Indian Americans are exceptional; no shit sherlock

The Atlantic has a piece up, The Truth Behind Indian American Exceptionalism Many of us are unaware of the special circumstances that eased our entry into American life—and of the bonds, we share with other nonwhite groups. I’m really curious what The Atlantic paid for this piece because it’s a husk of prose that just mixes and matches cliches and random facts into the sausage casing of a social justice narrative.

The author is “Senior reporter with WNYC’s Race & Justice Unit,” which suggests to me they aren’t very smart because obsessive fixation with “social justice” indicates you are stupid. Also, they state that “I don’t recall hearing the name Dalip Singh Saund until I was in my 30s.” If you don’t know that name, and you are Indian American, you are probably not very smart or intellectually curious. I knew Singh’s name when I was sixteen as I was interested in political history.

Open Thread – 12/19/2020 – Brown Pundits

We’re going to have Glenn Loury on on this Sunday’s Browncast. It was a fun conversation. Already up for patrons, and I also cross-posted to my Substack, because I think it’s such an interesting conversation.

Loury is one of the most important public intellectuals alive today. He speaks for many, many, people. Many people in science who are not on the far Left follow his work closely because he knocks down the shibboleths of preference falsification. If you can, I recommend anyone to be a patron of the Glenn Show.

On caste and a new Hinduism

Some of my Hindu American friends online engage in a defense of attacks on Hinduism by denying the necessary connection between caste and Hinduism. Since religion is made by men, this is true on the face of it. There is nothing necessary in any religion.

But, Hinduism is a religion strongly associated with the Indian subcontinent. Far more than Islam is necessarily associated with Arabia! (the greatest doctors of Islam were not Arabs, but more often Persians!) And caste is strongly associated with the Indian subcontinent. This is not a transitive relation, but the affinity is clear. It has hard to think about Hinduism without caste and jati, though it is possible (e.g., Tulsi Gabbard is a devout Hindu, but not Indian, while some Muslim Indians have their own forms of endogamous caste, despite not being Hindu).


Is this just a historical coincidence? Like many, I have read Nicholas Dirks’ Castes of Mind. Though Dirks acknowledges the ancient origins of varna and jatis, he puts great emphasis on the rationalization of the system under the British. Additionally, he points out the rise and fall of jats. The Indian landscape is communally fluid in its hierarchy.

This is plausible. But I do not believe it is true on a deep and fundamental level. I have come to this conclusion because genetics is so striking.

  1. Though the correlation is not perfect, within regions there is a strong association between “steppe” ancestry and caste status (more steppe means higher status)
  2. Dalits in the South have almost no steppe. The non-Dalit but non-Brahmins have some. In the north, Dalits in Uttar Pradesh have the least steppe, and in some ways are genetically closer to Dalits in Tamil Nadu than non-Dalits in Uttar Pradesh.
  3. There are clear indications of 1,500 of endogamy in a village in Andhra Pradesh (elsewhere too).

When I first stumbled onto these facts they were shocking and bizarre. Totally unexpected. I assumed some caste stratification, but this was ridiculous.

These are the reasons that though I believe the new modern Hindus do sincerely abhor caste and jati, it is sometimes hard to take their protestations that the connection between caste and Hinduism is incidental. You are {{{Brahmin}}}, the product of several thousands of years of endogamy written all over your genes, the scion of the priestly caste of Hinduism, protest that caste and jati have nothing to do with the religion! Except that the priestly castes seem to be amongst the most punctilious adherents to endogamy of all!

So what’s the future? As an atheist of Muslim familial background I have some advice: make Hinduism less Indian, because that is the fundamental issue. Hinduism evolved organically within the Indian subcontinent with jati and varna, and like intertwined siblings growing up in the same house, there are some shared characteristics. Grow up. Leave the house. Be your own person.

The Self-Hating Prophecy of Indian Elites


What is the difference between introspection and self-hatred? Introspection brings reflection, intention, and evolution. Self-hatred brings rumination, doubt, and rot. One is essential, the other is extinction.

Engagement of either shift one’s fate. From the roots of mentality grow branches of thought, blooming into flowers of action and eventually the fruits of result. Nowhere is this more clear than the night and day of the Indian elite.

The ancient elites of India wrote eternal tomes of meditation that built the bedrock of a civilization that has seen the best and worst of humanity, outlasting every peer and power. Their art and literature emanated confidence, beauty, and advancement. While sure of themselves, they had no qualms integrating new ideas from abroad or from home. Diversity was strength, and challenge was opportunity.

Their descendants today are devolution incarnate – Kali Yuga realized. An unending anguish for the approval of outsiders, self-flagellating of even the most innocent of traditions, and an obsessive compulsion for mediocrity are the trickle-down that these elites have given Indians since independence.

