to worship the GOD.... We denied you the chance to stand in the temple....
    Instead you are not allowed to enter the temple as the "sanctum" will go.....

    The God is made up of the stone you broke and made, the doors are made up of the trees you cut and carved, the deity wears a dress you cultivated and stitched.... but alas the god cannot hear prayers in your languages or have you inside the temple..for the simple reason that the laws were made by us.....
    -----------------------------------
    Even we allowed you to dig the well, we did not deny you the chance to dig the well and let some of you die due to soil carving in..... but we did not allow you to drink
    ------------------------------
    School..... (if i repeat you are going to get bored)

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  4. Harsh truth and bravest to do it brother. Dr. Bruno's word cuts through everything. I stand with you.

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  5. Sujai, do you believe that you inherit the sins/fault of your ancestors? I too come from a Brahmin background, but am a muslim now. I will acknowledge that my ancestors did oppress the lower castes. But I don't see why I should apologize for it when I had no part in it.

    Regards

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  6. Anonymous:
    You don't HAVE to apologize for the sins/faults of your ancestors.

    Some DO and some DON'T.

    Not apologizing can perpetuate certain myths and misapprehensions in different groups.

    Apologizing can dispel them- where necessary.

    For example, in many instances, White Americans have apologized to American Indians and Black Americans. Christianity, after 400 years, apologized for many of its sins including that of trial of Galileo. This particular apology (of Galileo) is considered historic and changes the perception of Roman Catholics towards Galileo and therefore modern Science to a great extent. It also changes the perception of others towards Catholicism and its stands towards Science.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,230447,00.html

    One may argue that such apologies do not change the past. Agreed.
    But such apologies may help in avoiding the mistakes of the past!

    Apologies don't dramatically change the world, but help in changing perceptions, which in turn MAY or MAY NOT change the world!

    But there's nothing wrong in taking responsibility of your ancestors. If my father did something wrong to a community, I could go back to make amends by helping the same community. We inherit some of the achievements of our ancestors- like philosophy, science, freedom, etc. We are sometimes thankful.

    We also inherit some of their weaknesses- untouchability, discrimination, slavery, etc. We can be apologetic sometimes.

    But again, its not necessary to be apologetic.

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  7. http://navyashastra.wordpress.com/2007/02/12/hello-world/#comments

    Please endorse the following apology for untouchability and casteism.

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  8. only 12% of the population were literate in 1947.

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  9. Hi Sujai,

    To add another to the list:

    "We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers."

    -Carl Sagan

    Consider it praise earned for the insight you provided on a subject I knew nothing about really. I came across the blog when searching for vaastu debunking, and was hooked due to the amount of critical thinking you put into your posts. Keep it up.

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  10. Anil Gulecha:
    Thanks for the quote from Carl Sagan.

    Also, thanks for the kind words.

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  11. After 100 years, your grandson will apologize to same lower caste people for supporting reservation system which only favoured elite castes among their groups.

    Few OBC friends will apologize to poor among forward castes for introducing reservation system which promoted racism against them instead of eliminating casteism.

    Arjun singh's grandson will apologize for his grand father introducing system which can never be withdrawn in democratic setup even if objective is met

    VP Singh's grandson will apologize for his grandfather introducing reservation without even collecting basic details about their population,current status etc. He will be shocked to know that his father had used Mandal report which did extrapolation based on 1931 census in nonsensical way.

    Poor enrollment in higher education is the effect, cause of the problem is primary education. If headache is caused by cold, doctor gives medicine for cold, not for headache.

    After following 80 years of reservation, Tamilnadu data has showed that it has not benefitted Vanniyars and separate reservation was introduced for their group.

    After following 100 years of reservation, Tamilnadu data has showed that it has not benefitted Tamil muslims and separate reservation was introduced for them.

    Expect same trends at All india level

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  12. Dear Sujai,
    Please read the article 'Enter at your own risk' by Kumkum Chadha in today's Hindustan Times.I feel ashamed of myself as a Brahmin after reading this article.

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  13. Thanks for the link.

    Here’s the link for other readers:
    Enter at your own risk

    This article touches upon two things that I have been talking about in this blog. One is the continued silent discrimination in many parts of India, and the other is English as tool and weapon for emancipation of the downtrodden in India.

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  14. hello sujai,

    I have been reading your blog posts for a while now.I find your views really good at times and at times plainly impractical and baseless.

    This is not a particular comment on this post alone but generally.

    I would really like to know if you take up any active work to change the problems you mention on your blogs.

    If you state that by blogging i'm doing my part of the change, i would henceforth stop reading your blog.

    As of now I picture you as someone who is whinny and points out at all thats wrong BUT also has good analysis of it's source and a more than practical solution to it.

    I do not know if you have taken any steps to bring some change, but if you haven't and do not propose to, I would only have to categorise you along with all those NRI-in-films-who-return-to-India-and-talk-shit types.

    I hope I'm proved wrong because you have some really worthwhile points on issues.

    And as for identifying myself, I'm Prashanth from Bangalore.

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  15. Sujai:

    "I am not young enough to know everything" is actually from J. M. Barrie The Admirable Crichton, Act I (1903). It was misattributed to Oscar Wilde.

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Oscar_Wilde

    ReplyDelete

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