A couple years back, I spent my down time playing a video game called Plague Inc. The game starts off with you playing as a bacteria, parasite, fungus, or of course as a virus. Your objective is to spread yourself across the globe infecting as many humans as possible, eventually leading to the culling of all of humanity. To win, you must silently evolve and spread, careful to not alert too many humans nor remain too isolated. On the way, you cause travel bans, mass hysteria, political clashes, etc… Sound familiar?
Now, we are seeing an eerily recognizable reality to the fantasy of that game. Coronavirus-19 has become the modern plague of our times. And while it is no where near the level of Plague Inc’s apocalyptic end game, COVID-19 threatens to upend many of our society’s given structures and force the world down a new path.
Pieces like this in The Guardian are somewhat funny, How did British Indians become so prominent in the Conservative party? It’s not that complicated. A lot of British Indians are professionally and economically successful. As bourgeois voters, they’re good targets for the Conservative Party, so long as that faction mutes excessive anti-minority sentiment.* The same calculus that is at work with British Jews applies to British Indians.
The numbers speak:
Fast-forward to 2010, and the Conservatives held 30% of the British Indian vote. After 30 years of Thatcherite ideology, British Indians were the most pro-Conservative ethnic minority, after the Jewish community. After decades of gradual advance, this number soared to 40% in 2017. In the 2019 election, as the Conservatives chased a realignment towards white northern voters based on racist scaremongering, support in constituencies with high Indian populations increased substantially again. At every point, this has included members of both groups of Indian migrants. Now British Indians make up 15% of the Tory cabinet.
The Tories have now managed to extend their appeal beyond the “two time” migrants by finding common cause in a project of Islamophobia. Supported by the Indian government and its far-right ruling party, the BJP, the Conservatives have exploited a sharp rise in Hindu nationalism within the British Indian community to play Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Muslim communities off against one another.
And of course, there is the fact that the Labour Party religion at prayer is Islam, at least of an ethnicized sort. For each action, there is an opposition and equal counter-reaction. British Jews and Hindus and Sikhs are suspicious of excessive Islamophilia. They will vote for the faction which is less friendly to this. It doesn’t take deep analysis.
* The racialist and Christian fixations of the Republican Party is the primary reason that most Indian Americans, who are immigrants, position themselves on the moderate Left with centrist Democrats.
It appears that Jews, Indian and African Britons abandoned Labour in droves and voted for other political parties. Would be curious to learn who they voted for. Suspect many voted for the Liberal Democrats.
Are there any English exit polls? [Updated with this exit poll hat trip Ali Choudhury.] Do we know how Pakistani Britons, Bangladeshi Britons, Indian musiim Britons, muslim Britons in general voted?
In the above conversation it was implied that minorities and people of color in USA vote Democrat. My response is that in America Asian Americans and Latino Americans are “swing voters” not wedded to either party. Black African Americans vote overwhelmingly Democrat. However, I think President Trump will likely do a lot better with the Black African American vote in 2020 than he did in 2016.
Labour lost only nine percentage points of the BAME vote
Conservative Tories gained only one percentage point in additional BAME voters
Liberal Democrats gained only six percentage point in additional BAME voters
Other political parties gained two percentage points of additional BAME voters
Labour–if these exit polls are not contradicted by other exit polls–did FAR better in 2019 among BAME voters than I thought (and that many political commentators thought). To my surprise the Liberal Democrats only gained six percentage points of BAME voters (for 12% total) and the Conservative Tories only gained one percentage point in additional BAME voters.
My new question is why did the overwhelming vast majority of BAME Britons vote for Jeremy Corbyn? Why did so few BAME Britons vote Liberal Democrat?
Did the moderate muslim Britons almost universally vote for Jeremy Corbyn? If so, why? Would love to hear from Veedu Vidz and Rakib Ehsan.
