Open Thread – Renewal of Covid Restrictions in India

Let the chats begin. Feel free to discuss other things here. As Razib hasn’t added an Open Thread I thought I should

What’s the latest on Omicron ? My amateurish take below.

 

What makes SARS-CoV-2 dangerous is it’s a Upper+Lower Respiratory track infection. Upper track causes high infectivity and lower track causes higher severity (compared to seasonal colds). Looks like Omicron is more Upper track than Lower track (unlike Alpha and Delta). That maybe one of the reasons (other than vaccinations and pre infections) why till now Omicron cases are milder – as they don’t affect lungs as badly as earlier variants. Hence this variant might actually end up inoculating large swathes of people at low cost and thus ending the pandemic

 

Yet in India we continue to display the numbers of Omicron morbidly (even for asymptomatic). Absurd lockdowns and restrictions like Night curfews and interstate RT PCR testing are commonplace in the country. What lies ahead for the people whose work is dependent on the whims of the governments (especially state) makes me very cynical.

It seems Indians by and large think they’re “Ruled’ by governments. In Western societies citizens know they’re “Governed”. I guess that explains why in India we have had no protests against the string of senseless restrictions and lockdowns last 18 months. 

 

Christian conversions in rural India

Arrests, Beatings and Secret Prayers: Inside the Persecution of India’s Christians:

The Christians were mid-hymn when the mob kicked in the door.

A swarm of men dressed in saffron poured inside. They jumped onstage and shouted Hindu supremacist slogans. They punched pastors in the head. They threw women to the ground, sending terrified children scuttling under their chairs.

“They kept beating us, pulling out hair,” said Manish David, one of the pastors who was assaulted. “They yelled: ‘What are you doing here? What songs are you singing? What are you trying to do?’”

The attack unfolded on the morning of Jan. 26 at the Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra Christian center in the city of Indore. The police soon arrived, but the officers did not touch the aggressors. Instead, they arrested and jailed the pastors and other church elders, who were still dizzy from getting punched in the head. The Christians were charged with breaking a newly enforced law that targets religious conversions, one that mirrors at least a dozen other measures across the country that have prompted a surge in mob violence against Indian Christians.

Pastor David was not converting anyone, he said. But the organized assault against his church was propelled by a growing anti-Christian hysteria that is spreading across this vast nation, home to one of Asia’s oldest and largest Christian communities, with more than 30 million adherents.

The article makes it clear that this is mostly a feature of the “Cow Belt” and due to the conversion of Dalits and the like. This is The New York Times so I view this skeptically, but if this is happening it seems likely a large proportion of Dalits will convert to Christianity since the Hindu reaction here is depicted as literally reactive.

One thing that does cross my mind is that the Hindus in the piece are depicted as aggressive. But the Christians have an ambition of converting most of the population, and once and if they became the majority they would surely not be the gentle flock they are now. It’s sad, but true.

I for one welcome our new Brown overlords!


Amy Wax is on Glenn Loury’s show going off on Asian immigrants, and to a great extent, Indian American women who play the whole woke game.

First, I myself have written about the representation of Indians/browns among woke activist types. Amy is reflecting a descriptive reality; don’t deny it, it’s true. Though this is especially prevalent among the 1.5 and 2nd generation, there are some immigrants getting in on the game too (though proportionately far less).

Second, I know Amy a bit personally. We’ve met and hung out in real life at a conference. She’s clearly familiar with my work.

Third, to be candid, Amy is a Boomer, and her comments, observations, and sensibilities reflect her generation. If you listen to her earlier conversations she operates in a world of racial black-white dichotomies, which is the world she came up in. She’s trying to integrate other groups, but these are not people she necessarily grew up with, and she’s trying to understand them.

Fourth, don’t doubt her intelligence. She graduated summa in biological sciences and has an M.D. and a J.D.

Finally, to be honest, I find a lot of her structural analysis here kind of lacking, and I think Glenn made some good points. Some of her talking points, like the idea that Indians are conformist and subservient to power, are pretty widely disseminated on the dissident right, but let’s just say a lot of these observations don’t come from a place of detached analysis, as opposed to emotive reaction and fear. Unfortunately, I think Glenn’s suggestion that Indian Americans are just assimilating, very well, to professional-managerial-class norms, is spot on.

