Is the social justice exterior overwhelming the Indian nationalist interior?

One of the most interesting things I have experienced over the past 15 years or so interacting with young Indian Americans, usually of Hindu background, is the disjunction between the scripts that they are inculcated with in their education in broader society, and the quite nationalistic/parochial perspectives that are imparted to them by their parents.

You can say many things about me, but there isn’t much of a disjunction in what I will say you to privately about controversial topics and what I will say in public about controversial topics (the main skeptics of this view are some Hindu nationalists and Zionists, who are convinced that I’m an Islamic supremacist sleeper agent).

So, I when I began to spend some time around Indian Americans one of the peculiar things I was a bit surprised by his how different their extremely social justice Left external presentation could be from what they might say privately over some drinks, or if they perceived you to be an intimate acquaintance. Since my views on Islam were well known many of them felt quite free to openly state their privately skeptical views on the religion of Islam and the practices of Muslims, which reflected what their parents had told them, while in public these people might still denounce Islamophobia. People who would criticize caste privilege in public forums might still be privately smugly proud of their family’s caste background. And, the same people who might perceive American patriotism as to be jingoistic and declasse would express Indian nationalism that they had absorbed with their mother’s milk in private in the crassest of terms.

But there does come a time when you leave your parents’ home, and their influence. And I don’t interact much with Indian Americans on a day to day basis, but I do wonder if many progressive Indian Americans are bringing their two aspects into alignment, and shedding their private chauvinistic reflexes?

An analogy here might be young American Jews, who until recently were quite liberal in the American context, but might align with more ethnonationalist views in relation to Israel (even if they supported the Left parties in Israel, those parties are still more nationalistic than similar parties in the United States). Today the two views are coming into coherence, as most younger American Jews who are not orthodox are starting to distance themselves from Israel.

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I now support quotas on (South) Asian Americans at elite universities (a)

This is a follow up to:

I now support quotas on (South) Asian Americans at elite universities

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.

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An Iyer in the Whitehouse


As most of you probably know, <<<Kamala Harris>>>’ <<<mother>>> (who raised her after she was divorced from Harris’ father) was an immigrant from India. A Tamil Brahmin physician, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris instilled a sense of Indian culture in her daughter. At least according to Harris’ Indian.

The weird thing about Harris for me is she looks a lot like an Iyer friend of mine whenever she smiles.

Because of her mainstream/corporate Democrat credentials, I suspect Harris is far more likely to become President than Tulsi Gabbard.

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Bangladesh, economy and politics in imbalance

[During the month of December I wrote several articles in Bangladeshi newspaper about the runup to the election in 30th December. I am going to post some of these here so that BP readers may get a native perspective on what’s going on.]

As Bangladesh heads to parliamentary elections to be held on 30th December, only a risk-loving gambler would bet against the governing party returning to power. In its latest country report, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) expressed the conventional assessment that the Sheikh Hasina’s government will retain power easily. The analysis powerhouse based this expectation mostly on the strong economic performance of Bangladesh in the last decade under the current regime. Over the last ten years, GDP growth in Bangladesh averaged well over six percent and is projected to be even higher in the next few years. Foreign exchange reserve has increased more than fourfold, and the currency has remained steadfast against hard currencies. During the last ten years the Bangladeshi currency has lost only twenty percent of its value against US Dollar while the Indian Rupee lost thirty-one percent and Pakistani Rupee forty-one percent.

Not just in economy, Bangladesh has made great strides in social development. By World Bank estimates, national poverty rate dropped from forty percent to twenty-four percent in the ten years preceding 2017. By Bangladesh government estimates, by 2015 the country has already achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals, for example in nutrition, primary education, child mortality, maternal health etc., far ahead of most of the LDCs. These growth and developments were not urban-centric either, rural household income increased by forty percent from 2010 to 2016.

