I have some time on my hands these days. I recently resigned from my job and am on garden leave for a while before I jump headlong into the next one. Fortuitously the period of free time coincides with summer and easing of the national lockdown in the UK and that can only be a good thing.
One of my pastimes these days is looking at Old Persian text and attempting Classical Sanskrit translations. The idea is to understand how close these languages were at around 6c BCE which is when Old Persian inscriptions of Achaemenian dynasty are attested from. That was also roughly the period of transition to what we now call Classical Sanskrit (whose codifier par-excellence, Panini, likely lived around 5c BCE in gandhāra).
I just finished reading Michael Axworthy’s Iran: Empire of the Mind, one of Razib Khan’s recommended reads on Iran. The book serves as a useful primer on Iranian history for novices (such as myself), covering over 3,000 years of history in less than 300 pages. It lacks the literary flair and flourish of Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s magisterial Arabs. I found myself skimming through the latter parts of the book- the Pahlavi era and the subsequent Islamic Revolution- as I am broadly familiar with the events of the modern period.
Pre-Islamic Persia was an advanced and sophisticated civilisation. Axworthy provides a good overview of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid periods of Iranian history. Ancient Iranians developed a complex and nuanced theology centred around the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster. Zoroastrianism was the predominant religion of the Sassanid Empire, one of the superpowers of the pre-Islamic world. All of this was to change with the arrival of Islam in the seventh century. The armies of Islam burst out of the Arabian Peninsula like a supernova and reduced the Sassanid Empire to dust. The Zoroastrian religion was swept away in this upheaval.
One group of Zoroastrians escaped and sought refuge in Gujarat in Western India. These Zoroastrians are commonly known as the Parsis (from Pars or Persia). The essay below is a personal account of the Parsis of Mumbai. I had written it a decade ago. Reading Axworthy’s book brought some of those sweet memories back.
Special thanks to Mayuresh Madhav Kelkar for sending this. I would start watching this excellent Dari Farsi documentary 1 minute 19 seconds in. There are many excellent ancient maps of central and south Asia.
I just want to watch this again and again, just to listen to the narrator’s voice. Majestic, wise, soft and sweet. For those so sure Afghanistan will fall; any nation with voices like this is perchance stronger than she appears. This may be where the homo sapien sapien modern civilization was born.
Five thousand years ago the greater Egyptian, Sumerian, Eastern (defined as pan Arya plus China) civilizations were very mathematically oriented. Many caucasians appear to believe that these ancient civilizations were racist. Possibly because of this many caucasians believe that math is racist.
Another possible reason many caucasians appear to believe that math is racist is because they fear it might unfairly advantages “brown” people (Asians, Arabs, Latinos) and “brown” cultures (eastern philosophy including Toaism and Confucianism, native american religion) at the expense of caucasians in the new global artificial intelligence, neuroscience, genetics economy.
Could part of the anger against math come from fear that mathematics, science, technology, seeking the truth through thought, seeking the truth without thought might be haram or blasphemous? (Obviously most Abrahamics do not believe this and this is not a critique of Abrahamism.)
I believe that mathematics is part of art; and that it derives from beyond normal gross thought. From what in Sanskrit is called Buddhi, Vijnayamaya Kosha, Ananda Maya Kosha, Sukshma Sharira, Kaarana Sharira, the subtle heavens.
Perhaps the anger against mathematics is part of a deeper anger against the subtle heavens? If so, one possible way to look at this is that to transcend the subtle heavens (including mathematics) it might be helpful to love them and love our way through them. Or to love and respect the racist (subtle heavens–including mathematics) until we transcend the various subtleties of thought and feeling.
A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word “saffron“. It might stem from the 12th-century Old French term safran, which comes from the Latin word safranum, from the Arabic za’farān, which comes from the Persian word zarparan meaning “flower with golden petals”.
