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Re: The struggle for authority

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  • Dunkin Jalki
    Balu has said it many times that the very idea that an authority is needed to convince people what is right and wrong or to make them follow rules is a
    Message 1 of 13 , Aug 25, 2013
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      Balu has said it many times that the very idea that an "authority is needed to convince people" what is right and wrong or to make them follow rules is a Christian idea. And it is this idea that made colonial scholars obsessively look for law giving authorities in Indian society.

      Here is Balu:

      "To any one who has some first hand knowledge of India, the conjunction of the following three phenomena must appear both extraordinary and striking: Firstly, its social organization (viz., the so-called caste system) exhibits enormous complexity, manifests some kind of an order and touches every walk of life. It is a social organization under whose scope falls not only the mundane and minutiae, but also the deeper and the lofty. And yet, no Indian could tell you much about the `principles' of this system, leave alone the dynamics of its reproduction. ... My point is that theorizing about the `caste system' is neither indigenous to the tradition nor inherited from it, but a learned and acquired mode of treating the subject. Secondly, each of the `caste' groups in India appears to have an enormous repertoire of "do's" and "don'ts". Again, were you to dip into the literature of the Indian tradition expecting to find complex reasonings and justifications to support any one set from this variegated, hardly overlapping sets of `injunctions', you are likely to draw a blank. That is, individuals perform a great variety of moral actions and there appears to exist many action alternatives without a correlated corpus of justificatory literature. Thirdly, neither the social institutions nor the moral practices are founded upon centralized authorities: be they religious, moral or political. In other words, absence of knowledge about practices is not supplanted by the presence of authorities whose cogitations could make debates and arguments superfluous."

      From, "Comparative Anthropology and Action Sciences: An Essay on Knowing to Act and Acting to Know." Philosophica [1987], 40(2): 77-107.