All of that being said, no matter what you think of Amy’s analysis between observation and conclusion, I think her endcaps are probably correct. As I noted above, the description rings true. There are these brown cadres everywhere, with fancy degrees and upper-middle-class upbringings, decrying America as a white supremacist terror regime. It’s embarrassing, offensive, and cringe. And, I also don’t think America as a whole will tolerate rule by a brown-faced elite with exotic names and mostly non-Christian religion. Yes, I can see an Indian American President. Until recently, the Supreme Court had three Jewish Justices (with RBG gone and ACB replacing her it’s Jewish to Catholic now). Imagine if there were three Indian Americans. Not sure the populace would be happy seeing those faces all the time and knowing how different they were than the rest of America.

Browncast: Introducing History of India series

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!

We start a series of podcasts on the history of the Indian sub-continent. The series, in the spirit of all things Brown Pundits, will have unconventional yet authoritative voices. The aim of the series is to have a point of view(s) unencumbered by the baggage of ideology. We will shed light on the obscure aspects and cover the more popular narratives without the pressures of political correctness.

The publication of each episode will be accompanied by a list of books and references that the speakers have quoted in the episode.

In the first episode, Maneesh Taneja is in conversation with Dr. Omar Ali, Shrikanth Krishnamachary, and Gaurav Lele. We take 30,000 feet view of the history of the sub-continent. Our panel talks about, among other things, the early Indians, what holds 3000 years of uninterrupted civilization together, the origins of popular Indian dishes namely Idli & Dosa, and discover the links between Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra and Dev Anand.  

We look forward to your comments and hope you will point out errors and seek attribution, if we have missed any, from our speakers. Let the love and brickbats flow…

History of the Indian Sub-continent, Episode 1:

 

Dr Omar Ali (Twitter handle- @omarali50), Shrikanth Krishnamachary (Twitter handle- @shrikanth_krish) and Gaurav Lele (Twitter handle- @gaurav_lele) in conversation with Maneesh Taneja (Twitter handle- @maneesht).

Books, Papers and Authors:

Is There a Method to Erdogan’s Madness?

Pakistani economist DMKM (he tweets as @2paisay) tries to find out why Erdogan is keeping interest rates low in Turkey. Add your thoughts in the comments. Original article is on his blog here

TL;DR – The answer to the questions posed in the title/subtitle is “I don’t know”.


Someone sent me the below BBC article.

I read the article keenly, hoping to find the answer to the question posed in the title of the report, but I couldn’t. It is a very good question: what is Erdoğan really trying to achieve?

Keeping the interest rate low is severely affecting the Turkish currency. The value of the Turkish Lira has almost halved since Jan 2021. It was around 7 Turkish Lira to a dollar, and now it is almost 14 Turkish Lira to a dollar. That is a huge decline in less than a year.

Turkey’s youth compare their living standards with those in other countries and do not like what they see.

“For a young person in the US or Europe, it’s easy to buy an iPhone with their salary,” says one 18-year-old. “Even if I work for months and months, I cannot afford it. I don’t deserve that.”

This generation is poised to play an important role in politics in Turkey, ruled by Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 2002.

Almost nine million Turks born since the late 1990s will be eligible to vote in the next election in 2023 and that could spell trouble for the AKP.


What reason does Erdogan provide for the low rates? Continue reading Is There a Method to Erdogan’s Madness?

India that is Bharat — The Good, the Bad and the Overstated

The early 2010s saw the internet (particularly youtube) filled with “Takedown” videos of famous public intellectuals and debaters of the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro. These figures typically have a contrarian take, rhetoric flourishes, exuberant confidence, and sometimes even persuasive arguments. As Youtube and Takedown videos become popular in India, one individual has made more waves than most others — J Sai Deepak – a lawyer cum debater.