While trivial bashing of them is enjoyable, I want to get to the meat of their minds as well as what these minds have yielded.

What causes the exceptional self-loathing of these elites? The mania of knee-bending and the need to constantly look outwards for validation? The ability to be stupendously arrogant towards their birthright to rule yet despise their roots? Continue reading The Self-Hating Prophecy of Indian Elites

Browncast: Abhinav Prakash and Karol Karpinski

Two BP Podcasts, one after another. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

First, I talk to Karol Karpinski. Karol lived in Dhaka for two years in the mid-2010s. Most of our conversation was around economics since he is an economist, but he also mentions his brush with the tragic events of the Dhaka Isis attack.

Second, to Abhinav Prakash on the farmer protests. Mukunda joins in. Abhinav’s view is that this is basically a rentier class strike.

Sharing a continent

25% of humans live in the Indian subcontinent. 18.5% live in China. Together that’s 43.5% of the world’s population in the two great Asian civilizations. Not a trivial number in the 21st century, especially in a nascent multipolar world.

And yet the two societies often lack a deep awareness of each other, as opposed to an almost pathological fixation on the West, and in India’s case the world of Islam.

Indians are clearly geopolitically aware of China. Obsessed even. But aside from cultural exotica (e.g., the Chinese “eat everything”), there seems to be profound ignorance.

This is illustrated most clearly when I hear Indian intellectuals aver the proud continuous paganness of their civilization. Setting aside what “pagan” means, and its applicability to the Hindu religious tradition, the key here is a contrast with the world to the west, which was impacted by a great rupture. The people of Iraq have a written history that goes back 5,000 years, but the continuity between ancient and modern people of the region is culturally minimal. Modern inhabitants of Bagdhad know on some level that their ancestors were Sumerian, but for most of them their identity is wrapped up in their religion and the lives of the Prophet and his family, or for Christians that of Jesus.

This is not the case with the majority of Indian subcontinental people, whose religious traditions and cultural memory go back further, literally to the Bronze Age at the latest. The foundational mythological cycles which define Indian culture probably date to 1000 to 1500 BC. During this time Kassites ruled Babylonia, and the Assyrians were coming into their own. Until modern archaeology, these people were only names in the Bible or in Greek historians.

But this is not only true of India. These Chinese also look to the Bronze Age Shang dynasty, and in particular, the liminal Zhou, to set the terms of their modern culture. The ancient sage kings, who likely predate the Shang, are also held in cultural esteem.

Does any of this matter? I don’t honestly know. I’m American, not India or Chinese. But perhaps it might help on some level if these two civilization-states could understand and accept that they share in common having extremely deep cultural roots apart from the revelation of the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

Open Thread – 12/05/2020 – Brown Pundits

Going to interview Tim Mackintosh-Smith today for the Brown Pundits podcast. He’s the excellent author of Arabs: A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes, and Empires.

I’ve posted a podcast with Karol Karpinski for patrons. Karol was stationed in Dhaka with the World Bank, and we talk about his experiences (which includes unfortunate proximity to the outbreak of ISIS-related violence in Bangladesh).

Remember the Brown Pundits reddit channel. It’s starting to finally take off. The link is always at the top-right.

The Barua Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims as inversions?

Barua Temple

The Barua Buddhists of Bengal are often said to be indigenous and continuous practitioners of the Buddhist religion among ethnic Bengalis. That is, they descend from the Buddhist communities of Bengali that flourished during the Pala period, and went into decline during the Muslim period, to disappear on the whole. The claim here is to indigenous status.

The Rohingya, in contrast, often make assertions that they are deeply rooted in Arakan. And, they disavow identification as Bengalis. Their language is clearly closely related to that of Chittagong, and it is not usually written in the Bengali alphabet.

Though I am open to being disproven, over the years in my research on the “Barua”, it seems that in the vast majority of cases these “Bengali Buddhists” descend from Tibeto-Burman people who adopted the Bengali language (or a Bengali-related dialect) and settled in and around Bengalis. They are concentrated in the far Southeast of Bangladesh, and often the boundary between themselves as the Theravada Buddhist Chakma, who retain tribal identity but now mostly speak Bengali, is fluid. The Barua are now Theravada Buddhists, which is the tradition of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and not ancient Bengal.

So basically what I’m saying is this: Buddhist tribal people from the east have assimilated into a Bengali identity, and claimed indigeneity through asserting affiliation with the small Barua ethno-religious group. Meanwhile, in Arakan, peasants who migrated over the last few hundred years from southeast Bengal, have rejected assimilation into the Bengali identity, unified around the standard high culture dialect, and created something distinct.

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