      --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, "Arun" <macgupta123@...> wrote:
      >
      > Pardon my questions. As someone trained in the physical rather than the social sciences, I simply don't have the resources to know whether my questions are meaningful, let alone answer them.
      >
      > The great biologist Richard Lewontin, wrote the following in one of the chapters of his books:
      >
      > https://files.nyu.edu/mr185/public/www/classes/readings/Lewontinfull.htm
      >
      > Talking about a world in which welfare is very unevenly distributed, and the ensuing struggles, Lewontin writes:
      >
      > "As such struggles occur, institutions are created whose function is to forestall violent struggle by convincing people that the society in which they live is just and fair, or if not just and fair then inevitable, and that it is quite useless to resort to violence. These are the institutions of social legitimation. They are just as much a part of social struggle as the rick-burnings and machinery destruction of the Captain Swing riots in Britain in the nineteenth century. But they use very different weapons -- ideological weapons. The battleground is in people's heads, and if the battle is won on that ground then the peace and tranquility of society are guaranteed.
      >
      > For almost the entire history of European society since the empire of Charlemagne, the chief institution of social legitimation was the Christian Church. It was by the grace of God that each person had an appointed place in society. Kings ruled Dei gratia. Occasionally divine grace could be conferred on a commoner who was ennobled, and grace could be removed. Grace was removed from King Charles I, as Cromwell noted, and the proof was Charles's severed head. Even the most revolutionary of religious leaders pressed the claims of legitimacy for the sake of order. Martin Luther enjoined his flock to obey their lords, and in his famous sermon on marriage he asserted that justice was made for the sake of peace and not peace for the sake of justice. Peace is the ultimate social good, and justice is important only if it subserves peace.
      >
      > For an institution to explain the world so as to make the world legitimate, it must possess several features. First, the institution as a whole must appear to derive from sources outside of ordinary human social struggle. It must not seem to be the creation, of political, economic, or social forces, but to descend into society from a supra-human source. Second, the ideas, pronouncements, rules, and results of the institution's activity must have validity and a transcendent truth that goes beyond any possibility of human compromise or human error. Its explanations and pronouncements must seem to be true in an absolute sense and to derive somehow from an absolute source. They must be true for all time and all place. And finally, the institution must have a certain mystical and veiled quality so that its innermost operation is not completely transparent to everyone. It must have an esoteric language, which needs to be explained to the ordinary person by those who are especially knowledgeable and who can intervene between everyday life and mysterious sources of understanding and knowledge.
      >
      > The Christian Church or indeed any revealed religion fits these requirements perfectly, and so religion has been an ideal institution for legitimating society. If only people with special grace, whether they be priests, pastors, or ordinary citizens, are in direct contact with the divine inspiration through revelations, then we must depend upon them completely for an understanding of what has been divinely decreed.
      >
      > But this description also fits science and has made it possible for science to replace religion as the chief legitimating force in modem society. Science claims a method that is objective and nonpolitical, true for all time. Scientists truly believe that except for the unwanted intrusions of ignorant politicians, science is above the social fray. Theodosius Dobzhansky, a famous scientist who was a refugee from the Bolshevik Revolution and who detested the Bolsheviks, devoted a great deal of energy to pointing out the serious scientific errors that were being made in the Soviet Union in biology and genetics as a consequence of the unorthodox biological doctrines of T.D. Lysenko. It was pointed out to him that, given his own political convictions, he should not carry on that campaign against Lysenko. After all, he believed that sooner or later a global conflict would occur with the United States and the Soviet Union on opposite sides, and he also believed that Lysenko's false scientific doctrines were severely weakening Soviet agricultural production. Why did he then not simply remain quiet about Lysenko's errors so that the Soviet Union would be weakened and compromised in the conflict that was to come? His answer was that his obligation to speak the truth about science was superior to all other obligations and that a scientist must never allow a political consideration to prevent him from saying what he believes to be true.
      >
      > Not only the methods and institutions of science are said to be above ordinary human relations but, of course, the product of science is claimed to be a kind of universal truth. The secrets of nature are unlocked. Once the truth about nature is revealed, one must accept the facts of life. When science speaks, let no dog bark. Finally, science speaks in mysterious words. No one except an expert can understand what scientists say and do, and we require the mediation of special people -- science journalists, for example, or professors who speak on the radio -- to explain the mysteries of nature because otherwise there is nothing but indecipherable formulas. Nor can one scientist always understand the formulas of another. Once, when Sir Solly Zuckerman, the famous English zoologist, was asked what he did when he read a scientific paper and came across mathematical formulas, he said, "I hum them."
      >
      > ---------
      >
      > All well and good, if Lewontin is correct, starting from the fundamental premise, that a legitimating authority is needed to convince people that the society they live in is fair and just - what was the legitimating authority in classical India? Is varnashrama dharma the distributed rather than centralized legitimating authority and guarantor of social order?
      >
    • Arun
      ... .... So is it that differences in welfare, wealth, etc., do not lead to struggles in Indian society? Or are there mitigating mechanisms that maintain
      Message 2 of 13 , Aug 26, 2013
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        --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, "Dunkin Jalki" <dunkinjalki@...> wrote:
        >
        > Balu has said it many times that the very idea that an "authority is needed to convince people" what is right and wrong or to make them follow rules is a Christian idea. And it is this idea that made colonial scholars obsessively look for law giving authorities in Indian society.
        >
        > Here is Balu:
        ....

        So is it that differences in welfare, wealth, etc., do not lead to struggles in Indian society? Or are there mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence? Since there is no evidence of any centralized authority and perhaps even of any authority, what are these mechanisms?

        Thanks!
        -Arun
      • Dunkin Jalki
        Your question can be reformulated thus: How does Indian culture function if it doesn t function the way western culture functions? Put thus, you can see that
        Message 3 of 13 , Aug 27, 2013
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          Your question can be reformulated thus: How does Indian culture function if it doesn't function the way western culture functions?

          Put thus, you can see that Balu has said a lot about it, when he speaks about the following things: the role of stories, exemplars and rituals in India, or, in more abstract terms, how Indians learn, and how they transmit and preserve what is learnt (knowledge).