Scorched earth used to be a military tactic — Samson caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails, sending them through enemy fields — but what if nature out-flames the foxes? What if floods engulf those waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Hosing down used to be a police tactic — against dissenting crowds, with dissent almost a badge of honor, police visor and shield almost an admission of guilt — ah, earth, water, air, mind — all ablaze!
No sense in wasting a poem on impeachment, those things pass like leaves in the wind, Nixon, Clinton,Trump, and by the time you read this another fistful, maybe no doubt — on second thought, poems too are leaves in a high wind, sacred altitude at best.
Han Shan sent his poems floating downstream, scribbled them on the walls of caves and hermitages, wrote them on beech-bark on the off-chance someone would find them — Pulitzer-winner Gary Snyder for sure found them!
Floods and firestorms: the planet is not so much burning as oscillating, floods, the element of water, fire would evaporate them, but only after bringing them to boiling point, firestorms, wrathful, water would quench them, but boiling point is hardly the issue.
We are deep into future problems, the courage of our blind denial blithely fire-walking with water-walking ability granted us solely in scriptures — prediction succeeds, prophecy fails, what next?
Buddhist logic from the beginning differs from its Aristotelian cousin, featuring the chatushkoti or tetralemma:
India in the fifth century BCE, the age of the historical Buddha, and a rather peculiar principle of reasoning appears to be in general use. This principle is called the catuskoti, meaning ‘four corners’. It insists that there are four possibilities regarding any statement: it might be true (and true only), false (and false only), both true and false, or neither true nor false.
I don’t personally know Ammar Rashid, but I know many people like him and many people who either went to school with him or moved in the same circles. Unlike many (most?) Pakistani students who study abroad and develop a deep understanding of the mess that is Pakistan, Ammar Rashid chose to return to his country. He lives his life according to what he believes in (no matter how unpopular those beliefs and ideas may be), and not a lot of people in Pakistan can say that. I heard him singing Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s Intesaab (Acknowledgement) many years ago, and that is my favorite version of that verse ever sung. I do not agree with everything that Ammar believes in (Listen to him eloquently explain his positions here: soundcloud.com/howtopakistan/episode-14-awami-workers-party-the-pakistani-left), he is an officeholder for the Awami Workers Party (AWP), an artist, writer, and a teacher. He participated in the 2018 national elections for a National Assembly seat. He was one of the leaders of the movement to preserve katchi-bastis (slums) in the I-11 sector, Islamabad.
Why was he arrested?
He was protesting alongside his comrades against the arrest of PTM leader, Manzoor Pashteen. Pashteen galvanized the youth and adult population in former federally administered tribal areas (FATA) that border Afghanistan. The presence of PTM threatens the ‘national narrative’ put forth by Pakistani establishment that they ‘cleared’ FATA of all militants during the Zarb-e-Azab operation (2014-2017). PTM contends that during and after the operation, military demolished homes and business places of non-militants living there and killed (or facilitated the killing of) many tribesmen who were actually anti-militant (Pashteen wrote about this for the NYT, read here. )
Following Ammar’s arrest, there were more protests in different cities in Pakistan. In Faisalabad, many protestors were picked up by the police today for protesting against the arrest of Ammar, who was protesting the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen. This suppression of dissent is reminiscent of fascist regimes around the world. There are not a lot of people as well-read and politically conscious as Ammar and his fellow protestors and muzzling their voices by force merely exposes the fragility of the military’s narrative. The number of people who think like Ammar in Pakistan is probably less than five hundred. Compare that to the numerical strength of Army proper: half a million (and millions of admirers). Since January 2017, when bloggers were abducted by agencies (and later released), there has been an uptick in ‘disappearances’ of progressive activists and students. Due to the abovementioned numerical mismatch, these abductions don’t always get the media coverage they deserve, and mainstream political parties almost never defend these dissenters. In such dark times, just a safe release of these protestors would be a welcome step.
