Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby ramana » 14 Jul 2014 08:45

A Gupta

Republicans agree the old order is dead and they need to rebuild with Indian help.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby shiv » 14 Jul 2014 09:15

A_Gupta wrote:PS: so is India a nation? I would say India is a political unit of the kind the world has not seen before.

Yes.

There is a reverse (and perverse) way of parsing this fact - a way that is completely unacceptable to the "modern" mind who might be enthused by the "universalism" that is being thrown around.

Let me state it this way, by using reductionism (cut open, dissect, magnify, analyse)

Assume first that India is a unique and functioning political unit

Ask what makes it a functioning political unit

Study Indian society and detail and note down your findings. In my notebook India has
  • poverty and wealth
  • inequality with no specific demand that it is everyone's duty to change that inequality
  • Freedoms that are alien to most other cultures - drugs, alcohol, nakedness, necrophilia, worship of humans, worship of idols, worship of gods
  • Light complexioned people who live among and intermarry with dark complexioned people and still do not have any laws to stop one complexion from claiming physical superiority over another
  • Ugliness and beauty coexist side by side with no demand that one be removed in favour of the other
  • Decay and renewal occur side by side. Nothing is complete. Everything is always undergoing some process of building or decay
  • Vegetarianism exists as a separate entity
  • Knowledge is respected
  • Age is given respect - at least lip service (in practice more)
  • piety is respected
  • No religious belief is disallowed
  • Being critical of any religion is not considered right, peoples' rights to believe what they want is respected
  • No standard way of dressing is expected. Anything is allowed in public
  • Poverty and starvation is allowed as a conscious choice and accepted as a factor that can exist in a population
  • Four religions and a fifth (variant of Islam) have arisen and acquired a significant following

In any working system the sum total effect of all the internal working components can logically be assumed to be necessary to give you the functioning whole.

Using this logic it can be assumed that in order to have a unique functioning political unit in India, the internal details (in the list above) are essential components. Unfortunately many or most of those components are considered wrong.

But if India has survived as a political unit for 5000 years with such a system who is to declare that the internal details are wrong. They must be right.

The argument I have made above is something on the lines of "If it exists, it must have done what it takes to exist. If it survives, it must have done what is right to survive, so one must study and emulate that to survive"

Before any comparisons can be made with anything else, political system or society that has also survived, one has to determine that comparison can be made at all in terms of linguistic and physical diversity

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby member_20317 » 14 Jul 2014 12:48

KrishnaK wrote: Homosexuals marrying and adopting children has bearing on morality how ? Why not stop infertile people from marrying then ? That social freedoms *should* not be subject to religions mores is the whole point. Not doing that is what results in a Pakistan. You can chose to go that route, only no good will ever come of it. That's what makes it universal.


Because infertile people can still discharge all responsibilities of being fathers and mothers should they choose.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby member_23692 » 14 Jul 2014 16:38

ramana wrote:rsangram, Dhritarastra is forced to appoin Yuddhistir as the Yuvaraj due to the peer pressure from the citizenry or janasamudhayi. Please read our RayC uncle's book "From Parkishit to Latter Guptas" by Hemachandra Raychaudhri about the importance of the populace for affirming the coronation. An India raja was a head of state. Yes it was dynastic. The book is in archive.org.
However HRC provides examples of what happened when there was no janasamudhayi.

They lost their head short answer.


Why did then Dhritrashtra not give Pandavas five villages then ? Was the "janasamudhayi" not for it ? Was the "Janasamudhayi" for the Mahabharata war ?

By your definition of informal pressure from the citizenry then, Saudi Arabia is a democracy, because unlike Hastinapur, it has a formal citizens body call the Majlis-e-Shura that advises the King. Jordan is a democracy then, as it actually has an elected Parliament and Kuwait too, as they have elections. Egypt, of course is a model of democracy, it had two elections in last three years and no one is a bigger democrat than President Assad of Syria, unless of course you consider the case of our esteemed neighbor, Paki, which can boast of not one, two elected leaders in a row. And of course, we ourselves, have the world's largest elections, but once the elections are over, there is nothing democratic about the functioning of the Indian government and the state governments. Particularly the state governments are nothing but elected dictatorships working solely on the dictates of the Chief Ministers, who act like regional strongmen. There is no accountability of politicians and babudom to common man. Have you ever seen even a low level babu such as a deputy collector interacting with a common man and the manner ? A common man cannot even see babus of collector level or police official of SP level and if they do manage to see them during "visiting hours", they are given a sum total of 15 seconds each and the attention worth minus 15 seconds.

That is the reason, if you read my earlier post, I had requested that we define the word "democracy" or at least list out the top 10 features that are necessary for a system to be called a democracy. This listing out of the top ten features, will still accommodate the various forms of democracies, but still provide us with clarity of what we can call a democracy and what we cannot.

And all this talk about "democracy" being the only way "we know" to govern a billion people with 22 languages and regional variations, is all complete nonsense. Regions are always and will always be held together by a combination of force and common interests. Even in a democracy such as ours, a pacifist country such as ours (in relative terms to the rest of the world) is having to use force in almost one thirds of our provinces (half if you take naxals into account), to keep India intact. Some may argue not enough force is being used because our so called "democratic" system inhibits us from being decisive and integrating the country better. But the fact is that we are having to use force, and if we just leave it to "democracy" we will have 22 Indias in no time. "Democracy" is the only way is complete non-sense. China proves it. Mauryas proved it. Rashtrakutas proved it. Gurjar-Pratiharas proved it. Palas proved it. Mughals proved it. Do people really think that the misery index of the general populous is better today, despite all the economic growth over the past two decades, than it was during the Mauryan times or Pala times ?

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby ramana » 14 Jul 2014 20:14

rsangram, You need deep therapy sessions if you equate KSA with Hastinapur and not on this thread.
No one can awaken some one who wants to be in stupor.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby member_23692 » 14 Jul 2014 20:53

ramana wrote:rsangram, You need deep therapy sessions if you equate KSA with Hastinapur and not on this thread.
No one can awaken some one who wants to be in stupor.


I did not equate Hastinapur with Saudi. I only said that if Hastinapur can be understood to have "democracy" because sometimes Dhritrashtra yielded to public sentiment, then Saudis can claim it too and Hitler could have claimed it too. This does not mean that Dhritrashtra and Saudi are by any stretch of the imagination, equal equal. Far from it. They couldnt be more different. But lacking a firm definition and boundaries of what "democracy" means, anyone can and actually does claim that they are democratic. Dhritrashtra was a human with two hands and two legs. Saudis can also claim to be human because they have two arms and two legs. Does not make them equal equal, does it ? I think if Dhritrashtra could claim some democratic leanings, so can Saudis, in my opinion. But that is where similarities end.

Your taking offence is understandable, but that is what "relativism" does. Anyone can claim they are a "democracy".

I have no problems agreeing with the Saudis, when they claim that they have elements of "democracy". Because, I do not necessarily equate "democracy" with "good". I think "democracy" can be "evil", as evil as "non-democracy". That does not mean that it can never be good, but it can be and in most cases has been very evil. Practically all of the British colonialism occurred while it was a "democracy". We all know what Massa can sometimes do.

I think your problem Ramana is not so much that I equated Dhritrashtra with Saudi (I myself will have a problem with that), but that I am somehow challenging the notion that "democracy" = "always good" or at least "always the best".

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby ramana » 14 Jul 2014 20:54

No my problem is you are needlessly combative. I would urge you to introspect for you will get banned with that attitude.
Slender is the thread between being combative and going postal.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby member_23692 » 14 Jul 2014 21:04

ramana wrote:No my problem is you are needlessly combative. I would urge you to introspect for you will get banned with that attitude.
Slender is the thread between being combative and going postal.



No intention to being combative at all. Merely trying to make a point.

See, I do not see any evidence that India had any tradition of democracy, as it is known today. Consultative bodies are as far as we went, I think, even in the times of Republics. I do not look to our scriptures as evidence of any democracy. And not having democracy, I contend, did not stop us from being a great civilization. Therefore, attempts to "locate" democracy in our tradition will be manufacturing it and it will be akin to attempting to claim that missiles, airplanes, space travel were also Indian concepts that the West borrowed. And we can then try to attribute that to "Garuda" and "Brahmastra" in our scriptures.

I think all of the above does our culture and traditions a great disservice. We dont need to claim to have come up with every human idea to be great. We dont need to project ourselves as something that we are not. What we really were is sufficiently great to put us in the "great culture" category. We dont need to exaggerate. Exaggeration merely exposes us as insecure and not comfortable in our own skin.

And in case of democracy, we are trying to claim as ours, what in my mind is a pretty useless concept, merely because it is in vogue at the moment. That is the height of insecurity and attempting to be what we are not. Claiming "democracy" as an Indian concept is like claiming that "a heavy wool overcoat" is an Indian concept.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby KrishnaK » 14 Jul 2014 21:47

shiv wrote: It does not take away any of these things. But it is hardly "Universal". It has not been accepted or does not work for over 2 billion people. Judging anything by its successes tells only part of the story . You need to look at the failures as well to be really honest

It is considered the best by those for who it works, but those people who claim that it is the best are unable to say why it works for some and why it does not work for others. No crime in that - but calling such a system "Universal" is a lie. The problem is calling things "universal" when they are not. There are a lot of seemingly "good ideas" that are not universal. Democracy is hardly universal.
Universal doesn't mean that it's universally accepted. It merely means it is universally applicable. Like all human beings *should* have the right to life. Like penicillin and division is universally applicable, no matter what the language, culture religion they're applied in.