          --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, "Arun" <macgupta123@...> wrote:

          >
          > So is it that differences in welfare, wealth, etc., do not lead to struggles in Indian society? Or are there mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence? Since there is no evidence of any centralized authority and perhaps even of any authority, what are these mechanisms?
          >
          > Thanks!
          > -Arun
          >
        • Arun
          ... I think the reformulation is too broad. There is a base assumption that can be challenged: The natural outcome of unequal distribution of welfare in
          Message 4 of 13 , Aug 28, 2013
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            "Dunkin Jalki" <dunkinjalki@...> wrote:
            >
            > Your question can be reformulated thus: How does Indian culture function if it doesn't function the way western culture functions?
            >
            > Put thus, you can see that Balu has said a lot about it, when he speaks about the following things: the role of stories, exemplars and rituals in India, or, in more abstract terms, how Indians learn, and how they transmit and preserve what is learnt (knowledge).
            >

            I think the reformulation is too broad.

            There is a base assumption that can be challenged: The natural outcome of unequal distribution of welfare in society is conflict, unless mitigated by some societal mechanism.

            But given that assumption, what performs the conflict-mitigation function in Indian culture? (which prima facie functions differently from western culture, India never having had a central legitimating authority).

            Do I have to understand the entire culture completely in order to answer the question above? (That is a dismaying possibility, if I have to understand the whole before understanding the parts.)

            Thanks!
            -Arun
          • kannan7s
            ... I think the Indian traditions teach and remind us that it is possible to be happy even if all of one s desires are not satisfied. They then provide action
            Message 5 of 13 , Aug 28, 2013
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              --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, "Arun" <macgupta123@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              >
              > "Dunkin Jalki" <dunkinjalki@> wrote:
              > >
              > > Your question can be reformulated thus: How does Indian culture function if it doesn't function the way western culture functions?
              > >
              > > Put thus, you can see that Balu has said a lot about it, when he speaks about the following things: the role of stories, exemplars and rituals in India, or, in more abstract terms, how Indians learn, and how they transmit and preserve what is learnt (knowledge).
              > >
              >
              > I think the reformulation is too broad.
              >
              > There is a base assumption that can be challenged: The natural outcome of unequal distribution of welfare in society is conflict, unless mitigated by some societal mechanism.
              >
              > But given that assumption, what performs the conflict-mitigation function in Indian culture? (which prima facie functions differently from western culture, India never having had a central legitimating authority).
              >
              > Do I have to understand the entire culture completely in order to answer the question above? (That is a dismaying possibility, if I have to understand the whole before understanding the parts.)
              >
              > Thanks!
              > -Arun
              >


              I think the Indian traditions teach and remind us that it is possible to be happy even if all of one's desires are not satisfied. They then provide action heuristics to enable individuals to realize happiness even if personal or social circumstances are not 'ideal.'

              Most Indian stories provide some models of scenarios where one's welfare is improved by choosing actions aligned with 'dharma' even if there are conflicts and misery abounds.

              The pursuit of 'artha' and 'kaama' is acknowledged to have its place, and the traditions and stories then steer one towards 'dharma' and ultimately 'moksha' as more rewarding pursuits, if one is receptive and ready for them.

              To the extent that societies in India have aligned themselves with the above framework of going about life, I think these pursuits may provide the "mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence" (as phrased in your questions).

              However, I do not see "the struggle for authority" (the title of this thread) as a central theme in the mental life of Indians, or in the collective goings about of Indian communities, though certainly, the question of authority and its place does come up.

              Thanks for posting.

              Kannan
            • Arun
              ... Hi Kannan, Your post reminded me of this passage about a conversation between Gandhi and Gora. http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/gora13.htm#CHAP_VII
              Message 6 of 13 , Aug 29, 2013
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                "kannan7s" <kannan7s@...> wrote:
                >
                > I think the Indian traditions teach and remind us that it is possible to be happy even if all of one's desires are not satisfied. They then provide action heuristics to enable individuals to realize happiness even if personal or social circumstances are not 'ideal.'
                >
                > Most Indian stories provide some models of scenarios where one's welfare is improved by choosing actions aligned with 'dharma' even if there are conflicts and misery abounds.
                >
                > The pursuit of 'artha' and 'kaama' is acknowledged to have its place, and the traditions and stories then steer one towards 'dharma' and ultimately 'moksha' as more rewarding pursuits, if one is receptive and ready for them.
                >
                > To the extent that societies in India have aligned themselves with the above framework of going about life, I think these pursuits may provide the "mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence" (as phrased in your questions).
                >
                > However, I do not see "the struggle for authority" (the title of this thread) as a central theme in the mental life of Indians, or in the collective goings about of Indian communities, though certainly, the question of authority and its place does come up.
                >
                > Thanks for posting.
                >
                > Kannan