P.S A twitter thread of tributes to Ammar by creative comrades: https://twitter.com/tooba_sd/status/1224025720873275394?s=21
On August 15, 1947, an ancient civilization manifested into a new nation. Near the stroke of midnight, Jawaharlal Nehru, freedom fighter and India’s first Prime Minister, would make one the greatest speeches of the 20th century – “A Tryst With Destiny.”
One passage stands out the most which is integral in this piece:
“A moment comes, which comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
The Soul of a Nation
The idea of the soul, or Atman, has been a central topic in Indian philosophy. Most strands posit it as eternal, unchanging, and inherently good. Liberation is achieved when one identifies with the soul and disassociates with the body.
But what defines the soul of India?
Nehru tried to define this soul or “idea” of India in his book, The Discovery of India. Nehru idolized India’s diversity, tolerance, and tradition of pluralism. Most Indians today and in the past would agree with these values.
But problems arrived with the body of this newly born India state. Its hands were tied by excessive government regulations where profit was a plague, and a mercantile people’s instincts were silenced. The feet of the masses marched behind the banners of caste (for Hindus) and religion (for minorities) rather than behind the Indian tricolor or tiranga. The brain or “intellectuals” of India veered into a Red Sea where Marxists rewrote books to vilify India’s indigenous culture and deify its conquerors as civilizers of the heathen brown savage.
Post-colonial India became a state ruled by Brown Englishmen exploiting mass corruption while spitting on mass tradition. To maintain this equation, balance was achieved by pitting community against community; while feudal lords doled out sops and calculated political arithmetic. This all changed when a new variable entered the board – unity.
Truth is One
Ekam Sat Viprā Bahudhā Vadanti – Truth is one, the wise know it by many names.
— Rig Veda (1.164.46)
I’ve quoted the above several times before. The reason I do is because how integral this verse is in explaining India. Nehru’s idea of India indeed traces itself to this verse spoken thousands of years ago. However, what Nehru and his disciples did not acknowledge is that their “Idea of India’s” origin was rooted in this Vedic verse. They would think of any and every reason to explain India’s inherent diversity and tolerance other than its actual cause – the soul of India: Dharma.
Ekam Sat is the social contract of the Indian experience. As long as people abide by it, sectarian peace can prevail and has in India for millennia. When ideologies came that did not accept Ekam Sat, India has witnessed terrible bloodshed in the name of God or lack there of. This is not to say that India was some peaceful fantasy land for all of its history, but it is reasonable to say that inter-and intra-religious violence amongst Dharmic sects has been extremely minimal compared to its foreign analogues.
But how did this unity manifest itself in modern India – an India of hundreds of colonial and cultural divisions filled with struggle and strife?
The Price of Saffron
Two currents would force the struggling streams of the Indian state into the beginnings of a singular and mighty river: saffronization and economic liberation.
It was in the late 1980s/early 1990s was when India’s reincarnation truly began.
Across the Arabian Sea, Saddam Hussein launched an invasion into Kuwait in 1990. Oil prices and India’s oil payments jettisoned while exports slumped with its balance sheet teetering. India was now forced into an IMF bailout conditioned on massive economic liberalization. The curse of the Kuwaiti invasion would turn into India’s blessing.
Political whirlwinds would give air to an upstart party in the BJP, which would grow in strength and numbers over the years. Reaching a zenith in 2014 with a massive victory of Prime Minister Modi, the BJP now began laying ground for a new India. On a foundation of welfare, infrastructure, and promotion of indigenous tradition, Modi would build the first pillars of rebirth in 2019 with an even greater mandate than prior.
Through this trident of tectonic maneuvers, Modi and the BJP signaled their intent to the world in 2019 – India would no longer sit by and be defined by haughty intellectuals or journalist editorials; India would define itself, and it was now defined by reclamation.
Amongst hyperventilating outlets publishing misinformation after mischaracterization, much of the international public has been caught dazed by what is happening in India. The BJP’s shambolic public relations department does not help either. In all 3 actions, India is placing primacy on indigenous tradition and history. It is addressing the festering scars that have been open since partition and caused by conflict from ages past.
