How Indian are Pakistanis (vs. non-Indian)

I was sent this link via Twitter, Pakistanis are Arabs:

OK – so clearly that’s nonsense … but while I have your attention ..

Back in 2012, the Aspen Institute held a discussion called “My Middle East” featuring authors from around the “modern Middle East”. This included participants from various Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each author was given an opportunity to provide insight into their unique Middle Eastern experience. The brilliant Daniyal Mueendin was representing Pakistan. When it was his turn to speak, he started rambling about how the question was confusing to him as he was not a Middle-Easterner and so didn’t really know what to say – in other words, he missed the point completely i.e for all practical purposes (and particularly from the perspective of the audience) his cultural experience was Middle Eastern enough. I should add that the participants from Turkey and Afghanistan had no such problems. To me this brought to the fore an issue that’s been bothering me for a while namely a tendency among affluent, liberal Pakistanis to underplay Pakistan’s cultural affiliation with the Greater Middle East and instead fixate eastward, towards India, for such cultural linkages.

To be frank there is no substance I can see to the blog post, just some assertion. After reading this I am more convinced that Pakistanis are South Asian and shouldn’t be included as part of the “Greater Middle East,” because the argument presented is so weak, vacuous and contentless.

Pakistanis, especially the ones who are from Pashtun backgrounds, are more Middle Eastern than other South Asian peoples, even Muslims from Uttar Pradesh. I don’t deny that. But the dominant Punjabi culture of Pakistan is South Asian. Indian if you want to remove the term “Indian” from its current political valence.

Note: It is not surprising that this is the question where some of our local Hindu nationalists agree with Pakistani nationalists. Reality damns them both.

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A toxic cocktail of American narcissism and Indian American self-righteousness

Like many of you, I’m monitoring what’s going on in the Indian subcontinent. I’m not saying much because I don’t know much. No value to add.

But then this showed up in my timeline, and I honestly could not believe that the confluence of characteristics we’ve been talking about recently might lead to such bizarre self-obsessed comments:

I see this person’s comments in my timeline way too often. Best case scenario is that she’s some sort of ideological grifter who knows how to push buttons. But this indecent.

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Do people in India care about ‘racist’ knitters?


There is a weird controversy about a white knitter who was perceived to be racist against Indians because they were worried about going to India because it was so alien from her experience? At least that’s what I get from the conversation. See the above exchange for some more context.

The mainstream website Vox, published something relating to this, The knitting community is reckoning with racism. The post shows that this is really about Americans more than about Indians. For example:

As someone who is mixed-race Indian, to me, her post (though seemingly well-meaning) was like bingo for every conversation a white person has ever had with me about their “fascination” with my dad’s home country; it was just so colorful and complex and inspiring. It’s not that they were wrong, per se, just that the tone felt like they thought India only existed to be all those things for them.

The author of the piece is a mixed-race American. Her mother is Irish American, and her father an immigrant from India.

My question is simple: what do people in India think about this?

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Brown is all, all is brown

There emerged a question in the comments below as to what was “brown” or “desi”?

Ah, the old demarcation problem! Since there is no “Pope of Brownness” we can all offer our opinions. I take a “liberal” and “broad” view.

There are children adopted from India in the United States who are as physically South Asian as anyone. But often they were raised as English-speaking American Christians. Though many attempt to reconnect with “their culture”, the reality is that their family is the family who adopted them. Their culture is the culture in which they grew into adulthood. But, because of the way they look people make assumptions about them. Perhaps people are racist against them as South Asians.

Despite their involuntary cultural alienation from all things South Asian, I have a difficult time thinking that these kids are not brown. Especially if they so want to identify as such.

In contrast, you have the case of people of various races who convert to religions with a South Asian provenance or were raised in those religions. Imagine someone whose parents convert to Hinduism, and raise them in India, but they are half Japanese and English American. They don’t “look” Indian. Brown. Or desi. But if they are raised in India, and practice a form of Hinduism, and speak Indian languages, I have a hard time saying that they don’t have a right to “claim” being desi or brown.

There are obviously many other cases. But I wanted to present these two as opposing and inverted instances, as I think they are the boundary conditions of what desi or brown identity is. People can say what they want about themselves. They could be an Iyer raised in Chennai who claims that they’re really not Indian or desi. Or, someone could be a Russian Karelian who is devoutly Orthodox who claims they Indian. I suspect most of us would think that this is nonsense. To be brown or desi does have boundaries.

