Brown Pundits – Episode 5, reflections on the Chinese age

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the podcast! Please leave more 5-star reviews. If this podcasts interests enough people I’ll be getting us on other platforms.

One of the most offensive things I have had to personally encounter in my life are people curious that a brown-skinned person would express an interest in China for purely intellectual interests (i.e., my wife is not Chinese, I have no business interests in China, etc.). As this century proceeds I think everyone, whatever one’s background, needs to rebalance their perception of what they need to be interested in, because the simple world of European supremacy between 1850 and 2000 is fading away…

46 thoughts on “Brown Pundits – Episode 5, reflections on the Chinese age”

  1. Omar’s voice reminds me of the way Arundhati Roy speaks.
    Similar soft lilting way of speaking.

    1. Response to “Indians” NOT wearing white gowns (women) and black/navy three-piece suits (men) on their wedding day.

      Betrays how little you guys know of India. There is a HUGE wave of Christianization happening in south India. I suggest you have a peek at the weddings of the newly converted South Indians (who are more than 10% of the population)

        1. Will you be writing an article about your experience there? Chennai (and Tamil Nadu in general) is somewhere I’d really like to visit, and it would be great to get someone’s first-hand experience.

        2. Not just Chennai. Go to any Christian wedding in Andhra or Telangana (where most of the soul-harvesting is happening)

  2. A response to the podcast at 45:00

    To say Bollywood is India’s soft power export and an answer to Hollywood is puerile, if not an outright lie. Brothelwood, as self-respecting Hindus call it, apes the same degenerate memes of Hollywood and is more Hinduphobic than anything Hollywood can come up with. It is filled with pious Muslims like Javed Aktar and dhimmi Hindus like the Punjabis, who frankly, shouldn’t have been given asylum in India in 1947.

        1. are you saying wikipedia is lying? i don’t know these people.

          your comments seem a bit unhinged btw, you should use a softer touch to inject your facts.

  3. While China looks strong and unified now, historically many times it has fallen into civil wars in which war lords reigned supreme. 20th century was also one such period; one warlord knocked off all other warlords and proclaimed PRC in 1949. The podcast makes interesting points – I listened to perhaps half the cast. The Cultural Revolution actually began to go out of control of everyone – until it was brought under control by the military on the orders of Mao. Perhaps 10 million perished in the Cultural Revolution ; perhaps equal number during the Great Leap Forward ; a smaller number – relatively – during Let Hundred Flowers Bloom , which was a setup by Mao to flush out anyone thinking independently and repressing such free thinking.

    Historically the people have also suffered terribly during the ‘nation building’ . Building tye Great Wall consumed perhaps one fifth of the whole population. As an Arab historian noted – Zach’s notes- Chinese have excelled in obeying their emperor whatever the human cost . China’s cost to superpowerdom has been built on Chinese lives – lots of it. During Korean War , when the US and the west thought job was almost done in driving out communists from Korea, Mao unleashed without any warning half a million troops ; the Korean War ended in stalemate and remains so to this day. The result was that USA or any other power treaded cautiously in South east Asia and East Asia lest they the Chinese wrath befell on them.

    Due to many periods of civil unrest and civil wars with winner takes all fights, Chinese or Chinese intellectuals have studied in great detail wars, strategies and tactics. That is what they use in the modern world also. Chinese have a great sense of long term strategy and long term planning with all domestic dissent severely crushed. Social control has been one of solid pillars of Chinese Way of running the country – even now

    1. While China looks strong and unified now, historically many times it has fallen into civil wars in which war lords reigned supreme.

      this is literally true, but deceptive and misleading. the period of disorders have been shrinking progressively during each dynastic transition. e.g., compare the relatively short ming-ching transition with the long period between the han and tang.

      1. “the period of disorders have been shrinking progressively during each dynastic transition.”

        This could be attributed to better war technology, hence shorter, sharper conflicts ? I dont think the successive dynasties show greater political sophistication (administrative, perhaps), the template remained an all powerful emperor, with little checks and balances.

        1. Chinese have a sense of their history, OTOH their view of history is archaic. That’s why Marxism is used in a way it was not intended for ie , for maintaining a centralised state

  4. What unites “Indians” when there is Kashmiri separatism in the north and Naga separatism in the east. Would these regions be even a part of Republic of India without Armed Forces Special Powers Act?

    What unites Indians who are more culturally and genetically diverse than Europeans? The French and the British have been fighting each other for a 1000 years and even today (Brexit LOL) even though they are more or less the same genetically and are of the same religion Christianity.