                Hi Kannan,

                Your post reminded me of this passage about a conversation between Gandhi and Gora.

                http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/gora13.htm#CHAP_VII

                Quote:

                Bapuji lay stretched full length on his low bed in the open air beside his cottage. I greeted him. He beckoned me to sit by his bed. I did. The situation was encouraging. I felt like sitting by the side of my father to consult him closely on a domestic affair.

                "Now, you tell me, why do you want atheism?" Bapuji asked me in a calm and affectionate voice.

                I was struck by the tone as well as by the nature of the question. It was not the usual question: What is atheism? or what is the use of atheism? Such questions call forth only academic answers. 'Why do you want atheism?' had something remarkably human and practical about it. It was Bapu-like. To my recollection, in all my numerous discussions on atheism, no one had put the question to me in that form. But, instead of taking me by surprise on account of its singularity, the question touched my heart and I poured out my heart.

                I began: "I was in Calcutta last year. I saw the famine-stricken destitutes walking heavily on the pavements. Here and there some of them dropped dead in the streets. They died beside the marts and stalls which exhibited their sweets and fruits for sale.

                Suppose there was a hungry dog or a bull in the same situation. Would he die of hunger? No. Beat him, scold him, he would persist in his attempts to pounce upon the shop, somehow eat the sweets and fruits and satisfy his hunger. Why did not the destitute do the same?

                I do not think they were afraid of the policeman. The destitutes were there in hundreds and thousands. No concerted action was required of them. If a fraction of their number had fallen upon the shops, all the policemen in Calcutta put together could not have stopped them. Even confinement in a gaol with its poor diet would have been preferable to death due to starvation.

                Why, then, the destitutes did not feel desperate and loot the shops? Were all the destitutes abject cowards without exception? Or had all of them such a high sense of civic responsibility as to be unwilling to disturb law and order?

                No. They were all simple, normal folk with no knowledge of civic rights and duties. Had they known their civic rights and duties in the least, there would have been no Bengal famine at all.

                "Looking at the other side, were all the shop-keepers so cruel as to allow their fellow-men to die of dire hunger before their own eyes? No. On the other hand they shed tears of pity and contributed liberally and ran the gruel kitchens for the destitutes. They recited hymns of ethics every day.

                "If the destitute is not cowardly and if the shopman is not cruel, why did so many people die of hunger? I think the reason is their philosophy of life.

                "Both the destitute and the shop-keeper are votaries of the same philosophy of life. Each one said to himself: 'It is my fate, that is his fate; God made me like this, God made him like that.' On account of the commonness of their philosophy, there was no change in their relationship, though some ate their fill and many starved to death. The destitute's faith in that philosophy made his behaviour different from the animals.

                "What I have said with regard to the Bengal famine applies also to the relationship between the untouchables and the caste Hindus, between the dark-skinned and the white-skinned. The same philosophy rules all these relationships."

                End quote.

                The idea that learning how to be happy despite the circumstances makes for social order is both its positive and negative sides. Definitely worth thinking about.

                -Arun
              • vnr1995
                Minimally, humans want to avoid pain, which explains all ratraces humans (esp the emerging middle class) have engaged in. This class can t guarantee the
                Message 7 of 13 , Aug 29, 2013
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                  Minimally, humans want to avoid pain, which explains all ratraces humans
                  (esp the emerging middle class) have engaged in. This class can't guarantee
                  the continuity of their chosen profession to their posterity; this leads to
                  the pyramid that Maslow talks about. Of course, our daily experiences in
                  this modern world confirms that pyramid: too many chiefs, no Indians in
                  whatever ism one picks out (communism, capitalism, socialism, etc).