But we can make the boundaries crisp and tight. Or broad and loose. For example, to assert that to be desi one has to be a believing and practicing Hindu who is racially South Asian would be a narrow definition.

Or, we can make them broad.

As an American, a broad definition works best for me. My children may not speak a South Asian language, worship Hindu gods, or look particularly “Indian.” But of their eight great-grandparents, four of them were born in British India. They have some claim I think to that heritage and identity, if not as strongly as those genuinely encultured.

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The ghost of empire and the origin of all repression

The New York Times published an op-ed, How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans, where India implicitly makes a showing:

It’s also worth noting that the obsession with supposed “biological realities” of people like Ms. Parker are part of a long tradition of British feminism interacting with colonialism and empire. Imperial Britain imposed policies to enforce heterosexuality and the gender binary, while simultaneously constructing the racial “other” as not only fundamentally different, but freighted with sexual menace; from there, it’s not a big leap to see sexual menace in any sort of “other,” and “biological realities” as essential and immutable….

These views are very common on the cultural Left. When progressive social activists make these assertions, and I argue that they are factually wrong, I’ve often encounter surprise and annoyance. There are two things I suspect going on here:

– These people are not genuine propagandists, they actually believe their own fictions. Faced with facts that are novel to them don’t know how to react. They live in a factual bubble where it is taken for granted that the idea of binary gender as a dominant paradigm was introduced by Westerners to South Asians, whose own conceptions were fluid, open, and tolerant.

– The facts of the history of non-Western cultures are fundamentally irrelevant because they exist only to support narratives relevant within Western cultures. Those narratives and the trajectory of Western culture is their true passion. Their fundamental Eurocentrism means that falsehood about non-Western cultures is not particularly of great concern. That is not “their history.” Minor details to be ignored and brushed aside.

Gibbon famously asserted that the Pope, and implicitly the Roman Catholic Church, was the “ghost of the Roman Empire.” A living, breathing, vestige of an institution and society long gone. Much of modern Western Left social progressivism, informed by critical theory and post-colonialism, is a ghost of 19th and 20th-century empire. It is the warped inversion and reflection of Western chauvinism and populism.

It is highly peculiar to me that on the precipice of the 21st Asian age Western intellectuals bask and wallow in the reflected glory of Victorian-era empires as if they are determinative of all the goings on today. Part of this is surely due to the reality that intellectual currents are lagging indicators, and empires always persist longer in memory and self-regard than in reality. And part of it is the human needs for “noble savages” and “pure” Others against which their own sins may be measured and contrasted.

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The Art of Ta’arof

Some years ago in Tehran a 90 something gentleman got up to greet someone half his age since he said those are the manners he was taught as a young lad. I instagrammed it as “amazing ta’arof” and my Persian friends immediately corrected me that was not ta’arof but genuine.

So Ta’arof is not always a positive force since it’s mixed in with traces of deception. This article below was a very old post in my blog and thought I would share it since it’s so well-written.

by 

One of the most complicated aspects of Persian culture — and language — is the untranslatable ta’arof. Depending on the circumstance, it can mean any number of things: To offer, to compliment and/or exchange pleasantries. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I doubt if any study can lead to a full understanding of Ta’arof. A born and raised Persian, even I find myself losing my grasp on it from time to time.

Continue reading “The Art of Ta’arof”

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Two Dosas

I was looking for a Western pop music video I saw in the gym. It was a white girl (darker hue but recognisably “Western features) in a very “local” restaurant in small-town Indian.

The son of the owners, a nerdy boy, immediately falls in love with her. He tries every tired trope to win her attention but it’s only when he “Bollywoodises” (he forms a dance troupe) that he manages to catch her attention, at which point stairs descends from heaven and she climbs up (either an angel or alien).

Unfortunately I can’t find the link to that video but instead I looked at the above video, which is an interesting short film.