Homosexuals marrying and adopting children has bearing on morality how ?

Let me answer this by a counter question. Why is paedophilia immoral? How does sex with a child have any bearing on morality?
I can't quite believe you're asking me this question. A minor is not capable of giving consent. While different countries might have varying limits on the age, almost all of them believe there is a point below which a child is not capable of giving consent. That such a bar needs to be set.

If you stop to think before unquestioningly agreeing with western views, you might notice that "morality" is different in different cultures. In Hindu culture men do not marry men. That constitutes immorality. It laughable for you to claim that men marrying men is a "Universal" phenomenon.
If you were to stop before making absurd claims and examine western *claims* you'll see they're based on rational ideas. In Hindu culture sati, whether it be because of apad dharma or wtfe, child marriage, sati, untouchability were all considered very moral. Hell killing infidels has been in muslim culture. Why shouldn't pakistan be allowed to continue with it pray ?

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby KrishnaK » 14 Jul 2014 21:58

rsangram wrote:And all this talk about "democracy" being the only way "we know" to govern a billion people with 22 languages and regional variations, is all complete nonsense. Regions are always and will always be held together by a combination of force and common interests. Even in a democracy such as ours, a pacifist country such as ours (in relative terms to the rest of the world) is having to use force in almost one thirds of our provinces (half if you take naxals into account), to keep India intact. Some may argue not enough force is being used because our so called "democratic" system inhibits us from being decisive and integrating the country better. But the fact is that we are having to use force, and if we just leave it to "democracy" we will have 22 Indias in no time.
It is just democracy in which the citizens of the country understand the need to use force. Every time they cast their vote, they accord the government the legitimacy to do so. They've also shown their disapproval of stepping beyond the limits as in the case of the emergency. I'm sorry your argument is nonsensical because it chooses to equate having to use force with democracy. The sheer stupidity of that argument makes me wonder if you know what you're talking about when you mean democracy.


"Democracy" is the only way is complete non-sense. China proves it. Mauryas proved it. Rashtrakutas proved it. Gurjar-Pratiharas proved it. Palas proved it. Mughals proved it. Do people really think that the misery index of the general populous is better today, despite all the economic growth over the past two decades, than it was during the Mauryan times or Pala times ?
None of them had a state as an independent entity. In the latter case the state didn't exist as an entity. It was Mauryan India or Mughal India. All the indian civilization, but no India as a clearly defined entity that survives that dynasty or the regime ruling the country as in the case of the PRC. The PRC will bite the dust just like the other ones will. The only way means, the only viable way to do it. You can try other ways, only they won't work out too well in the long run.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby member_23692 » 14 Jul 2014 22:25

KrishnaK wrote:It is just democracy in which the citizens of the country understand the need to use force. Every time they cast their vote, they accord the government the legitimacy to do so. They've also shown their disapproval of stepping beyond the limits as in the case of the emergency. I'm sorry your argument is nonsensical because it chooses to equate having to use force with democracy. The sheer stupidity of that argument makes me wonder if you know what you're talking about when you mean democracy.


There you go again.......

Who judges whether any state democratic or otherwise has the "legitimacy" to use force. You mean the "West" ? Every state has to prove its "legitimacy" to use force to the "West " ? "Legitimacy" is an empty concept that does not mean anything. Whoever has force, uses force. Democracies dont have any more "legitimacy" to use force than others, given everything else being equal. It is not the nature of the state that defines whether use of force is justified, it is the "cause" in question, whether it is moral or not, which defines whether the use of force is justified. The yardstick to judge whether it is a "just" cause or not, has nothing to do with whether a nation is democratic or not. That is where "civilization" comes into play. The greater the "civilization" the more they are likely to indulge in use of force for a just cause. That is why it is more important that a "civilization" endures, than a state endures. The state is merely a manifestation of a civilization, or it should be. If it is not, then it is an artificial state, not likely to endure, democracy or no democracy. If a civilization endures, then even if a state does not endure, the civilization will find a way to recreate a state in its own image. But if a civilization dies, and the state endures, that state, first of all cannot endure, devoid of any civilization, and if it is somehow artificially kept alive, it is a vegetable state, empty and meaningless.


None of them had a state as an independent entity. In the latter case the state didn't exist as an entity. It was Mauryan India or Mughal India. All the indian civilization, but no India as a clearly defined entity that survives that dynasty or the regime ruling the country as in the case of the PRC. The PRC will bite the dust just like the other ones will. The only way means, the only viable way to do it. You can try other ways, only they won't work out too well in the long run.


It is not important for a state to endure as an independent entity. It is important for a civilization to endure. This wierd democracy that India is practicing has resulted in a state without civilization. In fact it is a state built on negating the Indian civilization. We can have a dynamic civilization, we always were, where evils such as what you have pointed out, can be exorcised over time, through a self-modernizing mechanism, so I am not arguing for a static civilizational state. But there should be no stake for anybody to have a state survive without civilization. The Indian state, today, I contend is destroying our civilization and taking sustanance from its destruction. If the civilization endures, like I said, it will find a way to recreate another state in its own image.

Besides, I think you are factually incorrect too. The Magadha state for example sustained and not only survived intact, but flourished across many dynasties, from Ajatshatru's time. Many southern kingdoms flourished through several dynasties. If by survival of the state you merely mean existence with the exact same borders, well, borders can change even when there is no dynastic change or even in democracies. The Chinese are doing it everyday to democratic India. The Bangladeshis just did it via international arbitration to democratic India and the Kashmiris did it to democratic India by driving out the Pandits.

It is a fact that not only you, but many in India, even while they reject just about everything else Western, not only embrace our current practice of democracy, but become extremely possessive of it to the point of irrationality with a jihad like fervor. I dont understand this phenomena completely. The only thing I can think about as the cause is possibly China. Since India is so far behind China in just about everything, we try to console ourselves, some consciously, others subconsciously, that well, at least we have "democracy". It is this need for Indians to feel like they have something "on" the Chinese, that makes us hold on to our democracy with the kind of emotionalism that we do. But like every other form of denial inducers, which temporarily makes us feel good, like alcohol, drugs, jihadism, etc, this holding on to the democracy drug is not only not going to solve any of our problems, it is going to make it worse for us. This mindless holding on to "democracy" is only exacerbating the problem further by allowing us to waste time by denying the problem and delaying our facing up to the real problems.

We would do much better to admit that yes, we are behind the Chinese, democracy or no democracy, and we have many issues. The good news is that we have the civilizational heft and the where with all to catch up, catch up fast and even surpass the Chinese, if just put our minds to it and get into the sacrificial mindset, which our civilization has many examples of. We should let go of this "democracy drug", admit our shortcomings, work positively to restore our civilizational ethos, build a state based on our civilization, but which is dynamic and modern and go about solving our problems. Before we know it, we will have Chinese on their knees.
Last edited by member_23692 on 14 Jul 2014 22:41, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby Pulikeshi » 14 Jul 2014 22:37

rsangram wrote:And in case of democracy, we are trying to claim as ours, what in my mind is a pretty useless concept, merely because it is in vogue at the moment. That is the height of insecurity and attempting to be what we are not. Claiming "democracy" as an Indian concept is like claiming that "a heavy wool overcoat" is an Indian concept.


The risk in reply to ur post is the paradox of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object! :mrgreen:

  • 1000 yr old democracy in Tamil Nadu
  • The records of the Vedic (Republican assembly incantations of Rig Veda), Jaina texts, Baudha texts, Diodorus Siculus' work mentioning GanaSangha or GanaRajya - Heck even the Vrishnis were supposedly electing their chiefs... Even Amartya Sen wrote why democracy is not Western (albeit his masters did not let him say whence it came from...)Too many URLs too little time!
  • No one here is entirely free of having attempted to seek a pristine past, but to assume everyone is always succumbing to that is hubris. Democracy needs a Pagan setup as a natural base. Indeed, multiple gods means everything is done by negotiating between deities... Or in very Indian terms - Adjust onlee!
  • A much longer discussion is needed on why it is impossible to at the same time to optimise outcomes for a nation-state vs a civilisation - Artha Shastra gives some clues on these limitations and indeed even holds in your very contempt for the GanaSanghas for example and suggests means of manipulating such democracies...
  • A crisp understanding of Civilizational-State versus Nation-State (Westphalian) is in order... While one can agree that Democracy is not a Holy-Cow, it is harder to argue that a Nation such as India can be better governed by any other means with better results. If that is your case to be made, then let ur ideal system be described and heard.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby svinayak » 14 Jul 2014 22:54

Pulikeshi wrote:The risk in reply to ur post is the paradox of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object! :mrgreen:

[*] A much longer discussion is needed on why it is impossible to at the same time to optimise outcomes for a nation-state vs a civilisation - Artha Shastra gives some clues on these limitations and indeed even holds in your very contempt for the GanaSanghas for example and suggests means of manipulating such democracies...
[*] A crisp understanding of Civilizational-State versus Nation-State (Westphalian) is in order... While one can agree that Democracy is not a Holy-Cow, it is harder to argue that a Nation such as India can be better governed by any other means with better results. If that is your case to be made, then let ur ideal system be described and heard.[/list]

Thanks for a brilliant post and hope will put an end to the diversion in this thread

That link and the info needs to be taught in all the schools in India to show what the vast mosaic of Indian ruling order was more than several centuries before others started talking about it. Why is it not taught in school is a different topic for discussion.