                  Balu discusses about Maslow's pyramid, a secularized semitic picture of
                  human beings, a picture sold as empirical truth about human beings, in his
                  paper "Sprituality and management theories". Secularization itself is a
                  profession that sells theological claims as empirical truths about the
                  world.

                  Check Balu's paper at: http://goo.gl/jgSkPE


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • kannan7s
                  Arun, I don't know how this quote about the Bengal famine characterizes what it means to be happy according to the Indian traditions. In the Mahabharata,
                  Message 8 of 13 , Aug 29, 2013
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                    Arun, I don't know how this quote about the Bengal famine characterizes what it means to be happy according to the Indian traditions. In the Mahabharata, Krishna convinces Arjuna to fight against his family members, elders and teachers, armed and lined up against him on the battlefield.  Kannan --- In theheatheninhisblindness@yahoogroups.com, <macgupta123@...> wrote: "kannan7s" <kannan7s@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > I think the Indian traditions teach and remind us that it is possible to be happy even if all of one's desires are not satisfied. They then provide action heuristics to enable individuals to realize happiness even if personal or social circumstances are not 'ideal.'
                    >
                    > Most Indian stories provide some models of scenarios where one's welfare is improved by choosing actions aligned with 'dharma' even if there are conflicts and misery abounds.
                    >
                    > The pursuit of 'artha' and 'kaama' is acknowledged to have its place, and the traditions and stories then steer one towards 'dharma' and ultimately 'moksha' as more rewarding pursuits, if one is receptive and ready for them.
                    >
                    > To the extent that societies in India have aligned themselves with the above framework of going about life, I think these pursuits may provide the "mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence" (as phrased in your questions).
                    >
                    > However, I do not see "the struggle for authority" (the title of this thread) as a central theme in the mental life of Indians, or in the collective goings about of Indian communities, though certainly, the question of authority and its place does come up.
                    >
                    > Thanks for posting.
                    >
                    > Kannan

                    Hi Kannan,

                    Your post reminded me of this passage about a conversation between Gandhi and Gora.

                    http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/gora13.htm#CHAP_VII

                    Quote:

                    Bapuji lay stretched full length on his low bed in the open air beside his cottage. I greeted him. He beckoned me to sit by his bed. I did. The situation was encouraging. I felt like sitting by the side of my father to consult him closely on a domestic affair.

                    "Now, you tell me, why do you want atheism?" Bapuji asked me in a calm and affectionate voice.

                    I was struck by the tone as well as by the nature of the question. It was not the usual question: What is atheism? or what is the use of atheism? Such questions call forth only academic answers. 'Why do you want atheism?' had something remarkably human and practical about it. It was Bapu-like. To my recollection, in all my numerous discussions on atheism, no one had put the question to me in that form. But, instead of taking me by surprise on account of its singularity, the question touched my heart and I poured out my heart.

                    I began: "I was in Calcutta last year. I saw the famine-stricken destitutes walking heavily on the pavements. Here and there some of them dropped dead in the streets. They died beside the marts and stalls which exhibited their sweets and fruits for sale.

                    Suppose there was a hungry dog or a bull in the same situation. Would he die of hunger? No. Beat him, scold him, he would persist in his attempts to pounce upon the shop, somehow eat the sweets and fruits and satisfy his hunger. Why did not the destitute do the same?

                    I do not think they were afraid of the policeman. The destitutes were there in hundreds and thousands. No concerted action was required of them. If a fraction of their number had fallen upon the shops, all the policemen in Calcutta put together could not have stopped them. Even confinement in a gaol with its poor diet would have been preferable to death due to starvation.

                    Why, then, the destitutes did not feel desperate and loot the shops? Were all the destitutes abject cowards without exception? Or had all of them such a high sense of civic responsibility as to be unwilling to disturb law and order?

                    No. They were all simple, normal folk with no knowledge of civic rights and duties. Had they known their civic rights and duties in the least, there would have been no Bengal famine at all.