India that is Bharat was published 4 months ago and has created quite a buzz — which isn’t restricted to social media. The book is a bestseller on Amazon with 1584 ratings with an average of 4.8. Even on the conservative Goodreads, the book is rated at 4.55 after 167 ratings. I decided to review this book in detail after a few recommendations, especially as I feel people to the liberal side of me in the Hindutva — Liberal Overton will not give this book the honest assessment it deserves.


India that is Bharat is book 1 of a trilogy that seeks to set the foundation for the arguments J Sai Deepak is going to put forth in volumes 2 and 3. The basic premise of the argument (i am paraphrasing) is that events from the 15th century to 19th century Europe that shook the world led to universal definitions of concepts like “Modernity”, “Secularism”, “Equality” and “Rationality”. The author claims that these definitions were fundamentally shaped by the Protestant reformation and underlying Christian morality and are hence “Christian”. In addition, these values went hand in hand with the 18th and 19th-century colonization of Bharat, the legacy of which is still ubiquitous in India. For someone who is even superficially well-read on these topics and has an open mind — this claim is not unsupported (though one could argue on the fine details). The clarity of thought of the author is at display in every word of the book. The book is not a scholarly exercise but a precise multi-utility instrument at the disposal of the ever-growing Indic consciousness movement.

Having accepted this basic premise, the 4 “schools” thought to address it are — Modern, Post-Modern, Postcolonial, and Decolonial, of which the author clearly favors “Decolonial school” as it addresses the “Protestant” elephant in the post-colonial nation-states — Coloniality. The book is divided into three sections, Coloniality, Civilization, and Constitution; each of which is expanded using primary references juxtaposed with the author’s insights. The references give the narrative authenticity but those need analysis and extrapolation which the author goes on to provide with surgical precision with a clear end-goal. In most cases, the analysis of the primary references is convincing and solid (though there are some glaring misses — will expand on them later). The extrapolation from even the most solid inferences is however hit and miss. Like the author, I would also attempt to break my review into three neat sections — the Good, the Bad, and the Overstated.

the GOOD:

The immense work put into building this narrative doesn’t escape the reader’s attention. Especially the argument put forth in the final chapter — “the standard of civilization” is a compelling one and doesn’t often get recognized in the public international discourse. A lot of the issues from that very framework continue to haunt countries like India under the veil of international consensus. The author also does a good job of convincing the reader that seeing India as a “civilizational state” is wishful thinking at best. The author also convincingly brings the various points of divergence between India/Dharmic and Christian/Protestant thinking. It is undeniable that this divergence brought about both the direct and indirect stereotyping of “Hindoos” and their “traditions”, the legacy of which the Hindus of the 21st century have to countenance. Eg: The academic mainstream thought of viewing the Sramana traditions (and to a lesser extent Sikhism), primarily as revolts against Brahmanical orthodoxy (of Varna)— similar to the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic church. Also, the Essential practices test applied to Hindu Sampradayas with emphasis on the written word.

Another interesting point brought forth by the author is the difference in attitudes towards non Humans (nature in general) between the Abrahamic faiths and Indic faiths. What the author didn’t touch upon, but could have added is the attitudes towards Darwinian evolution are also in great divergence in these two OETs (onto etymologies) of Western and Eastern faiths. If a man is a part of nature, evolution is easier to digest. Sadly this harmony with nature which takes the form of worship of nature is seen as a joke in the Abrahamic OET. (Though I do not concur with the author in fullness that a lot of current problems with environmentalism come out of this universalism).

In general, the primary references in the book are well researched and the inferences drawn from them are robust and provide a solid foundation for an interested reader to extrapolate. Constituent assembly debates, House of common debates are presented tersely enough to get a moderately deep understanding of the discussions at hand.

However, the biggest positive contribution of the book is that it recognizes “Coloniality” as an impediment to the realization of Indian(particularly Bharatiya) potential. The continued and blind aping of the west — be in food habits, dress codes, language policy all prevent the confidence of the native from growing. Good communication is often correlated with good English in most fields where the institutional imprint is high (from the Tech industry to journalism). I can tell this from first-hand experience that the country has lost thousands (maybe lacs) of brilliant and honest minds, who are not “Modern” in their outlook, do not get the necessary support from society in general and institutions in particular.  Nowhere is this more self-evident than in the Supreme court and English media journalism. Mediocre yet articulate English-speaking elites have suppressed the talents from the subaltern sections of the society from rising up.

the BAD:

Having said the above, I have profound problems with a lot of narratives in the book. My primary problems (as well as support) with the narrative are illustrated below

 

Below are a few of the numerous examples in the book which signify the fallacies of the narrative.