Artha shastra itself gives clues to public based governance in the period when it was used.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby member_23692 » 14 Jul 2014 22:59

Pulikeshi wrote:
rsangram wrote:And in case of democracy, we are trying to claim as ours, what in my mind is a pretty useless concept, merely because it is in vogue at the moment. That is the height of insecurity and attempting to be what we are not. Claiming "democracy" as an Indian concept is like claiming that "a heavy wool overcoat" is an Indian concept.


The risk in reply to ur post is the paradox of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object! :mrgreen:

  • 1000 yr old democracy in Tamil Nadu
  • The records of the Vedic (Republican assembly incantations of Rig Veda), Jaina texts, Baudha texts, Diodorus Siculus' work mentioning GanaSangha or GanaRajya - Heck even the Vrishnis were supposedly electing their chiefs... Even Amartya Sen wrote why democracy is not Western (albeit his masters did not let him say whence it came from...)Too many URLs too little time!
  • No one here is entirely free of having attempted to seek a pristine past, but to assume everyone is always succumbing to that is hubris. Democracy needs a Pagan setup as a natural base. Indeed, multiple gods means everything is done by negotiating between deities... Or in very Indian terms - Adjust onlee!
  • A much longer discussion is needed on why it is impossible to at the same time to optimise outcomes for a nation-state vs a civilisation - Artha Shastra gives some clues on these limitations and indeed even holds in your very contempt for the GanaSanghas for example and suggests means of manipulating such democracies...
  • A crisp understanding of Civilizational-State versus Nation-State (Westphalian) is in order... While one can agree that Democracy is not a Holy-Cow, it is harder to argue that a Nation such as India can be better governed by any other means with better results. If that is your case to be made, then let ur ideal system be described and heard.


Yes, Pulikeshi. Yours is a thoughtful post, requiring a serious response.

First of all, we cannot discuss what you have written with any sincerity, if we keep all moving targets. In a discourse, if we dont have rules and allow ourselves all flexibility in argument and the opponent none, then it will not be a useful argument. So, if we are to discuss this seriously let us have some ground rules.

1) Let us keep going back until we find a point of agreement and then move forward from there. Because for any conversation, we have to have a starting point of agreement, not disagreement. I suggest we do this by arriving at the definition of the word "democracy", even a broad one, as a starting point. If we dont do that, we will keep defining democracy differently at different times to suit our argument of the moment.

2) Then, I for one, am open to the idea that if facts prove it, India might have some tradition of democracy in the past. However, let us agree, that it is not even close to the dominant feature of our civlization or culture. Let us not conflate tolerance, pluralism, co-existence, equal rights, with democracy. All of those are undoubtedly dominant features of our civilization but they existed across almost all systems of governance we have had historically, not just democracy, even if we had a culture of democracy in our heritage. And the ideas of tolerance, pluralism, etc, in our culture, were not a function of democracy, but a function of much deeper within us, they were the essence of our very beings, democracy or no democracy.

3) Yes, it is true, that while we should resist the temptation to find a "pristine past", as you suggest, we should also not treat everything as hubris. In fact, in my post, that is what I argue. I say, there is enough in our past, which is real and eminently provable, to make us great, we need not exaggerate, grope for straws or deny our shortcomings. It does us a disservice, if we exaggerate or deny. Having an agreement on this, which I hope we do, that there is enough in our past to make us great, we can then happily go about seeking, if we also had some healthy democratic traditions or not, with an open mind on both sides.

4) For the sake of argument, let us say we agree, that we had some democratic tradition, (and again, please dont conflate that with tolerance, pluralism etc, as those existed across all forms of governance and they exist INSIDE each Hindu), that does not necessarily follow that democracy even the Indian kind is the best form of governance for us today. We have had a tradition of kingship, and other forms of governance too, which were more widely prevalent. Let us debate on its own merit, which form of governance is more suited for us today. I am even open to a foreign form of governance, if it is more suited for us today. But this argument has to be won on its own merit, not whether in our history or traditions, we had democracy or not. Just because we find some whiff of democracy back in our history somewhere, we cannot automatically assume that, that alone justfies democracy as the best form of governance for us today.

To recap, let us define what "democracy" means and then embark on its search in the annals of our history and culture.

And let me request to you, what I requested of another poster earlier in this thread. This is to educate me and others.

Can you or someone else, whoever is knowledgeable about these things elucidate on the following.

1. The concept of democracy and its theory, as explained in our Hindu scriptures

2. The differences between ancient Hindu concept of democracy and the concept of Greek and even the modern democracy in the West(which the West claims as its own conception)

3. A list of states in ancient Indian history that practiced various different forms of Indian democracy (for example, the Western republics, during Alexander's invasion) and the main features of their democratic systems. Did ancient India also have different variations of democracy and if so, please explain the differences. (Your link is an attempt to answer this question but if you can answer it more fully please).

4. The difference between actual practice of democracy in ancient India and the way democracy is practiced in the West today

5. Is Indian democracy as practiced today closer to the ancient Indian conception of democracy or the Western conception of democracy

6. How Indian democracy as practiced in India today different from ancient Indian conception of democracy

7. If we were to start over and are restricted to only democracy as a system of governance in India, what would be the main features of an ideal democracy for India today, in your view ?

8. Before you do any of this, please start by defining democracy and the top 10 essential features that makes any system a democratic system, eastern or western (in other words, after defining democracy, please explain if the conception of western democracy is the same animal(different individuals, but same species of the animal, called democracy) as the ancient Indian conception of democracy or we are merely calling them both democracy and one is a racoon while the other is a cayote ?

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby RamaY » 14 Jul 2014 23:19

What is democracy?

* On one extreme stands an individual imposing himself on the people as their ruler. This is also some kind of democracy as long as the (silent) majority doesn't revolt against the ruler, this giving silent consent.

* On the other extreme is where every citizen has an equal right to propose his/her preferred candidate. But for a country like India, it means >120crore possibilties. Even here the majority can be silent by having democratic rights like DC (Dont Care) options or voluntary absence.

In between these two extremes lie different flavors of democracies -

* One of the common scenarios is where willing candidates stand for elections and win majority votes. Here too the definition of winning candidate (first pass to top or >50% votes or >90% votes etc.,)

* Another scenario is where only limited (one or two or three...) number of parties are allowed to put their candidates for election.

* Another scenario is indirect-election where elected representatives at lower levels electing national level leadership.

* Another scenario is (close to the 1st extreme) is where the current president/king recommends a candidate for an indirect election by village leaders (who are directly elected by their people).

rsangram ji - India has all these flavors of democracy in different parts and different periods much much before the greeks.

Then comes the question of contract between the state/Rashtra and its citizenry. In his famous speech Sri Pranab Mukharjee talked about the limitations of this contract, especially when it comes to civilizational aspects of that nation-state indicating that India after-all is an imposed construct (otherwise why would there be a civilizational confusion about it?).

The next question is what is this public mandate for? To determine everything from defining idea of that very nation-state to state religion to personal lives to deciding when/with-whom to go to war?

And finally what kind of democracy it is if the citizens do not have a right to remove those very leaders whenever the contract/trust is broken? In what way 1month duration is better/worse than 4yrs or 5yrs or life long?
Last edited by RamaY on 14 Jul 2014 23:23, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby Pulikeshi » 14 Jul 2014 23:20

rsangram wrote:8. Before you do any of this, please start by defining democracy and the top 10 essential features that makes any system a democratic system, eastern or western (in other words, after defining democracy, please explain if the conception of western democracy is the same animal(different individuals, but same species of the animal, called democracy) as the ancient Indian conception of democracy or we are merely calling them both democracy and one is a racoon while the other is a cayote ?


What does this have to do with western universalism?
Also, u conveniently dodged my question on what system works for India, if not democracy?

Also, on a semi-serious note - I am intentionally dodging ur questions (for now) simply because the questions u ask are post-colonial and no strong academics in India or elsewhere have picked it up.... Hearing my views on the subject will do you no good - I'm not an academic, thinker, scientist, brf oldie, bradmin, etc. :P better option is for you to pursue ur questions by following the links several of the contributors, on brf have provided over the years... This is not the first time this has been discussed.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby member_23692 » 14 Jul 2014 23:40

Pulikeshi wrote:
rsangram wrote:8. Before you do any of this, please start by defining democracy and the top 10 essential features that makes any system a democratic system, eastern or western (in other words, after defining democracy, please explain if the conception of western democracy is the same animal(different individuals, but same species of the animal, called democracy) as the ancient Indian conception of democracy or we are merely calling them both democracy and one is a racoon while the other is a cayote ?