However, the ongoing pre-election period may baffle an outside observer because, despite strong economic growth and widespread expectations of a win, the regime is carrying out an unprecedented campaign of repression of political opponents. Not only the ruling party is visibly controlling every facet of the administration, including the election commission, but the party is using these state organs to directly thwart, attack, arrest, harass opposing candidates countrywide. This would not surprise regular observers of Bangladesh affairs because, along with the remarkable economic growth, the last ten years were also marked by clear democratic backsliding and authoritarianism. German research group Bertelsmann have been keeping tabs on democratic development in the world since 2005. Its indexes show that status of democracy in Bangladesh has been rapidly deteriorating since the non-competitive election of 2014 and in 2018 Bangladesh was downgraded from a highly defective democracy to a moderate autocracy.

The level of repression before the election suggests that the rosy economic and development numbers may not be providing a faithful representation of the economic well-being of the general people. A recent report by International Labor Organization (ILO) said that youth unemployment in Bangladesh grew by seven percent from 2010 to 2017, one of the worst unemployment growths in developing countries. In a pre-election assessment of the economy of last ten years, CPD, the venerable Bangladeshi thinktank, put forward the calculation that one-third of the educated youth are unemployed. In the recent years, the country has been rocked by several urban youth movements demanding more access to government jobs, for many the only avenue for upward mobility.

At the same time, several estimates from Bangladeshi sources say that as many as half million foreign nationals, mostly Indians, work in Bangladesh in skilled/white collar jobs. This lack of Bangladeshi educated and skilled workers is greatly explained by the dismal state of higher education in the country. Times Higher Education produces annual world university rankings with one of the largest coverage of universities. In the latest 2017 rankings, there are more than thirty Indian universities and five Pakistani universities among the top one thousand universities of the world. Bangladesh has zero. World Bank data shows that during the last ten years, Bangladesh annually spent only about two percent of its GDP in education while Pakistan spent near about three percent and India three and half percent.

Economists studying development argue that a country’s long-term economic growth comes mainly from two sources, investing in human capital and investing in physical capital.  From previous discussion, we have seen that human capital development in Bangladesh has been significantly below par to its neighbors. In investment, the picture is not much better either. The previously mentioned CPD report showed that in the last ten years both private investment and foreign direct investment growth in Bangladesh were anemic. Rather than investments, much of the ‘miraculous’ economic growth of Bangladesh have come from exports, consumption and government spending.

Export growth, in particular, has been spectacular; more than doubling from seventeen billion USD in 2009 to thirty-seven billion in 2017. For comparison purposes, Pakistan’s total export in 2017 was less than twenty-five billion USD. However, if we look at the composition of export, a stark imbalance appears like the elephant in the room. More than eighty-five percent of the total exports of Bangladesh is just from one product category, ready-made garments (RMG) and textiles. Any development economist would say that such high level export dependence on just one product is alarming for any country and any product. RMG may be an especially bad basket to put in all the eggs.

Garments is a low-technology, labor intensive industry that mostly depends on ready-to-export, turn-key factory units. Although the industry employs a great number of factory workers, lack of learning and upgrading in jobs mean that workers have short shelf-life and are unceremoniously terminated after the end of productive years. The mature technology of RMG means there is little effort for innovation, R&D in the export industry. Thus, there is a lack of need for skilled and technology workers, which means that the industry provides little demand for development of human capital and technological capabilities in the country.

A particular feature of garments industry is that, unlike chemicals, machinery, IT services etc., it has very little input-output relations with other major export industries. This means that development of garments industry does not spill over to development of other more value-adding industries. Despite frequent boastful proclamations from regimes and entrepreneurs, industries like pharmaceuticals, electronics, IT services, chemicals etc., are prominent in the Bangladeshi export basket by their insignificance and absence.