    Let’s turn the question inside out – What was the reason Punjabis and Bengalis slaughtered each other in 1947 even though they spoke the same language and were genetically identical?

    Hinduism unites. Abrahamism divides. Sadly, Hinduism is dying and Abrahamism is on the rise in the subcontinent. May be Darwin’s theory of evolution can explain why Dharmic religions are fated to go extinct (like their cognate religions in ancient Rome and Greece).

    1. May be Darwin’s theory of evolution can explain why Dharmic religions are fated to go extinct (like their cognate religions in ancient Rome and Greece).

      read some books on cultural evolution. you may gain some insights. david sloan wilson’s *darwin’s cathedral* is a place to start.

      (i don’t agree with your premise, but you asked a question that has an answer if you choose to search)

    2. The reason why Punjabis and Bengalis slaughtered each other during Partition was politics based on religious communalism. The “Hindu” and “Muslim” identities became more important than the linguistic identity. This was not inevitable.

      What is the evidence that Hinduism is dying? India is still more than 80% Hindu.

  5. Loved the episode. Just (probably semantic) difference on what Razib said initially on the break of cultural hinduism/Indianism after the arrival of Islam in the North (to contrast China’s continued history).I think it depends on who you ask and where you ask in India.

    In the left/ Liberal/English circles its the arrival of Buddhism which is seen as the break which broke supposedly the back of “Brahminism” before it exerted itself back on the power of Guptas and Adi-Shankara. The arrival of Islam is not seen as any break but more par for the course as Islam is seen as more “egalitarian” than native religion/practices. Adding to it if you look at the South/Eastern part of India where “Hinduism” is weak (The Northen weak Hindu areas have seceded anyways), and Islam and Christianity have had a comparative less hostile past its again seen as a part of cultural heritage unlike in the North. In the North East of India Christianity is the native religion not Hinduism/Animal-ism.

    So the “rupture” depends on who you ask and where you ask.

    1. So the “rupture” depends on who you ask and where you ask.

      i was explicitly thinking of the interruption of hindu kingship in the north. i guess aside from nepal.

      1. Hindu kingships survived not just in Nepal but in the entirety of the Himalayan region that was traditionally Hindu except Kashmir. However, that too was quickly overrun by Sikhs/Hindus leading to the formation of the princely state of J&K.

      2. Also we should have explored in the podcast the integrity of the Chinese state historically vis a vis other polities. China is something we’ll have to come back to..

    2. “look at the South/Eastern part of India where “Hinduism” is weak ….”
      Where did you get the idea Hinduism is weak in S/E? Speaking about south India, it has been strong in which popular Hinduism was strongly fused with philosophical Hinduism. Read european Christian missionary reports of 17,18 19 when they were driven to despair as they couldn’t make headway against brahminical Hinduism.
      Only in the 20th C , a westernization of sorts has weakened Hinduism.
      Centuries of Islamic bigotry has given NI Hinduism a militant edge, which is missing in the south.

        1. There are 170 million Muslims in India. Bahai faith needs to appeal to them and leave Hindus alone. It will be for good of the world if substantial chunk of South Asian Muslims that exist in de facto spiritual confusion between Hinduism and Islam and are often easy prey to radical Islam is weaned away from this Muslim birth identity and become something modern like Bahai.

          While I support “ghar wapsi”, I don’t think this is effective.

          1. India is about 17% muslim. Multiply by 1.37 billion people this implies 230 million muslims.

            How is Bahai different from Hinduism? Can’t someone be both Hindu and Bahai simultaneously?

    3. “In the left/ Liberal/English circles its the arrival of Buddhism which is seen as the break…”

      Are you sure?
      In my interactions, it’s always the British who are seen as the break. Everything before that is a series of invasions from the north-west followed by integration and flowering of a ‘syncretic’ culture.

      The attitude towards the British has some dissonance. They are the villains for having looted the country but they are also the progenitors of the left-liberal class.

      “In the North East of India Christianity is the native religion not Hinduism/Animal-ism.”
      Not sure what you mean by ‘native’.
      Spread of Christianity in the north-east is a very recent trend.
      Ironically enough, takfiri has taken root and national parties parlaying with the minuscule animalistic groups are not seen kindly.

    4. Razib

      I got what you meant, just underlining that Indians uni formally do not see it that way, for many muslim rulers after hindu rulers is not interruption, its seen as continuation of the same Indo-greek->Kushans—>Shaka continuation.


      Everything which i said is on a comparative axis. Christian missionary have had more success in South/East than in North notwithstanding whatever they wrote. Probably not to the extent they would have liked but still. And i dont give much credence to supposed “philosophical”hinduism and all that. There is no barometer to really measure “peity” of North vs South/East. What matters at the end of the day is political power which is driven by demography. So the comparison of respective “Hindu-ness” of either regions.