  1. In a robust argument about Colonial ethnic cleansing/genocide of Native Americans, the author lets slip the following UNREFERENCED line — which is not just an exaggeration but an objectively falsifiable statement.

In some cases diseases, such as smallpox and the plague, were introduced with the knowledge that the indigenous community was not immune to them.

Kindle location 1054

2. The author addresses the Christian/Colonial framing of the Jati-Varna system by quoting the works of Nicolas Dirks’ among others. While the Colonial reading of Jati-Varna which became the modern Caste System is refuted; the alternative hypothesis for the reality of the Jati-Varna system is missing. The author also completely avoids the recent genetic studies which point to unique endogamy among Indian Jatis which has poked a lot of holes in Nicolas Dirks’s hypothesis. 

3. In general the references to and inspiration from Greco Roman culture in Enlightenment are largely omitted while its Protestant roots are overemphasized.

It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us

Location 5209

References like these in Macaulay’s minute are totally ignored

A lot of the modern concepts which gained traction in the Enlightenment were clearly of Greco-Roman (or even Indian, Persian) origins. While these may be denied by a section of Christian thinkers in the past (and even so today) — that is not true for the mainstream Western scholarship.

4. It would be fair to assert that the nuance of piecemeal and incremental progress (which incidentally the author might support as a legit way of native reform) has been put through the post-modern lens. Eg: The takedown of Emmanual Kant and his Christian worldview which encompassed racism.

There are some more examples that illustrate my broader point, but I will not add all of them here. (Maybe I can publish my detailed notes somewhere else if needed). In addition to these specific issues, the major incoherent argument made is the insistence of viewing “Modern” concepts of “Equality”, “Liberty”, “Rationality”, “Reason” as at least quasi Protestant. The natural consequence of this is the call for being “Vary” of these concepts themselves – not just their imposition by Coloniality. 

This assertion of erroneous as looking at Englightenment primarily a consequence of Protestant Reformation is tenuous at best. But more importantly, history is rife with Concepts/“Memes” which come out of an OET per se and over time lose connection to the OET itself (to view those concepts from the lens of their germination). The savior/messiah concept seems to have made an impression on Indic faiths from Judeo-Christian OET leading to “Maitreya the messiah” (on may also claim that Hindu Kalki is also a result of that but I am not confident about it). This clearly happened without “Coloniality” as Rome only became a Chrisitan empire later. The same is true for the Crystallization of Islamic orthodoxy which not only drew upon concepts of Totalitarian Assyria but also learning mechanisms of Turanian Buddhism (Buddhist influence of Madrassas).

Ironically the template used by the author to claim that modernity and rationality are Christian (Protestant) is exactly the template used by post-modernists (and now Woke) to classify modernity, science, and rationality instruments of White supremacy. This is also the exact same mechanism used by Leftist scholars and Ambedkarites to dismiss or oppose aspects of Hindu culture under the guise of attacking “Brahminism”.

This is a plain double standard disguised as moral relativism.

Another major umbrage I take to the narrative (at least in the first book) feeds into a post-modern and moral relativist framework for contemporary issues. It is one thing to view the past through moral relativism, but completely different to view and judge different groups in the society using different standards. Concepts of community rights and standards become imperative in such a framework and the author makes it crystal clear in the following passage

Kindle Location 3448-3455

While it would be incorrect to claim that the author’s narrative is attacking individual rights, it is clear “if individual rights are adversely affecting interests of a group then the individual right must be traded off against the greater good”. To bolster this position one might take the example of Sabrimala but let’s take a slightly different and problematic example. Will an individual who stands to inherit immense ancestral wealth lose it because of an unapproved marriage or a lifestyle decision? Will the group interest (endogamy/tradition) trump individual rights? More importantly, how is “group interest” defined? In this framework is Jati endogamy as a tool of preserving ancestral traditions a valid “Group interest” which trumps individual rights (related to property specifically). I am not suggesting that this framework wouldn’t allow individuals to legally marry outside group, but the costs associated with such an activity could be legally recognized. Will the provision in Article 35A for Kashmiri women to lose state domicile be defensible under this framework of Preference for “Group interests” over individual rights?