Some economists argue that “countries become what they make”. The RMG industry, by dominating Bangladeshi economy for long time, has not only dramatically shaped the society but also the politics. This is a strikingly unequal industry with a few dominating large firms and many small firms servicing those large firms; there is a conspicuous lack of mid-sized and diverse firms. The industry creates a narrow business elite that can easily collude with the government for preferential treatment. The regime, in return from this privileged treatment of the industry, obtains assurance of steady and increasing revenue which it invests in building up the bureaucracy and infrastructure. This growing public investment not only help boost the GDP but also provide the political regime with means to buy off loyalty of bureaucracy and civic society. Regimes then use the RMG-fueled state and civic power to suppress political opposition and stage ‘managed’ elections. We have witnessed these intimately related events again and again in recent years, most notably in Cambodia, another RMG-dominated country, where the ruling regime just staged an election in 2018 where it ‘won’ hundred percent of the seats.

Many technology, economics analysts have argued recently recently that Bangladeshi garments industry is a prime candidate for severe incoming disruption from automation. Development of new automation technology, changes that are now within realistic realm, can wipe away advantages of cheap labor at a stroke and render millions of garments workers jobless worldwide. The spectacular growth of garments industry in Bangladesh explains source of the dominating power the ruling regime has over political opponents. At the same time, the uneven economic and social development from this industry and the very precariousness of the industry’s future, help us understand why there is simmering discontent among aspiring citizens. The puzzle of repression during times of plenty, is not so baffling after all.

 

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Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action

Three comments

1 – He was relatively fair. I mean you knew what talking points he was going to deploy and what his conclusion was going to be.

2 – Minhaj is very American. A particular sort of American. Though the episode focuses on “Asian Americans”, Minhaj sounds like he was birthed out of The Daily Show comedy-clone factory.

3 – I don’t think it was that funny. And I don’t think the audience found it particularly funny either.

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Global alliances and wheels within wheels

Over ten years ago I read Adam K. Webb’s Beyond the Global Culture War with some skepticism. In it, Webb outlined the future revitalization of non-Western societies and cultures and their ultimate face-off with global liberalism.  It’s a really strange book, which talks positively about the Iranian Revolution and Rabindranath Tagore.

But I think elements of the thesis are coming to fruition in ways I couldn’t have imagined. For example, the Western Left has a very strong animus against Hindu Nationalism. case in point, the Western (mostly American) feminist website, Feministing, has published a piece documenting a protesting a Hindu meeting in Chicago: Why These Activists are Protesting Hindu Nationalism in Trump’s America.

Here’s a thought experiment: can you imagine left-wing activists protesting an Islamic Society of North American meeting? Curiously, the atheist ex-Muslim activist Armin Navabi, who was at the meeting in Houston this summer, observed that the people who were most hostile to the ex-Muslims were not the Muslims themselves (most of whom were curious), but philo-Islamic Communist activists. These activists were apparently shouting Islamic slogans at right-wing anti-Islamic demonstrators.

Navabi even reported that the Muslim attendees talked to him and seemed disturbed and confused by the specter of hammer & sickle brandishing Communists, and could not understand why or how they were pro-Islam.

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A Profile in Courage

I am not adding anything extra with this short news item, I think the news speaks eloquently and voluminously by itself. I just want to add that I feel utterly humble when I consider how much courage and determination people like  Jibran Nasir possess to do what he is doing day after day in a place like Pakistan.

Rare secular candidate in Pakistan hounded by angry mob

Labaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said his party “did not send anyone to do this”, adding that people running in elections should declare their faith.

Nasir gained nationwide prominence in 2014 after staging protests against the Red Mosque, the Islamabad center of a militant network with links to Pakistani Taliban strongholds in the northwest and in neighboring Afghanistan.

The mosque was the site of a military standoff in 2007, but within two years its chief cleric was freed from detention and was once again calling for strict Islamic rule across Pakistan.

The mosque campaign earned Nasir a phone call and death threats from a high-ranking Taliban commander.

“We are doing it for the millions of Pakistanis … who right now are forced to choose amongst the lesser of evils, who are willing to embrace different political leaders with all their biases and religious bigotry,” he said.

“Every day I am carrying on with my mission, they are making a fool of themselves.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-election-independent/rare-secular-candidate-in-pakistan-hounded-by-angry-mobs-idUSKBN1KD1L7

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