Fragmented Consciousness:Do Varna-Jatis Learn?

Keep the slanderer near you, build him a hut in your courtyard —
For, without soap or water, he will scrub your character clean. ~Kabir

Ancient India post Indus civilization did not have a written language. Therefore the creations of Vedas and the requirements of memory in order to preserve it was the driving force for the believers. It therefore was a constraint to overcome, and in doing so created a class of people beginning from various stock to record and memorize verbally what was central to their lives and to enact the rituals.

Over time,as the volume of the content increased it perhaps became more laborious to try to remember all the relevant information and rituals, that meant the learning had to start early. This created a constraint for the preservers of knowledge (Veda) to become a lineage and over time for it to pass on from father to son and so on. This happened for a period of 1500 yrs before the writing system came to them. A very unique event. The consequence of this kind of development was that knowledge and learning was specific to particular varna-Jatis that developed as a result and the knowledge gained would not reverberate across all of society. And the consciousness of the people as a whole would be fragmented, the concerns fractured, the languages of the people also fragmented.

One notices the learning and who was eligible to acquire it go from a set of general principles to particulars. Consider the Artha Shastra, It speaks of a past referring to schools of similar genre before it.

Continue reading “Fragmented Consciousness:Do Varna-Jatis Learn?”

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Open Thread – 08/01/2020 – Brown Pundits

I think when we started the Brown Pundits Browncast we planned a ~1 time a week affair. As it happens it’s not that regular. The Browncast will be gone for 3 weeks, and then come back every other day for a week. Really you should subscribe at one of the options (just click the link in the strip above the latest podcast).

If you want to hear the podcasts early, please become a Patron. I do post them early. Sometimes hours. Sometimes days. Now and then weeks. And on an occasion here and there months. There is also a podcast you can’t hear unless you are a patron since the person interviewed was up for a government position, and they thought it would be best to remove all public opinions for the moment.

The open threads are getting super long, and I will try some non-WP option at some point. Also something with a killfile. I’m pretty relaxed on censorship with the open threads…but at some point, the nastiness is going to turn people off.

I am frustrated by the historical ignorance of many readers of this weblog and “India” Twitter. So a question, if there are three history books someone should read on the West, India, and China, what would they be? I have plenty of suggestions but I’m wondering what the reader would say.

I’m not going to post a separate show notes episode for Kushal Mehra and myself talking about caste, but it’s up.

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Caste – bred to the bone!

Kushal Mehra and I had a discussion on the Brown Pundits podcast about caste. I will post for Patrons today and push it live tomorrow. I want to review a few things from my perspective on this issue related to what we talked about.

– The paper The promise of disease gene discovery in South Asia highlights a fact: jati has a very strong genetic reality. The stylized fact is that caste endogamy has been strong across southern Asia for 1,500 years. Genetically you can have two castes in the same village in Andhra Pradesh who are as distinct as people from Finland and Sicily.

Additionally, jati is not arbitrary. Brahmins across India may not be closely related, but they tend to have more “Ancestral North Indian” than their non-Brahmin neighbors, on average (true everywhere except for the Northwest of the subcontinent).

– Kushal asked if jati varna was an ESS. I have suggested that caste fragmentation made it harder for non-Indians to take over and assimilate Indian society. But, it is not the only ESS.

– The main contrast I give is to China. People who can read classical Chinese (which was the norm in the early 20th century) can still read oracle bones from the Shang dynasty 3,400 years ago. This is a civilization with continuity and integrity.

The Chinese are a population that has managed to absorb other groups and do it without caste endogamy. Rather, like Europeans, Chinese genetic variation is a function of geography, not class/caste. In fact, the Chinese never developed a blood nobility like Europe. The basis of Chinese civilization has unapologetically been the peasantry.

– In The WEIRDest People in the World Harvard’s Joe Henrich makes the argument that the Western Christian Church’s destruction of extended family networks led to the rise of the West. I won’t recapitulate the argument which I’ve outlined elsewhere. But the idea is rather persuasive.

It seems that the hostility and skepticism toward caste from some on the “Hindu Right” really has to do with Indian nationalism. Jati varna was a reasonable institution in a pre-modern context, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that national cohesion is reduced when people view themselves as members of a “community” first and foremost, and not a nation-state.

From the traditionalist side, the idea that jati varna is a great functional system is really not the point. Let’s be frank: people are invested in their particular traditions and their purity. The rest is commentary.

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Browncast Episode 115: Sean P. McCarthy, Come the Revolution!

Another BP Podcast is up. 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.

On this podcast Razib talks to someone from the economic Left or “Dirt Bag” Left, Sean P. McCarthy. McCarthy’s Twitter account is very funny, especially in the potshots he takes at the woke-Left. But contrary to what one might think, he has very strong and serious opinions on economic matters that challenge what he perceives to be the neoliberal consensus.