In Narendra Modi, they have found the Special One. His background, achievements, and character have captured the Indian imagination. He is an every man coming from humble roots who has given a precedent of defiance to those of doubt. Modi has not only given hope to the average Indian, but also a mirror.
He has laid out the corruption and hypocrisies of the old elites. His orations give the tales of an ancient people, speaking to the deep seated cultural trauma and perseverance of India. Modi’s Hindutva is breaking the Brown Englishman’s idols and killing its sacred cows, while reminding India of its old ideals and sanctity.
But the old elites also have an even more alarming fire at their doorstep – caste is breaking down.
With urbanization, increased economic mobility, and indeed with the strengthened of Hindutva, people are identifying as Indian or Hindu first rather than their caste like in the old days. Social media and the internet have broken the stranglehold of academia and mainstream media to deliver narratives that are much more in tune with reality today, history yesterday, and the future tomorrow. The carefully carved world of postcolonial India is crumbling to ashes. And the BJP is intent on dashing those ashes away as a preparation for reincarnation.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Idea of India” was only partially correct. India is not just the land of diversity and pluralism. India is the land of Dharma, of ancient traditions, and uniquely indigenous narratives. It is the land of Ram, of Krishna, of Buddha, of Mahavir, and of Nanak. It is the land of Chanakya, with a state that seeks to improve diplomacy and statecraft. It is the land of Yoga and meditation. It is the land of science and spirituality; of Aryabhatta and Aryavarta. It is a land of the Dharmachakra, where the wheel of change forever turns on the spokes of Dharmic virtues.
It is the land where the soul of a civilization, long suppressed, is reborn today in a new avatar.
Rishabh Gulat–who I respect greatly has a different take on Datuk Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia, than I do. Some argue that Datuk Mahathir has recently shifted his policy and allied with conservative Wahhabi (subset of Salafi, subset of Sunni) muslims, MBS, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan against India. Mr. Gulat implies that Datuk Mahathir is backing Brown Pundit favorite Dr. Zakir Naik against India:
Please watch Mr. Gulat and come to your own conclusions.
The Indian Malays (7% of the population, 15% of the professional workforce, 40% of all Malaysian doctors, economic engine that moves Malaysia) are rallying the opposition to Datuk Mahatir. Mr. Gulat thinks the global Indian diaspora and global Eastern philosophy diaspora (presumably inclusive of Confucians, Toaists and Chinese) should back the Indian Malays in this.
I need to do a lot more research before proposing an alternative course of action. But here is a question. Can the Indian Malays, global Indian diaspora, global Eastern Philosophy, global Muraqabah tilted Sunnis and Shia and global liberal muslims unite and offer Datuk Mahathir Mohammed an offer he can’t refuse?:
There are many great and powerful Indian and Indonesian muslims–friends of PM Modi–who can make the offer.
As an aside, many Brown Pundits readers know Dr. Zakir Naik fanboy and heart throb Veedu Vidz. Please ask him to come on the Brown Pundits Podcast!
Mr. Rishabh Gulat is a great thought leader and expert on Indonesia, Malaysia and South East Asia more generally. He says that India and Indonesia should make a civilizational, cultural, economic and geopolitical alliance. Is there an interest in the Brown Pundits Podcast interviewing Mr. Rishabh Gulat?
Three years ago, Swati Mylavarapu had never worked for a political campaign and attended just a single campaign fundraiser.
Now, the 36-year-old Silicon Valley investor is a financial force behind one of the best fundraisers in the Democratic presidential primary, serving as national investment chairwoman for Pete Buttigieg, a fellow Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar whom she has known for half her life.
Indian Americans are 1% of America’s population. And in the older generation of 1.5 and 2nd generation far less (“Generation X”). But they sure are punching above their weight!