What does this have to do with western universalism?
Also, u conveniently dodged my question on what system works for India, if not democracy?
Also, I am willingly dodging ur questions (for now) simply because the questions u ask are post-colonial and no strong academics in India or elsewhere have picked it up.... Hearing my views on the subject will do you no good - I'm not an academic, thinker, scientist, brf oldie, bradmin, etc. better option is for you to pursue ur questions by following the links several of the contributors, on brf have provided over the years... This is not the first time this has been discussed.


No, no, no, no. You may be admitting to willingly dodging my questions, but I was not really dodging your questions at all.

Look, the questions I asked you were going to be my foundation for answering your question. If you define the word "democracy" as something which I might think is a good way for governance for today's India, then I wanted to keep the option open to agreeing that "democracy" is the right way. If you defined the word "democracy" in a way which I thought was not a good way to govern, then I would present an alternative.

However, you cannot ask me, "what this has to do with Western Universalism" and "answer, what the best form of governance is", in the same breath. Already you are implying that we are going OT on the thread, and with my recommendation on governance, we would be really really going OT.

Is there another thread, where it is more suitable to discuss various forms of governances, their merits and de-merits and what might be best applicable to us ? Please suggest a good existing thread. If not, shall we open one just for that purpose, if there is interest in the forum to discuss this, at least if you are interested in exploring this further ?

To even answer your question about Western Universalism, let me make an attempt. One of the tenets of Western Civilizations, which they call Universal is this "reformation" idea or even an earlier "Magna Carta" idea that each individual has rights, which are kinda inalienable rights. An individual then trades these rights for various things, in the market place and also as part of the social contract. They claim that this is a universal idea that each individual, no matter who he or she is, has these inalienable rights. They claim that it is universal. Therefore, democracy is an outcome of this universal idea of each individual having certain inalienable rights. This is how Democracy relates to the idea of Western Universalism.

The Indian concept, if I understand our "thought" fully, is that it is not overtly "rights" based. We dont talk in terms of individuals having "rights". Our tradition is more in line with each individual has his "dharma", meaning his responsibilities. In our culture, "rights" are a given. They need not be pronounced. Each human has God within him and therefore, there is no question of a human having no rights. The concept of Dharma or responsiblity or even Karma is a little less intuitive, therefore, these are spelt out.

One of the reasons, I oppose the kind of democracy we practice today, is that we have adopted at this democracy's core, the Western universal idea of each individual having rights, rather than our own cultural ethos of responsibilities. That is why the entire Western world was extremely surprised, when Kennedy said, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country", when he switched the rights based approach to responsibilities based eastern (or shall I say, Indian approach). The result in present day India is obvious. Everyone exercises their rights and even the rights they dont have, while there is no talk whatsoever of responsibility..........responsibility, dharma, karama have all disappeared in modern India, not coincidentally, but because we are living in a overtly rights proclaiming democracy.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby RamaY » 15 Jul 2014 02:03

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gana

Many books of Sanskrit literature have used ganas and sanghas frequently. The famous Sanskrit scholar Pāṇini of 900 BCE has mentioned in his Sanskrit grammar known as Aṣṭādhyāyī in the form of shloka as जट झट संघाते or Jata Jhata Sanghate. This means that the terms 'Jata' and 'democratic federation' are synonymous.[2]

Pāṇini in his Sanskrit grammar used gana as:

संघोद्घौ गण प्रशंसयो Sanghoddhau gaṇa praśansayo

Narada smriti in Sanskrit mentions as:

It shows that the ganatantra (republic) system of rule was prevalent in India since ancient period.

In Shanti Parva (MahaBharata)
A detailed analysis of the GANAS obtains in chapter 108 of Shanti Parva in which Yudhisthira asks Bhisma about the ganas: how do they increase, how do they defend themselves from the dividing-policy of enemies, what are their techniques in conquering enemies and in making friends, how do they hide their secret mantras while in majority. Bhisma's answers to these questions have been recorded in the form of shlokas (verses) from 16 – 32 in Shanti Parva.,[2][3]

In Vedas
Ganas have been narrated in Vedas in the form of assemblies of warriors as is clear from the following sutras of Rigveda (RV 3-26-6):[2]

व्रातं व्रातं गणम् गणम् Vrātam Vrātam gaṇam gaṇam

Gana in brief means an assembly. Ganatantra (republic) means a state run by assemblies.

The representative members of clans were known as ganas and their assembly as sanghas, there chief as ganadhipati or Ganesha and Ganapati.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby svinayak » 15 Jul 2014 02:07

Please dont feed the troll

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby A_Gupta » 15 Jul 2014 02:36

I'm going to provide a quote, without linking to the whole long essay (by Giovanni Arrighi, Iftikhar Ahmad & Miin-wen Shih

As Disraeli pointed out in 1881, the key to India lay in London: British rule was not maintained for the benefit of the Indian, nor simply for the sake of direct British interests in India; the Raj was there to keep firm the foundation on which much of the structure of formal and informal empire rested. For London the twin imperatives of Indian policy were that the Indian empire should pay for itself and that Indian resources should be available in the imperial cause. (Tomlinson 1975, 338)

The fact that Western ideas of representative government could not be applied to India because India was not ruled for the benefit of the Indian, does not mean that coercive rule could dispense completely with an element of persuasion, not just to win consent at home for coercion overseas, but especially to facilitate the orderly exploitation of the newly acquired empire. Thus, coercive rule was rationalized through the construction of a body of "knowledge" about the Indian past and heritage, aimed at demonstrating both the unfitness of India for the institutions of representative government and the fitness of Britain to rule India by means of a "vigorous" despotism--a process now familiar to us as Orientalism (on Orientalist representrations of India, see among others Inden 1986; Guha 1992a; Prakash 1990).

Central to this construction was the portrayal of India as a society composed of implacably hostile communities, castes, cultures, and religions--a portrayal which was used over and over again to deny liberal democratic reforms. In 1861 when the Indian Council Act was being debated in the House of Commons Sir Charles Wood, Secretary of State for India, insisted that "you cannot possibly assemble at any one place in India who shall be real representatives of the various classes of the Native population of that Empire" (quoted in Coupland 1942, 21). In 1892 electoral reforms were restricted because, in the words of the then Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, "representative government was `not an Eastern idea,' that its introduction in India would be the gravest possible `parting of the ways,' that it only works well when `all those represented desire the same thing,' and that it puts `an intolerable strain' on a society divided into hostile sections." And even in 1909 only very modest measures were introduced because in the words of A.J. Balfour,

"....representative government... is only suitable...when you are dealing with a population in the main homogeneous, in the main equal in every substantial and essential sense, in a community where the minority are prepared to accept the decisions of the majority, where they are all alike in the traditions in which they are brought up, in their general outlook upon the world and in their broad view of national aspiration. (Quoted in Coupland 1942, 26).

British coercive rule was thus commonly presented in Indian and imperial historiography as a continuation of indigenous political traditions. The claim was lent credence by the British adoption of some of the symbols, rituals and pomp of the Mughal court. But the claim conveniently ignored that, behind the glitter of these symbols, rituals and pomp, the actual power of previous rulers of the Indian subcontinent had been far less centralized and despotic than imagined and practiced by their British successors.


Now we have quite the opposite, rsangram is telling us that democracy is the only way to keep this inhomogenous, unequal, etc., etc., population united, where the British were claiming that democracy was the last and worst way to do it.

The issue, to me at least, is not whether India had democracy in the past or whether this is a purely western idea or whatever. The idea is to understand how "democracy", whether partly or wholly imported or not at all imported, serves Indian interests and and helps solves problems, like the "communal problem" or the "secularism problem" or the "corruption problem" or anything else you choose.

To work well, democracy has to be well-rooted in Indian culture. As implied in previous posts, a culture in which the way to handle disagreements is to fight is not suited for democracy. If that was the Indian inclination - to settle disagreements by fighting - then either "democracy" or Indian culture would have to change, would it not? (e.g., maybe like Ataturk's Turkey, India would have needed the Army to be a guarantor of the stability of the state.)

In Independent India, Indians have created something that is running reasonably well for the last 67 years -- but it certainly needs improvement. What Indians created should not even exist per the best Western theories. Resorting to Western theory in order to improve the Indian state is thus likely to be futile or even counter-productive. Therefore we need our own understanding of this "democracy", why it works somewhat, and doesn't work in some ways, in the Indian context, and how to engineer it further to improve it.

I for one, am not interested in "what are the 10 most important features of democracy" and other such questions. If Indian democracy works only in India and not in Botswana or Bolivia, that doesn't bother me in the least bit. I am not looking for universal application. The whole "Western Universalism" is that their mindset is that any useful thing must work in all places at all times. My mindset is that universalism is good for mathematics and the natural sciences; but much less so or not at all for religion/dharma, morals & ethics, politics, music or art. Or cuisine. The latter things are highly context-sensitive.