      I didnt make the British example because all Indians (Left/Liberal , Right/Conservative) see its as rupture so it was a given. Now how people asses the colonial experience is where they differ.
      What i meant by native is irrespective of which religion came to the region first, its the political power of the present which makes the religion “native” in current context. So irrespective of 100 years or not Christianity is the native religion of N-E today. Just like Islam is of Pakistan/Iran.
      On Buddhism and left/liberals , dont go by the sanitized version which we were taught in NCERT

      “Screenshots of the current text in question, which claims to be based on Indian reformer Jyotirao Phule’s 1973 seminal book ‘Gulamgiri’, were tweeted to show panels referring to 8th-century Indian theologian Adi Sankara as a “devious brahman scholar” who used “his twisted intellect to re-establish brahman domination in the 12th century”.”

    5. Well it’s arguable when the break with Indian civilisation actually happened; Islam was thoroughly internalised and the Sikhs/Marathas were about to reindigenise the continent..

      1. Both the Sikhs and the Marathas were thoroughly Mughal-ized in their customs and ruling protocols as were their languages. So this would have been a true synthesis if under more Indic terms and we would have lost some of the subservience to Persian/Arab/Turkic mores.

  6. Regarding dressing.

    Indian traditional wear is largely kept alive by women. Urban/educated men wear mostly western clothes apart from special occasions like weddings or festivals. Some pockets like Kerala have resisted the trend to some extent and you can see men strutting around in Mundus but most of that is in an informal setup.
    The poor masses will most likely abandon their lungis and langots as they move up economically.
    Remember reading a news report recently where a Bhadralok in Kolkata was not allowed into a mall on account of his dhoti.

    IMO Pakistani men dress much more traditionally – salwar-kameez and all.

    PS – There is a very small hipster community that is trying to revive dhotis. If you walk around the fashionable parts of Delhi or Bangalore, you might stumble upon an odd pony-tailed guy in a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt wearing a dhoti. Don’t take them very seriously.

    1. Urban Pakistani men also wear western clothes more than shalwar kameez. A lot of people even wear suits at their weddings. The bride wears traditional dress however.

    2. Remember we can’t extrapolate linearly; we may have hit “Peak West” sometime in the 90’s

      Sui Dhaga is a good reflection of what Indian fashion is yearning for..

      1. Something I observed at my friend’s wedding last week.

        All of us college friends and family were in blazers.
        (Wedding was in Nainital so it was cold)

        Friend’s brother lives in Germany and has a German girlfriend. So there was a substantial German presence.

        That whole contingent had men in Sherwanis.

        Seemed a bit ironic.

        1. Yes but of course Indians go to Indian weddings all the time. Foreigners go to Indian wedding once in a lifetime so will “trad up.”

          Also it’s about what’s posh in South Asia these days..

        2. Haha, sorry mate, but had to say this – “blazer” is so archaic and colonial! Cambridge slang for bright (typically red) flannel jackets from 19c.

          You probably mean a dinner jacket or a suit 🙂

  7. I wonder what Indians called “kameez” before they started using that Portuguese word for it? So much for tradition 😉

    1. They call it salwar-suit in and around Dilli apparently.

      I used ‘kameez’ initially when I moved there and was looked at like a jahil.

    2. Wasn’t “Angarkhwaan” the previous Persianate word for the Indian shirt ? If we go back far enough before that, likely it didn’t form a part of the Indian couture.

      1. A “kameez” is not the same thing as an “angarkha”, at least not in the way it is used in Urdu/Hindustani.

        Secondly, LOL @ angarkha being “Persianate” ?

        As for what formed part of Indian culture and what didn’t, maybe you need to think about how Indians used to survive without shirts in Himalayan or Sub-tropical winters in 1000CE or 1000BCE. The word for shirt in the Vedic canon is shAmUlya.

  8. 1. White is not the colour of Death or Mourning in South India. A silk white saree is one of the 6 or 7 sarees given to the bride in a typical kannada Brahmin wedding. A white saree is also worn by Malyalee ladies often in Weddings and in Onam festival.
    2. There is a revialism of native indian languages at the educated population level, as seen in watsapp messages where in native scripts are used in family groups and friends groups. However English is studied for jobs.
    3. Sanskrit revival and interest in Vedas etc are on rise in certain sections.
    4. Classical music and dance South indian variety is thriving.
    Points 2,3,4 gives evidence of continuity of the civilisation.
    5. Some light needs to be thrown on the growth of Christianity in China.

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