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Browncast Episode 114: Brahmin Bannon

Another BP Podcast is up. 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.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

In this episode, we talk to Indian Bronson. The easiest way to explain who he is is that he’s an Indian American Brahmin who is a practicing Hindu vegetarian, who also happens to be on the same ideological wavelength as Steven Bannon.

A data scientist by data, and shitposter by night.

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Browncast Episode 113: Richard Hanania

Another BP Podcast is up. 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.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

“I’m not insane at all”

In this episode, I talk to Richard Hanania. By heritage a dhimmi from the Levant, Hanania’s primary focus is on foreign policy. We discuss the “blob”, the importance of path dependency in American foreign policy commitments, and the impact of sanctions on Iran.

We also discuss his upbringing as an Arab American, and what it’s like to be right-of-center and an academic in 2020.

He has a very interesting and contrarian Twitter account.

Note, if you are a patron, I’ve already posted the interviews of Indian Bronson and Sean P. McCarthy.

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Book Review: The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith

 Hamid Hussain

David Smith’s book The Quetta Experience is a groundbreaking and unique study of Pakistan army’s prestigious Command & Staff College that trains army officers for higher ranks. This book is based on interviews of American army officers who attended Command and Staff College at Quetta in Pakistan. Foreign Area Officers (FAO) of US army spent a year at Staff College.

Colonel David Smith is well qualified to embark on this kind of project.  He attended Staff College Quetta in 1982 and has remained in contact with large number of senior officers of Pakistan army.  In view of his extensive contacts in Pakistan army, he has been a Pakistan hand at Pentagon and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for over two decades. Continue reading “Book Review: The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith”

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Book Review: Dominion, by Tom Holland

Tom Holland started off writing vampire novels but moved on to non-fiction and has since written an excellent history of the Persian invasion of Greece, several books about the Romans, one about Islam and one about the slow rise of Christian Europe that started around 1000 AD ; in retrospect at least, all his non-fiction books have had a hint of Christian Western European apologetics (some of it is probably well deserved reaction to the excesses of contemporary wokeness) but this book makes it explicit. Dominion is well written and well researched and he does make a lot of effort to include the nasty bits of Christian history, but in the end it IS a work of Christian apologetics, albeit from a modern liberal angle. Tom Holland’s basic thesis is that almost the entire set of “humanist” values modern liberals take for granted (universal human equality and dignity, separation of church and state, care for the weaker sections of society, suspicion of power, privilege and wealth, condemnation of slavery, cruelty and oppression, valorization of the weak and downtrodden, etc) is purely Christian in origin. No other civilization or culture had these values (or at least, foregrounded them in quite the same way as Christianity). For example, while some thinkers have always been unhappy with slavery,  the abolition of slavery was a Christian effort through and through. True, the slave owners had their own Biblical justification for slavery, but those who opposed them did so on the basis of their Christian beliefs, and they won the argument.

Holland also insists that the most viciously anti-Christian progressive thinkers of the post-enlightenment era also turn out be using Christian values to attack Christianity. When Marx cries out against the oppression of the proletariat or Lennon sings “all you need is love”, they are really being more Christian than most Christians. Since Nietszche thought something similar (that liberalism is “Christianity without Christ”), he gets a lot of positive play in this book, which is a bit ironic, since he also regarded Christianity as something of a disease.

Continue reading “Book Review: Dominion, by Tom Holland”

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Browncast Episode 112: Tarun Sridharan from Odd Compass – Rajas and Sultans

Another BP Podcast is up. 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.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

This episode features Razib and Akshar talking history with Tarun Sridharan, the man behind a very interesting Youtube Channel – Odd Compass. We discuss the Malacca Sultanate, Vijaynagara’s downfall, Maratha success, and various other topics in history. Make sure to check out his Instagram and especially youtube channel which has beautiful and well-researched videos on history (especially Indian!).

Check out his latest video on the history of war elephants:

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Food between cultures


Recently I read a piece on Indian cuisine from a “woke” perspective, Reclaiming Indian Food from the White Gaze: The same food I was teased for as a kid has become trendy and divorced from its cultural origins. Now, I’m using my cookbook to change the narrative. Obviously I disagree with the ideology interlaced throughout the piece, but the author is a pretty good writer, and a lot of the illustrations and experiences “ring true” to me. You could strip out a lot of the jargon like cultural appropriation and gaze, and the piece would be a fine read.

For example, the point that white women cooking “exotic” food is “trendy” and marketable in a way it isn’t when immigrants or nonwhite people do seems likely, and something I’d rather like explored more.

That being said, the implicit idea that people “own” culture and that the boundaries are sharp and strict seems to me wrong-headed ultimately. Synthesis is as old as human-kind…my family’s cuisine includes red chilis, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Just to give one example.

I’d be curious what Indian readers think, as the piece is obviously inflected by an Indian American lens.

Addendum: I’m from the far east of Bengal, but shrimp is my favorite food.

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