Just to take a trivial example about this kind of thing - should India have the death penalty or not? This should not be determined by the Europeans' opposition to the death penalty, or the American support for the death penalty. This should be determined by what works best for India's welfare - and that cannot be determined by theories of human rights or victims' rights that come from Europe or America, respectively. These theories can certainly inform us, but the answer has to come from within.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby ramana » 15 Jul 2014 03:39

svinayak wrote:Please dont feed the troll



Which one?
:rotfl:

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby KrishnaK » 15 Jul 2014 04:49

rsangram wrote:
KrishnaK wrote:It is just democracy in which the citizens of the country understand the need to use force. Every time they cast their vote, they accord the government the legitimacy to do so. They've also shown their disapproval of stepping beyond the limits as in the case of the emergency. I'm sorry your argument is nonsensical because it chooses to equate having to use force with democracy. The sheer stupidity of that argument makes me wonder if you know what you're talking about when you mean democracy.


There you go again.......

Who judges whether any state democratic or otherwise has the "legitimacy" to use force. You mean the "West" ? Every state has to prove its "legitimacy" to use force to the "West " ? "Legitimacy" is an empty concept that does not mean anything.
:rotfl: , the obsession with the west here is hilarious. Anyone and everyone is free to pass judgement, which the west freely does. The only ones that matter are the Indians. Undies bunched themselves, blood pressures rose, conspiracy theories of social engineering were made when the economist put out it's editorial on whom Indians should vote for. They have the right to voice their opinion and they did. Most Indians couldn't possibly care less.

You clearly have this absurd idea that India's democracy is to demonstrate something to the west. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The rest of your post (really all of it, so I'll stop responding on this topic) is a bunch of nonsensical paki rants, not worth responding to.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby A_Gupta » 15 Jul 2014 08:04

This following is from "The Righteous Mind...", by Jonathan Haidt:

In 2010, the cultural psychologists Joe Henrich, Steve Heine, and Ara Norenzayan published a profoundly important article titled 'The Wierdest People in the World?".

The authors pointed out that nearly all research in psychology is conducted on a very small subset of the human population: people from cultures that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (forming the acronym WEIRD).

They then reviewed dozens of studies showing that WEIRD people are statistical outliers; they are the least typical, least representative people you could study if you want to make generalizations about human nature. Even with the West, Americans are more extreme outliers than Europeans, and within the United States, the educated upper middle class.....is the most unusual of all.


So, the "universality of psychology" is in doubt, no?

Several of the peculiarities of WEIRD culture can be captured in this simple generalization: The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships.


I think this next is related to the discussion about human rights.

It has long been reported that Westerners have a more independent and autonomous concept of the self than do East Asians. For example, when asked to write twenty statements, beginning with the words, "I am....," Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).


With Asians, Indians included, the "self" is constituted of relationships. Not merely by the biological fact of being someone's son, but by playing the role of a son, one is a son; by playing the role of mother, one is a mother. The Asian "self" is diminished

The differences run deep; even visual perception is affected. In what is known as the framed-line task, you are shown a square with a line drawn inside it. You then turn the page and see an empty square that is larger or smaller than the original square. Your task is to draw a line that is the same as the line you saw on the previous page, either in absolute terms (same number of centimeters; ignore the new frame) or in relative terms (same proportion relative to the frame). Westerners, and particularly Americans, excel at the absolute task, because they saw the line as an independent object in the first place and stored it separately in memory. East Asians, in contrast, outperform Americans at the relative task, because they automatically perceived and remembered the relationship among the parts.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby shiv » 15 Jul 2014 08:05

KrishnaK wrote: Universal doesn't mean that it's universally accepted. It merely means it is universally applicable. Like all human beings *should* have the right to life. Like penicillin and division is universally applicable, no matter what the language, culture religion they're applied in.


I do agree with this. All I am pointing out is that what is being pushed as universally "applicable" is not universally acceptable. The presumptuous idea that something that is not acceptable to someone else can be "applied" on them is coercion. Anything coerced cannot be a universal ideal. Just stop calling it universal and then putting disclaimers.


A minor is not capable of giving consent. While different countries might have varying limits on the age, almost all of them believe there is a point below which a child is not capable of giving consent. That such a bar needs to be set.

Whose bar?

If you were to stop before making absurd claims and examine western *claims* you'll see they're based on rational ideas. In Hindu culture sati, whether it be because of apad dharma or wtfe, child marriage, sati, untouchability were all considered very moral. Hell killing infidels has been in muslim culture. Why shouldn't pakistan be allowed to continue with it pray ?


Why not allow those people to follow their culture? How irrational is it to allow people to make their own choices? Killing infidels is still normal in Pakistan. If Hindus want to follow Sati shouldn't they be allowed to decide? After all "democracy" is one of the ideals that Indians seem to like. If they democratically decide that they want Sati why should anyone else worry about it? Indians need to decide whether they want sati or whether they want homosexuals to marry. The decision should come from Indian society and not some model that is simply imagined to be "Universally applicable". If India decides that sati is unacceptable and homosexual marriage is also not acceptable, it is completely absurd to insist that India's views on sati are correct but its views on homosexual marriage are wrong. In short the rules that you claim are universally "applicable" are definitely not applicable and will not be applied.

If it bothers you that someone is anti west - that should not disrupt your ability to think objectively. One does not have to be pro or anti west to understand what that the things being pushed as "universal" include a whole lot of unacceptable nonsense that are generally imagined to be "universal" in the west. It might be tough to swallow that but I think people who push these "ideals" are going to learn soon enough.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby A_Gupta » 15 Jul 2014 08:17

Continuing Jonathan Haidt in "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion", published 2012:

Related to this difference in perception is a difference in thinking style.

Most people think holistically (seeing the whole context and relationships among parts), but WEIRD people think more analytically (detaching the focal object from its context, assigning it to a category, and then assuming what's true about the category is true about the object).

Putting this all together, it makes sense that WEIRD philosophers since Kant and Mill have mostly generated moral systems that are individualistic, rule-based and universalist. That's the morality you need to govern a society of autonomous individuals.

But when holistic thinkers in a non-WEIRD culture write about morality, we get something more like the Analects of Confucius, a collection of aphorisms and anecdotes that cannot be reduced to a single rule. Confucius talks about a variety of relationship-specific duties and virtues (such as filial piety and the proper treatment of ones's subordinates).

You will realize that India is a non-WEIRD culture too, if you think about it.

If WEIRD and non-WEIRD people think differently and see the world differently, then it stands to reason that they'd have different moral concerns.

If you see a world full of individuals, then you'll want the morality of Kohlberg and Turiel--a morality that protects those individual and their individual rights. You'll emphasize concerns about harm and fairness.

But if you live in a non-WEIRD society in which people are more likely to see relationships, contexts, groups, and institutions, then you won't be so focused on protecting individuals. You'll have a more sociocentric morality, which means....that you place the needs of groups and institutions first, often ahead of the needs of individuals. If you do that, then a morality based on concerns about harm and fairness won't be sufficient. You'll have additional concerns, and you'll need additional virtues to bind people together.


Whether an individualistic or sociocentric morality is better is not the point; that there is a descriptive difference is what matters.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby shiv » 15 Jul 2014 08:21

This response is wrt to my ongoing exchange with KrishnaK

KrishnaK - this thread is about western Universalism

You have defended some of the ideas under discussion as being
1. Universally applicable
2. Rational

Who actually decides that something is universally applicable or that it is rational?

The reason I ask is that I believe absolutely anyone can do that. I can do that. OK it might not matter if I do that , but if I had the coercive power I could decide that something is universally applicable and rational and decide to "apply" it on everyone else.

What we are seeing today is a sort of civilizational conflict where the "west" has defined what is rational and what is universally applicable, but lacks the clout to "apply" that universally. The fact that you agree with those ideas and I disagree are both immaterial. But it is tough for a "western" civilization that has come so far in pushing its ideas and ideals globally. Western ideas and ideals are actually in retreat at this point in time and I personally believe that the west will have to rethink it own ideas where "freedom of expression" and "freedom to choose" can promote choices that the west do not think are ideal. If they don't do a rethink, it still ain't gonna help.

It is not as if other cultures did not have freedom to choose or freedom of expression until these concepts were invented and "applied". It is just that the history of western domination for 2-3 centuries reduced the freedoms of nations across the globe to express and choose from within their own cultures. There is now a resurgence of those freedoms and the choices being made are not in consonance with what the west defines as universal.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby A_Gupta » 15 Jul 2014 08:44

A gentleman named Shweder did field studies in Orissa, based on which he came up with three major themes of moral/ethical ideas. Jonathan Haidt describes them as follows:

The ethics of autonomy is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, autonomous individuals with wants, needs, and preferences. People should be free to satisfy these wants, needs, and preferences as they see fit, and so societies develop concepts such as rights, liberty and justice, which allow people to coexist peacefully without interfering too much in each other's projects. This is the dominant ethic in individualistic societies.


But as soon as you step outside Western secular society, you hear people talking in two additional moral languages. The ethic of community is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, mmebers of larger entities such as families, teams, armies, companies, tribes and nations. These larger entities are more than the sum of the people who compose them; they are real, they matter, and they must be protected. People have an obligation to play their assigned roles in these entities. Many societies therefore develop moral concepts such as duty, hierarchy, respect, reputation, and patriotism.