the OVERSTATED:

The author spends the first section of the book linking Coloniality to Protestant reformation and its ramifications. While the link between the two is undeniable, the emphasis laid on Christian roots of Western civilization, Coloniality, and to an extend Enlightenment is strongly contestable. It is not about whitewashing history but acknowledging how other factors play an important and even at times decisive role in the changes that took place after the fifteenth century. This omission would lead an ignorant reader to put the onus of the New world order emphatically on Protestant reformation and its repercussions while ignoring the other factors.

The author almost spends an entire chapter (10) bolstering the idea that British Secularism (or somewhat even-handed treatment of faiths) is a result of pragmatic and mercantile self-interests and not secular enlightenment principles. This is a classic strawman, for even Anglophiles do agree that the British outlook towards religions in India was due to a pragmatic and mercantile attitude; of first the Company and then the Crown. Quotations from conservative members of an Anglican monarchy (not a secular republic unlike France) and Bishops are used to convey the idea that the British Crown and its parliament were Christian and not secular. While the British Anglican church is always seen as somewhat benign compared to other Protestant denominations, the claim that they are seen as secular/idealist in outlook isn’t true for even the 20th century — let alone 19th century (which the book claims to refute).

This line of argument takes the form of overstatements like “Christian character of Government of India” and “legislative bodies acted with the political theology of Christianity”, “Christianisation of morality” and a lot more with immense emphasis on the Christian side of British coloniality. But if this efficient and well-oiled state machinery secondary or even tertiary plans of proselytization, wouldn’t have managed to convert more than 1% of the mainland Hindu population? (most Christians at the time of Independence resided in Goa, Kerala, and Northeast).

In CONCLUSION:

Overall it is fair to say that the author doesn’t confront the plurality of viewpoints on the topic he is addressing. The rhetorical tools which the author deploys in the audiovisual medium are somewhat blunted in the written word, and this also is a weakness of the book. He makes a persuasive case for Decoloniality despite these flaws, but the argument is far from water-tight. (though clearly, a majority of readers would disagree). Every now and then amidst robust points, the author also displays his tendency for hyperbole like calling retention of Hindu identity of the geography of the majority a paper identity. Not only that, but the author also uses postmodernist (“woke terms”) like “politico-epistemic violence of modernity” which is a red flag for whoever is following the debates around these issues in the West.

The book comes out as a precise instrument and not as an inquiry — which is both its strength and its biggest weakness. To date, I have not come across one legitimate critique of the book, either on GoodReads or Amazon or any digital or non-digital publications. The reason for this is clear though, one side of the ideological spectrum treats the author and his arguments as a pariah or upstart — either too extreme or too mediocre for attention. On the flip side, the other side has and will continue to treat this work as “Groundbreaking”, “Red-pilling” or “even personification of perfection” which seems a stretch even with concessions – especially coming from people who are vastly well-read and more of an intellectual bend than myself. I would argue the people on all sides of the political spectrum taking these positions are either dishonest, myopic, or incompetent. Or maybe it’s that they’re blown away (or repelled) by the personality and rhetoric prowess of the author.

While the readers of this post wouldn’t necessarily agree with all the criticisms I have made above, at least some of the criticisms ought to stick.

Having said that, the book was very important and consequential, especially due to the ingrained coloniality in our institutions and minds (especially the courts). For all its faults, the core argument of the book — that India still has a considerable colonial hangover and needs to shed it to become Bharat — stands solidly by the end of the book. The author has also inspired and convinced me to become more Bharatiya despite my profound disagreements with the book. For context: On identifying with the label “Liberal” over “Conservative”. My position on the liberal/conservative scale has shifted slightly to the conservative side due to my engagements with the author’s (and many other) viewpoints in general and this book, in particular. This book can also be seen as part of the famous Tilak vs Agarkar/Ranade debates that have shaped the Marathi society for the last 100 years. One could say that the intellectual and state pendulum has swung more in Agarkar’s favor and this book is an attempt to wrestle it back towards Tilak.