Related: The Big Sick & Brown Romance In Pop Culture Narratives

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Watching Shtisel.. (and Turkish TV)

We have been watching the Israeli TV serial “Shtisel” the last few days  (it is available on Netflix). I find the availability of foreign serials on Netflix a very good development; We watched Yunus Emre (a Turkish serial about the Turkish Sufi poet; a sort of less famous Rumi) and enjoyed it.  Turkish serials have good production values, though the propaganda requirements of modern Turkey can be heavy handed (and therefore the depictions of 13th Century Turks are likely to be not even close to accurate), but even so, at least they shed light on what contemporary Turkish media mavens regard as desirable. Yunus Emre is about “spiritual” matters, so the propaganda is not a huge issue (no more than what it would be in a Western production), but it is a much bigger element in Ertrugul.. another series worth sampling (though it is extremely long, so don’t even try to watch it all). The propaganda in this series completely dominates any actual historical record that may be buried under it. Still, at least one can see what kind of founding myth the neo-Ottomans want to project (short version: The torch of Islamdom is passed to the vigorous (though as yet insignificant) Ottomans as the Seljuks and others are falling to the Mongols and the vicious conspiracies of the Crusaders; the spiritual side of this great clash is being handled by Ibn ul Arabi on the Islamic side and the Templar Grand Master on the Christian side). 

Shtisel is far closer to reality than either of the Turkish serials I mentioned (it is also set in contemporary times, so that makes a difference, though the Turkish serials set in current times are much more crudely propagandistic as well). I have never been to Israel and don’t know a lot about the Haredi community, but what little I know (mostly from reading the news and from conversations with a couple of Israeli colleagues), this seems to be a very realistic (and very sympathetic) portrayal of this ultra-orthodox community. Some of the subtler plot elements may be missed by viewers who have no knowledge of Israeli society, but maybe the serial will be gateway to learning more?

I have only seen about 6 episodes, so I have no idea how it holds up later.. still, check it out.

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Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (b)

This is the next article in the series “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”, “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white” (a)”, and Razib’s  Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action.

I think the world of Asian Capitalists and would advise everyone to watch their other posts. Is there an interest in inviting them on Brown Cast? They and many other Asians say that Asians will not bend the knee to the post modernist cultural marxist. Within a decade half the world’s billionaires are likely to be Asians or people of Asian ancestry who live elsewhere in the world  and the full power of the post modernist cultural marxist will be brought to bear against Asians. What will happen then?

The Chinese have a term for post modernist cultural marxist caucasian intelligentsia. The word is baizuo. Should the Brown Pundits start using the term in solidarity with our Chine bhai bhai (Chinese brothers)? Can everyone vote below?

For a long time the rest of the world laughed at and made fun of the baizuo. But now the baizuo are becoming a major global threat that is significantly hurting poor, lower middle class, middle class and upper middle class people all over the world. Including by:

  • lowering ceteris paribus global income and total factor productivity.
  • colonizing the minds of non caucasians with inferiority complex to damage their self confidence and keep them down. This is also sometimes called the hard bigotry of low expectations.
  • frequently demonizing any non caucasians who slightly disagrees with them of being racist, bigoted, prejudiced, nazi, fascist, sectarian, islamaphobic, hegemonic, oppressive, exploitative, imperialist, colonialist, a collaborator, an uncle tom.

This is turning the entire non caucasian world against the baizuo. It is perhaps the largest single cause of anti European and anti American sentiment among people who are not European or American. Europe and America will pay a very heavy price for this. I for one don’t think it is worth paying this heavy price of global anti European and anti American sentiment. Europeans and American need to bring the baizuo under control. No European or American who travels internationally should have to endure large numbers of people looking at caucasians with suspicion.

One of the smartest, most perceptive and wisest global thought leaders John McWhorter described the baizuo phenomenon far better than I could. I would read his whole article on “The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World.” And many of his other articles too.

Sadly the baizuo control much of the global establishment and they demonize any darkie who has the courage to stand up to them. For example our very own co founder Razib Khan. And John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Coleman Hughes, Desi-Rae, Narendra Modi, .  Most darkies are too afraid of the baizuo to speak openly. But one day this dam of fear and baizuo politically correct mind control will break; and I fear the consequences for the world.

How to bring the baizuo under control and stop them from greatly harming the world? Through loving and respecting them with all our hearts (devotion), all our souls (wisdom), all our minds (the royal road of yoga) and all our strength (service). By melting their hearts with the power of love. By awakening their own intrinsic deep intelligence. I am reminded of this baizuo video:

When a Jewish person tells Queers for Palestine baizuo about West Bank and Gazan policies towards LBGTQ, it is like their hearts falls out and they want to cry. It causes baizuo so much personal anguish and pain to hear painful facts that it is incredibly tempting to patronize them by not talking honestly with them. I know I am contradicting myself. What should we do?

Please share your thoughts below.

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