Actually no society is entirely one or the other. Different cultures give different weights to the different categories of ethics.

The ethic of divinity is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, temporary vessels within which a divine soul has been implante.d People are not just animals with an extra serving of consciousness; they are children of God and should behave accordingly. The body is a temple, not a playground...Many societies therefore develop moral concepts such as sanctity and sin, purity and pollution, elevation and degradation.


Haidt then reports on his own research within the US:

The (University of) Penn students spoke almost exclusively in the language of the ethic of autonomy, whereas the other groups (particularly the working-class groups) made much more use of the ethic of community and a bit more use of the ethic of divinity.


----------
Please understand this: I don't take Haidt or Shweder's stuff to be the final answers of any kind. I just want to draw attention to the facts that are true about any description of the world - that different cultures differ in their moral psychology. Haidt presented it in particularly succinct form, and so it is worth quoting. It is also clear that some aspects of "Western Universalism" are particularly products of WEIRD thinkers, and don't even hold true within Western societies (e.g, different sections of society differ in the weights they give to the ethics of autonomy, community and divinity).

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby ramana » 15 Jul 2014 09:13

In mid 90s it became EJversalism. Its now floundering.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby johneeG » 15 Jul 2014 11:22

Here is a scenario:
Two people X and Y go to a village. X and Y put a question before the village people,"will you give all your money to X or will you give all your money to Y?"

Both X and Y advance reasons for giving money to them and denounce the other. They do it very fiercely. The discussion is so intense and so fierce that all the villagers become emotionally involved. Everyone takes the side of either X or Y. Some villagers say that all the money should be given to X and some villagers say that all the money should be given to Y. Soon, they divide themselves into two groups and proceed to give money to X or Y. All the villagers themselves get into debt, but they compete with each other to give money to either X or Y. X and Y become rich while the villagers become debt ridden.

What the villagers don't know is that both X and Y are brothers. That means X and Y are related to each other and regardless of who gets the money, both X and Y share the money. Villagers became fools by opting for either X or Y. The right question that the Villagers should have raised is,"Why should we give our money to either of you?"

Another similar story:
A cock lays an egg on the very top of the mountain. Which side of the mountain will the egg fall? Right or Left?
The correct answer is: cock doesn't lay the egg. The trick in the above question is to give both options which are false. Regardless of which option is chosen by the answerer, he will be wrong. He has to understand that its a trick.

People are presented with two options which seem to be opposite of each other and perhaps mutually contradictory.
Captialism or Communism.
Individual freedom or social responsibility.
Liberalism or Conservatism
athiesm vs X-ism or athiesm vs Malsi or science vs Malsi...etc
...etc.

Liberalism vs Conservatism is generally the over-arching theme in the bhest.

Liberalism constitutes acceptance and celebration of homosexuality(and all sorts of other sexual pervertions), feminism, p0rn, drugs, alcohol, smoking, modern science, athiesm, divorces, promiscuity, single parents, ...etc.

Conservatism constitutes tacit acceptance of racism(perhaps with some nostalgia for good old days of colonialism), X-ism, suppression of women, waiting for the end of the world, evangelism, ...etc.

In short, this is presented as a dichotomy between Athiesm(science) vs X-ism or feminism vs male superiority.

But, regardless of which of these two systems are chosen, one is still under the control of the same elites.

Similarly, capitalism translates to corporations controlling and owning everything while the common people became debt slaves. While, socialism translates to govt owning everything and controlling everything while common people became citizen slaves. And interestingly the same set of elites are in control regardless of whether the govt is in control or corporations are in control.

This seemingly simple trick seems to work very well. It can even be used to provide an illusion of choice to people. The idea is to control both sides of the debate. In such a system, democracy will not be democracy because there is really no choice.

Basically, the game is rigged. For example, for a long time, kongis and left were seen as opponents of each other. But, they quickly came together to stop the saffron. It means that earlier they were only pretending to be opponents.

Similarly, most of these so-called choices are rigged in such a way that regardless of the choice that one makes, one is making a mistake. For example, the drugs issue.

Two choices are presented to people:
a) war on drugs: this translates to people losing their civil rights to the extent that they have to be ready to be raped by the cops anytime without any notice or legal document.
b) legalize drugs: this translates to people legally buying and selling drugs.

This is like asking a person whether he wants to be fried in ghee or in butter. Either way, he is going to get fried.

There is another angle to this. It seems that from WW I, they have added another dimension to this game. Even the Sunny Malsi is taken under the wings and co-opted. Obviously, it means that all those who threaten the dominance of this particular faction will become enemies.

There are only very few choices of making an independent choice.

From the system's point of view, the idea is to take people in a step-by-step manner
a) x-ism
b) liberalism
c) back to X-ism or oriental religion.

The first step is to make people give up the oriental religions and take up X-ism. Once people give up oriental religions, the system can start controlling it through its narratives.(This idea seems to be partly successful already) Then, the next step is for people to be taken towards Liberalism where they support and appreciate all the things that liberalism constitutes. Then, finally, they return to oriental religion(which is now under the control of system) or they go back to x-ism. Its like a circle in which people keep going from one to the other.

So far, it seems that the oriental religions like Buddhism and Hindhuism have managed to remain uncontrolled because of their decentralized system. If these religions were centralized, it would have been easy to infiltrate or subvert the the top hierarchy and take control of the religion. But, since these religions were decentralized(not by design, but by accident), they remained out of control. Yet, lot of FuD seems to be sown against these religions to turn people towards X-ism in places where these oriental religions are dominant.

In one of my previous posts, I had said that x-ism is not same as bhestern universalism. It seems that I have come full circle. Now, I am saying that X-ism and bhestern universalim seem to be dummy opponents of each other pretending to give people choice between choosing either bhestern universalim or X-ism. If both of them are rejected, then people are given the choice of Malsi. If this is also rejected, then oriental religions under the auspices of bhest are provided. The idea is to gain control of all ideologies, so that power can be perpetuated and monopolized.

So far, it seems that the bhest has been unable to gain control of oriental religions completely. So, they keep sowing FUD against it in various ways. Missionaries are useful in this purpose.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby shiv » 15 Jul 2014 15:58

The only thing that is "universal" across all peoples of the world is diversity in opinions, culture, beliefs and practices. By definition, that which is "local" cannot be universal. What this means is that "western" universalism is an oxymoron. "Western" is local to the west. It is not local to the east or south. If it is local it cannot be universal.

The claim that western universalism is "applicable" everywhere is an interesting one. "Applying" a local set of rules for one group of people to everyone else is by definition destructive to the beliefs and practices of other local people. It will either not work or it will have to be coercive, and forced on others with the excuse that what is local to the west should be universal to the entire world. By definition such coercive "application" abrogates the very rules that the west claims to live by - that of freedom to choose and freedom to pursue one's beliefs.

"Application" of western social mores on other people with the specious claim that they are universal is merely a restriction of the rights of the latter people, by tying them down to a system that others else feel is good for them, and therefore good for everyone else. It is interesting that SN Balagangadhara - in the excerpts posed by AGupta earlier also points out that the issue of "rights" as espoused by the west is a legalistic restriction of rights rather than a positive award of freedoms.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby prahaar » 15 Jul 2014 16:28

Shivji, Western Universalim is not contradictory to those who make that claim. There is an inherent belief in the superiority of "West" in having discovered the universal claims. So, more than a localization factor, the word "Western" in the term "Western Universal-ism" refers to appropriation of credit for having discovered the universal claims, due to superior {color, religion, education, etc..... }.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby ShauryaT » 15 Jul 2014 17:15

shiv wrote:"Application" of western social mores on other people with the specious claim that they are universal is merely a restriction of the rights of the latter people, by tying them down to a system that others else feel is good for them, and therefore good for everyone else.
The argument is these western social mores can be applied universally and that the social mores of other societies are at a lower state of human evolution. The argument is one of superiority of principles and values and therefore systems in the human evolution spectrum. The argument is there is nothing special about the fact that these values are practiced in the west, with their own evolution. The argument is other people can evolve to a version of the west using the same values, principles and systems. At its deepest core these ideas are linked to the idea that ALL of humanity is one brotherhood and it is in the service of mankind that these ideas should be propagated and if they lead to friction at times then so be it - for it is these ideas that in the western mind are the ones that would lead people from darkness to light - as they see it. Universality is not by fundamental fact or shared values or even voluntary but by behavioral and systemic change, by coercion, inducement or force is not the question - as they see it.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby shiv » 15 Jul 2014 17:51

prahaar wrote:Shivji, Western Universalim is not contradictory to those who make that claim. There is an inherent belief in the superiority of "West" in having discovered the universal claims. So, more than a localization factor, the word "Western" in the term "Western Universal-ism" refers to appropriation of credit for having discovered the universal claims, due to superior {color, religion, education, etc..... }.


ShauryaT wrote:The argument is these western social mores can be applied universally and that the social mores of other societies are at a lower state of human evolution. The argument is one of superiority of principles and values and therefore systems in the human evolution spectrum.