Given the popularity of the book and the author, the cliche saying “Love it, Hate it but you can’t ignore it” is perfect, to sum up the book in particular and the Decoloniality movement in general. It is definitely a must-read for all interested in public discourse about India that is Bharat.

Post Script:

There may be some errors in my original criticism – especially Point 1 of section the “Bad” which can be worded better. My criticism was about allegation of “with the knowledge that the indigenous community was not immune to them” which was not supported by the author by references. That narrow point stands it is unreferenced but pointed criticism around it I made is wrong.

I was unaware of the scholarship which points that early Europeans may have some awareness of the way immunity works and how the it played in way of accelerating their colonization.

Capsule Review: The Verge, by Patrick Wyman

 

The verge is a short and very readable account of an early phase in the rise of modern Europe, from 1490 to 1530 or so. Wyman has selected a cast of characters including Columbus, Ferdinand and Isabella, Martin Luther, the banker Jacob Fugger, various printers, Emperor Charles V and Suleyman the magnificent; and he uses their stories to weave a story of how the foundations of modern Europe (and by extension, of modernity itself) were laid by the fortuitous intersection of many small and big changes. The invention of printing, the rise of modern finance, the rise of professional military men, the reformation, all these played a role in creating the modern states of Western Europe; states that soon outclassed all competitors and eventually dominated the entire globe. If there is one factor that gets star billing in this book, it is the financial innovations that allowed Western European monarchies to tap more capital in more innovative ways, but the whole point is that no one magic factor drove the great divergence; many different factors came together to set the stage for it. The book is very well written and Wyman has a eye for interesting anecdotes and factoids that keep the reader engaged and interested. Well worth a read.

If you are interested in learning more, Razib Khan has a good review in the National Review: https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/0… (less)

Capsule Review: The Jewish Brigade

The Jewish Brigade is a graphic novel from Dead Reckoning, a division of the Naval Institute Press. It is the (fictional) story of two soldiers in the Jewish Brigade of the British army, an actual unit that was raised in 1944 and that fought for a few months in Italy before the war ended. After service in occupied Europe for a while, the brigade was disbanded in 1946. Some of its members helped organize assistance for Jewish holocaust survivors in Europe, including arranging travel to Palestine for some of them. Many of these volunteers ended up in the Haganah and the Jewish army that fought the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. The author has used this historical background to create the 3 stories that make up this graphic novel.

In the first two, our heroes are members of the Jewish Brigade in occupied Europe immediately after the end of the war in May 1945; as they search for their own kin and run into other survivors they witness fresh horrors as Jews who survived the holocaust sometimes face a hostile reception from their old neighbors and remain in danger of being killed by random Nazis, anti-semites and sundry violent thugs who roam war ravaged Europe at this point. Our heroes help some survivors, face new tragedies and even execute (without trial of course) some Nazis in the hellscape that is postwar central Europe. The book does a great job of reminding us that for many people the war did not end in May 1945 and many violent and cruel tragedies took place as the “unfinished business” of mankind’s greatest war slowly wound down.

The book is a work of fiction of course, and it is undoubtedly also a work of propaganda, with strong Zionist undertones. In the third section, set in Palestine, the propaganda becomes even more strident and one-sided (the heroes are Jews, the villains are Arabs and British officials who fail to support the Zionist project) and if that sort of thing turn you off, then this may not be the book for you. On the other hand, if you want to get a good introduction to the chaos that followed the war and the many gruesome and violent tragedies that happened well after the war was officially over, this is not a bad place to start.

The art work and writing are quite good, but the story is not always easy to follow and some characters appear and then disappear without the reader finding out what happened to them. The three pieces are loosely connected, but can be read separately and will still work. Overall, well worth a read, as long as you keep in mind that it IS propaganda, even if it is mostly on the side of the good guys.

(I got this book as a review copy from Dead Reckoning).