As an aside I pilfered this interesting piece from Kabir’s facebook
It aint over till the fat lady sings.. but it is likely that harsher regime measures will be needed in the coming years (unless the CIA actually pulls off regime change, which, given the recent history of such efforts, will end up w a cure worse than the disease) https://t.co/DTMWlXWqEd
The Hijab is a part of the Middle Eastern-Levantine cultural matrix so I don’t have a problem when I see Arab women wear it . But it’s risible when Desi Muslims try to flaunt what is essentially an alien garment. If one wants to be modest why not just wear a salwar kameez and elegantly drape the dupatta?
After I ranted to V about yet another uppity Hijabi (the offending lady in question had secured herself a booth for 4 people in a crowded cafe); V made a profound remark.
V didn’t mind the Hijab per se; women should be allowed to wear what they want. However what she found to be so strange about the Muslim hijabi activists in the West is that they had no sympathy for their Iranian sisters who are dying for the right to dress as they please.
87 years ago in a small village outside yazd called Hossein Abad
“Just to tell you a little story, the gentleman in the middle with white beard is my great grandfather who’s holding my mum in his arm.
His father had seven sons and they were Zoroastrian and one day he told his sons that he has seen a sign that Shah Barham has come and he asked them to investigate and they all did and became Baha’is,”
I think Ta’arof translates into Takaluf in the Urdu speaking world but I can’t be sure.
I find it rather amusing that while India is being dissed on the world’s most popular youtube channel; a Jewish American travelloger is extolling Pakistan to the skies.
If Vidhi wasn’t Indian then I can take some schadenfraude but considering she is a daughter of the Indus, and her tribe are exiles from Pakistan, they are the best type of Pakistanis; those that are entirely free from the taint of Islam. Continue reading “Misunderstanding Ta’arof”
Video gets especially interesting 16 minutes in. Some main take aways:
Almost half of all people in the world are Asians. Having a similar ratio of Asian students at elite US institutions is being “diverse”
Many different parts of Asia are extraordinarily diverse with many different cultures (Vietnam, India, China, Indonesia). Allowing Asians into elite American institutions enhances diversity.
Asians top every metric for admissions except personality profiles, where Asians consistently rank far lower than any other group.
Mass discrimination against Asians creates segregation at schools since non Asian kids need to receive different separate remedial classes. Many non Asian kids at elite institutions upon entry lack the math skills to take entry level classes.
Asians use to be America’s only reliable Republican voting block (for example backing George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996). The 2016 and 2018 elections are the first time Asians have overwhelmingly voted Democrat. Asians now vote more Democrat than Latinos.
Many Asians think they can change Democrats from the inside. And they have had some success. They have persuaded many Democrats to vote for Asian interests on affirmative action.
In the last 6 minutes they discuss how the massive over representation of Asians at elite educational institutions is causing a major shift to the left
There are surveys of incoming freshman students. They reflect America and their parents. Or center right.
Exit surveys of senior students find that they have shifted sharply to the left. They trend left to socialist to communist upon graduation.
My own observation is one that several leading academic professors have also noted. High School Asian American kids, particularly Desi ones, often have contempt for their parents, Asia, older Desis, Asian culture and Asian religions. They are often deeply ashamed and guilty about their Asian privilege and about the ways Asians practice “white supremacy”, racism, bigotry, prejudice, sectarianism, hate, oppression, exploitation towards others. There is a sense that the reason Asians are so successful around the world is because Asians steal from others. This phenomenon extends to undergraduate students but is still not common among Asian Americans over 22 years old.
How much of this phenomenon is being driven by self hatred, self loathing, guilt and a contempt for Asian and Desi cultures and religions? What if anything can be done about this?
As a partial aside, Brown Pundits podcast plans to interview some practitioner Dharmics (including Buddhist, Jain, Sikh) professors in academia. One question we can ask them is how much anti Dharmic phobia comes the indoctrination of Dharmic children in high school and undergraduate university against Dharmic faiths.