Lovely. Thanks for saying that out loud.

Now we need more Indians to commit themselves to agreeing with this. Or not.

Views and beliefs are personal choices and those who choose to subscribe to western universalism have every right to believe that the mores of the society that they come from are inferior and at a lower state of evolution. No one can really convince them otherwise and there is no need to try and convince them. Some people figure out the real meaning of such biased universalism earlier and others later.

What is important is for those who have managed to retain independent thought keep at it, because western universalism is a losing proposition. I did say somewhere in this thread that it reminds me of "Pakiness" - a blind conviction about one's own superiority. Such attitudes work best when the power to coerce is highest. As the power to coerce gets relatively reduced, the ability to enforce "my superiority over yours" is simultaneously attenuated.

Funnily enough an ideological battle, or even an intellectual one is unnecessary. Only an economic-military and perhaps demographic counterweight is needed. And in case no one thought of it - it is a civilizational struggle and the west's ability to stay as leader hinges at least in part on this. I don't see India going very far down the route of swallowing such stuff. If the Indian figures out that is is being conned - there's no telling what things will happen. I can see the beginnings of that in India - but more of that later.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby shiv » 15 Jul 2014 18:42

  • Legislators in Goa are saying "Pubs are western culture, close them"
  • Jeans have been banned as college wear for several years now.
  • A club in Chennai has been in the news because a man in a dhoti was not allowed to enter. The same rule holds true in one of Bangalore's elite clubs - jeans and T-shirts without collars and dhotis, chappals disallowed. Suits or collared shirts and shoes are mandatory
  • There are reactions against Valentines day celebrations from Hindu and Muslim groups
  • The Indian Supreme Court ruled against decriminalization of homosexual relationships on a technicality because the Court cannot rule against an existing act of the IPC - which I think has to be changed by an act of parliament. A court can only interpret and implement a law and cannot change it. The law says:
    Section 377, IPC reads as: “377. Unnatural offences.—Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.


    Of course "the order of nature" is something that is surely going to come up for debate, as well as dharma when the issue is eventually discussed in India. I do not see decriminalization of homosexual acts happening anytime soon, but this is just a personal impression.
  • Books that are likely to inflame Muslim or Hindu passions have been banned or more recently have been "voluntarily withdrawn" by publishers.

Many of these cases goes against something that we have been taught is right by western Universalism. Even BRFites, perhaps some who have argued vociferously against western universalism have expressed reservations about some of the examples I have posted above.

If we strictly follow the recommendations that western universalism promotes, we must
  • not blame western pub culture for Goa's social ills
  • Allow jeans and tank tops in college in addition to more traditional Indian dresses
  • I doubt if western universalism has any views on dhotis or Hawaii style skirts. Are elite clubs in India are doing the right thing? Formal wear is western formal wear.
  • It is good to express love. No one should have any trouble with Valentine's day
  • All books should be allowed as part of "freedom of Expression". Also works of art.
  • Parliament needs to amend Sec 377 of the IPC

But the reactions we see in India are what people, common man and lawmakers see as influencees that grate against what they instinctively feel is Indian culture.

My list is far from complete - there are dozens, if not hundreds of other things.

In India, western universalism is not going to go very far very soon. It's biggest following among Indians is among us the English speaking educated. As the "masses" get educated and more and more SDREs come into the opiniion making arena - I see tough days ahead for imposed universalism.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby ramana » 15 Jul 2014 19:46

A-Gupta, Thans for the excerpts from Righteous Mind.

So Western Universalism is built on the Descartian prinicple of individual autonomy which is only applicable at a micro sense and is also not natural.
It is thus not fitting with other societies which have the oter two moral languages.

I agree that a three axis graph can be used to show where people's mind fits.

Even in US many regions have non-WEIRD components of community and divinity. This is what causes the social tensions in US.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby shiv » 15 Jul 2014 20:21

A_Gupta wrote:This following is from "The Righteous Mind...", by Jonathan Haidt:

The authors pointed out that nearly all research in psychology is conducted on a very small subset of the human population: people from cultures that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (forming the acronym WEIRD).

Interesting stuff. Thanks for posting.

But no one gives a rat's ass for what psychologists say.

Look up the influence of violence on TV on behaviour, and the effect of pjornography on behaviour.

In every case the effects are individual and social. Yet in the west it is the individuals right to get what he wants that trumps any concerns over the negative effects on society.

May of us older codgers have directly observed the west "graduate" from a sexually conservative society to a wildly permissive society. The west has damaged its own society in many ways, but it appears that as long as there are a wealthy and happy core elite, what becomes of society does not worry anyone. In my view this is going to be bad in the long run - but hey what the heck, no one needs to care about what I think.

And since what i think does not matter much I will say what i think. Just like watching pjorn, or watching violence desensitizes the mind to such behaviours and encourages them, liberalizing homosexuality is also a self feeding phenomenon which the percentage of people indulging in homosexual behaviour in the population will gradually increase. And as it increases, it will be more justifiable to accept it as normal and nurture and protect the behaviour. The west is doing this - and here too I have observed over the decades a gradual change in western society.
Whether India should go this way or not will depend on what the Indian population chooses.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby KrishnaK » 15 Jul 2014 22:52

shiv wrote:
KrishnaK wrote: Universal doesn't mean that it's universally accepted. It merely means it is universally applicable. Like all human beings *should* have the right to life. Like penicillin and division is universally applicable, no matter what the language, culture religion they're applied in.


I do agree with this. All I am pointing out is that what is being pushed as universally "applicable" is not universally acceptable. The presumptuous idea that something that is not acceptable to someone else can be "applied" on them is coercion. Anything coerced cannot be a universal ideal. Just stop calling it universal and then putting disclaimers.
Universally acceptable is not a disclaimer. It was your misinterpretation in the first place. However that is in no way important. As in the case of the UN declaration of human rights, it is clear not all accept it. Did that stop independent India from boycotting Apartheid South Africa ? Why should India have tried to coerce South Africa ?


A minor is not capable of giving consent. While different countries might have varying limits on the age, almost all of them believe there is a point below which a child is not capable of giving consent. That such a bar needs to be set.

Whose bar?
Difficult answer. The bar should be based on experimentation and science however iffy. At least there is a rational argument to it. That there is an age, at which point a majority of children become capable of giving consent. There is no way to have it be very accurate, but at least some effort must be made to figure the right age. It could even be different for different cultures. That doesn't take away from the fact that it *should* be based on some rationale, not what some prophet did.

Why not allow those people to follow their culture? How irrational is it to allow people to make their own choices? Killing infidels is still normal in Pakistan. If Hindus want to follow Sati shouldn't they be allowed to decide? After all "democracy" is one of the ideals that Indians seem to like. If they democratically decide that they want Sati why should anyone else worry about it? Indians need to decide whether they want sati or whether they want homosexuals to marry.
Which Indians ? Clearly you can't be referring to those women or the homosexuals ?

The decision should come from Indian society and not some model that is simply imagined to be "Universally applicable". If India decides that sati is unacceptable and homosexual marriage is also not acceptable, it is completely absurd to insist that India's views on sati are correct but its views on homosexual marriage are wrong.
It is not absurd in any way at all. Indian law on homosexuality is regressive and as absurd as Sati back in the day it was being practiced or apartheid in south africa.

In short the rules that you claim are universally "applicable" are definitely not applicable and will not be applied.
Oh it will boss, it will. You see, the argument that these thoughts are universally applicable also imply that adopting those practices confer an advantage. A material advantage. If you assume two societies both of the same number and say close cultures (or whatever other variables there might be), one which educates and employs it's women much better than the other, will gain a material advantage. Even if the former doesn't manage to treat men and women *exactly* the same, it will still have an advantage over the other so long as it does better on that count. You can chose to do whatever you want and of course blame long running conspiracies, social engineering, the west ganging up with china or the jews & hindus to explain your material inferiority.

If it bothers you that someone is anti west - that should not disrupt your ability to think objectively. One does not have to be pro or anti west to understand what that the things being pushed as "universal" include a whole lot of unacceptable nonsense that are generally imagined to be "universal" in the west. It might be tough to swallow that but I think people who push these "ideals" are going to learn soon enough.
[/quote]
It doesn't bother me that somebody is anti west - what bothers me is exactly what you claim I should be doing is instead not being practiced by you. It doesn't matter what people find acceptable or unacceptable. Neither does it matter what the west and people that push there "ideals" will learn. What matters is whether those that don't understand those principles will learn or not. It would be unfortunate to not have them participate in the global economy as equals.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby A_Gupta » 16 Jul 2014 00:15

KrishnaK wrote:Difficult answer. The bar should be based on experimentation and science however iffy. At least there is a rational argument to it. That there is an age, at which point a majority of children become capable of giving consent. There is no way to have it be very accurate, but at least some effort must be made to figure the right age. It could even be different for different cultures. That doesn't take away from the fact that it *should* be based on some rationale, not what some prophet did.


Just curious - yes, Indians have had a low age of consent, etc., etc., -- but when was it ever justified by what some prophet did? Why do you think it might not have been based on experimentation and rational arguments, however iffy?

What I think is that practices come into being for rational reasons, because they are adaptive at the time the practices were started. I think very few practices start out as mal-adaptive. What happens is that practices become enshrined in customs, the original rationale is forgotten, and when the original reasons are no longer valid yet the custom continues to be followed. I think this happens when the "community memory" has been disrupted by catastrophes, such as invasions and famines; and when the community leadership has been decimated, so there is no longer any acceptable figureheads who can sanction the abandonment of some outdated practice. Then "this is the way we're doing things because this is (supposedly) the way we've always done them" comes about.

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby Rudradev » 16 Jul 2014 01:02

A_Gupta wrote:
Just curious - yes, Indians have had a low age of consent, etc., etc., -- but when was it ever justified by what some prophet did? Why do you think it might not have been based on experimentation and rational arguments, however iffy?

What I think is that practices come into being for rational reasons, because they are adaptive at the time the practices were started. I think very few practices start out as mal-adaptive. What happens is that practices become enshrined in customs, the original rationale is forgotten, and when the original reasons are no longer valid yet the custom continues to be followed. I think this happens when the "community memory" has been disrupted by catastrophes, such as invasions and famines; and when the community leadership has been decimated, so there is no longer any acceptable figureheads who can sanction the abandonment of some outdated practice. Then "this is the way we're doing things because this is (supposedly) the way we've always done them" comes about.


Indeed, there is good evidence with some customs of marriage and family life that this was actually the case.

I don't know about age of consent, specifically. But consider this. Western clinical psychologists are just now beginning to understand some critical features of the sexual motivations of women. Their "scientific" studies have finally established that a woman's sexual behaviour and preferences are heavily influenced by the phase of oestrus cycle she is currently in.

The oestrus cycle begins with menstruation at day zero. Over the next two weeks, there is a buildup of oestrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone which peak at days 13-15 with implantation of a fertile ovum (ready to receive fertilization). Then these hormones taper off and progesterone increases, culminating in menstruation again at days 28-30.

Western "scientists" have discovered that at the time of ovulation/implantation (day 13-15) women are most likely to be promiscuous, and psychologically attracted to "rough, tough bad-boy" types. Most extra-marital affairs take place at this time of a woman's cycle. The rest of the month, women are most likely to be monogamous and attracted to the good, solid, responsible type of male. This is because during ovulation/implantation, a woman prefers the "good seed"... a male who is best suited to fertilize her and create another male with the same tendencies of attractiveness to women, thereby spreading the woman's genetic material over future generations as a passenger. During the rest of the cycle, a woman prefers the "good spouse"... a provider and caregiver who will offer constant food, shelter, etc. to her and her offspring.

There are two practices in Indian tradition which suggest that these competing preferences of a woman were recognized and accounted for... even though Western "historians" invariably cast them as "patriarchal", "oppressive" and otherwise morally questionable in their commentaries.

The first is the tradition that when a married woman fathers a child, the child becomes the responsibility of the man she is married to, not the biological father. This is explained in the Mahabharata as the result of cosmic precedence: Brihaspati's wife Tara had a son, Budh, with her lover Chandra, and much against Brihaspati's wishes he had to accept the role and responsibility of Budh's father for life. Not exactly fair to the "man", one might say, but entirely fair from the woman's point of view. The "good provider" has to fulfill his dharma and provide for his wife's child, no matter whom she had the child with biologically.

On the flip side, the "good provider" get a genetically strong heir whose duty it is to serve and honor him as a parent, carry on the traditions of his family and clan. This too was institutionalized as a traditional preference; a system whereby a husband/father could actually consent to his wife/daughter being impregnated by a carrier of good genes, a source of "good seed", as a win-win for all. Thus it was that the author of the Mahabharata, Ved Vyasa himself, was fathered by the sage Parashar on Satyavati, with the consent of her fisherman father Dusharaj. Vyasa himself was the "good seed" who fathered Pandu and Dhritarashtra upon the princesses Ambika and Ambalika; however the boys were faithful sons and heirs to the "good provider" husband of these princesses, King Vichitravirya.

Through a Western lens, distorted by the proscriptions of Biblical "morality", these stories only support the notion of a decadent India where daughters or wives were "pimped out" to wandering sages by opportunistic and oppressive fathers or husbands. In truth, they not only account for the competing attractions of a woman for a "good seed" or a "good provider"... furnishing her with both... but also institutionalize mores that harmonize these competing attractions with enhanced benefit for society and the gene pool as a whole. This could ONLY have been the product of generations' worth of empirical and rational experimentation, IMHO.

The legendary nature of these stories attests to what Arun ji has called becoming "enshrined in custom". I would also point out that such "enshrinement" need not necessarily or immediately make a tradition mal-adaptive. Simply because the traditions have been referred to in terms that Westerners deride as "mythical", does not at all detract from the fact that they arose out of empirical and rational experimentation (something the West only recognized and formalized as late as the so-called "Age of Enlightenment"... hack thoo!)

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Re: Western Universalism - what's the big deal?

Postby Rudradev » 16 Jul 2014 01:43

prahaar wrote:Shivji, Western Universalim is not contradictory to those who make that claim. There is an inherent belief in the superiority of "West" in having discovered the universal claims. So, more than a localization factor, the word "Western" in the term "Western Universal-ism" refers to appropriation of credit for having discovered the universal claims, due to superior {color, religion, education, etc..... }.


Prahaar ji, you are completely right, except that in enumerating "{color, religion, education, etc...} you have neglected to name the one principal flagship tool that is invariably and consistently used to justify such appropriation: History, or more correctly, Historiography.

Rajiv Malhotra has coined the term "History-Centrism" to refer to this: the emphasis on a certain privileged civilized narrative as being the ONLY authentic narrative, the only "authoritative edition" of past events not only for one's own people but for the whole world. Of course, earlier scholars like Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup have recognized and written extensively on this phenomenon as well, as did Mahatma Gandhi and other thinkers to a considerable degree.

To my knowledge, however, Rajiv Malhotra is the first to define this as a fundamental characteristic of Western Universalism, and to explain it in terms of their theology: an external God, a mankind damned by the Original Sin, and the need for a specific divine Saviour to intervene at a specific time and place in history. For such religious claims to hold water, there can only be ONE version of history... the version in which such a unique divine intervention happened as narrated in a given Holy Book.

This tendency to insist on history as something as unarguable and definitive as science itself, has spread beyond the strictly religious realm to all facets of Western Universalism because it is such a useful tool. If you control the way history is taught, not only to your children but to the children of others, then you have a perfect vehicle to inculcate your privileged view of your own ("superior") and other ("inferior") civilizations into the minds of people all over the world. In other words, a perfect navy of vessels to ensure the domination of Western Universalism over the ocean of worldwide human consciousness.

And that is why I must disagree with the good doctor when he says:

shiv wrote:
Funnily enough an ideological battle, or even an intellectual one is unnecessary. Only an economic-military and perhaps demographic counterweight is needed. .


On the contrary, it is absolutely necessary. The weapon being used is itself an intellectual one: control over civilizational narrative. What economic-military and demographic weight did the early Christians have against the Roman Empire? Yet, by this one expedient of targeting influential people and seizing authority over prevailing self-narrative, they conquered the Roman Empire during the reign of one monarch, Constantine. Then they consolidated their grasp by recasting the entire way in which the Roman Empire saw itself, the world, its past history, and by projection its future destiny. JohneeG ji has written of the disastrous results for all of Europe in his new thread.

Things are more sophisticated in the modern world, of course, but the fundamental dynamics still hold. We in India, particularly the Hindus, have a weak sense of civilizational narrative-- savagely wounded by our colonial experiences. We also completely lack any intellectual apparatus to aggressively propagate our civilizational narrative, even amongst ourselves and our children, let alone the world. The West not only has 2000 years' worth of techniques evolved specifically to advance its History Centric objectives, but superior economic-military weight as well. We cannot rely only on matching their economic-military and demographic strength with a counterweight... that is a dangerous route. Even the Chinese are belatedly realizing that this is not enough, that they must wage constant and rigorous intellectual warfare to regain control of their civilizational narrative and challenge Western universalism in that sphere.

In fact, the economic and military weight can be viewed as only ancillary or support elements in the intellectual battle against Western universalism. "Military" hardly matters at all... the Global Firepower Index rates India as #4 in the world, but how often does the aam Indian see his military in triumphant and decisive action? Does the memory of 1971 or 1999 make him less likely to become the apologetic, self-loathing fool that Western Universalism invariably inculcates?

Likewise, "economic" might (as even China has realized) is useful only up to a point. For example, a Bengaluru that looks like Switzerland is more helpful than a Bengaluru that looks like Swaziland, but only as a means to reinforce the aam Indian's faith in his own civilizational narrative. But if that narrative has not been rigorously constructed, if space has not been made for it by relentless and precise attacks on the Western Universalism that denies space to indigenous narratives of other civilizations... then there is nothing to reinforce. Which is why this remains, first and foremost, an intellectual war. "Ideology" may or may not be a tool employed to fight it, and indeed many ideologies can be used to fight it from various standpoints... but the intellectual aspect is primary to the conflict itself.


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