                    "Looking at the other side, were all the shop-keepers so cruel as to allow their fellow-men to die of dire hunger before their own eyes? No. On the other hand they shed tears of pity and contributed liberally and ran the gruel kitchens for the destitutes. They recited hymns of ethics every day.

                    "If the destitute is not cowardly and if the shopman is not cruel, why did so many people die of hunger? I think the reason is their philosophy of life.

                    "Both the destitute and the shop-keeper are votaries of the same philosophy of life. Each one said to himself: 'It is my fate, that is his fate; God made me like this, God made him like that.' On account of the commonness of their philosophy, there was no change in their relationship, though some ate their fill and many starved to death. The destitute's faith in that philosophy made his behaviour different from the animals.

                    "What I have said with regard to the Bengal famine applies also to the relationship between the untouchables and the caste Hindus, between the dark-skinned and the white-skinned. The same philosophy rules all these relationships."

                    End quote.

                    The idea that learning how to be happy despite the circumstances makes for social order is both its positive and negative sides. Definitely worth thinking about.

                    -Arun
                  • Mayank Shekhar
                    I think the original question (... authority in classical India ...) may not apply in the context it is posed. It might be worthwhile to understand the
                    Message 9 of 13 , Aug 31, 2013
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                      I think the original question (... authority in classical India ...) may not apply in the context it is posed. It might be worthwhile to understand the different panchayati systems India had. I believe this will give an idea of distribution of wealth in those times in India. Note that the panchayat did not give authority to any individual as such. At a very high level, the Mukhiya's role was in facilitating the panchayat and ensure representation from all sections horizontal and vertical. Mukhiya was not the Prime Minister or President or Pope of the western society. Neither was the king an authority and people (whole panchayat, or villages or any smaller section) could disagree with King's order / decree / policies and protest in many ways including Satyagraha (that Gandhi popularized amongst the westerners).
                       
                      Mayank


                      ________________________________
                      From: "kannan7s@..." <kannan7s@...>
                      To: TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 7:49 PM
                      Subject: [TheHeathenInHisBlindness] RE: Re: The struggle for authority

                       

                      Arun, I don't know how this quote about the Bengal famine characterizes what it means to be happy according to the Indian traditions. In the Mahabharata, Krishna convinces Arjuna to fight against his family members, elders and teachers, armed and lined up against him on the battlefield.  Kannan --- In mailto:theheatheninhisblindness%40yahoogroups.com, <macgupta123@...> wrote: "kannan7s" <kannan7s@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > I think the Indian traditions teach and remind us that it is possible to be happy even if all of one's desires are not satisfied. They then provide action heuristics to enable individuals to realize happiness even if personal or social circumstances are not 'ideal.'
                      >
                      > Most Indian stories provide some models of scenarios where one's welfare is improved by choosing actions aligned with 'dharma' even if there are conflicts and misery abounds.
                      >
                      > The pursuit of 'artha' and 'kaama' is acknowledged to have its place, and the traditions and stories then steer one towards 'dharma' and ultimately 'moksha' as more rewarding pursuits, if one is receptive and ready for them.
                      >
                      > To the extent that societies in India have aligned themselves with the above framework of going about life, I think these pursuits may provide the "mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence" (as phrased in your questions).
                      >
                      > However, I do not see "the struggle for authority" (the title of this thread) as a central theme in the mental life of Indians, or in the collective goings about of Indian communities, though certainly, the question of authority and its place does come up.
                      >
                      > Thanks for posting.
                      >
                      > Kannan

                      Hi Kannan,

                      Your post reminded me of this passage about a conversation between Gandhi and Gora.

                      http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/gora13.htm#CHAP_VII

                      Quote:

                      Bapuji lay stretched full length on his low bed in the open air beside his cottage. I greeted him. He beckoned me to sit by his bed. I did. The situation was encouraging. I felt like sitting by the side of my father to consult him closely on a domestic affair.

                      "Now, you tell me, why do you want atheism?" Bapuji asked me in a calm and affectionate voice.

                      I was struck by the tone as well as by the nature of the question. It was not the usual question: What is atheism? or what is the use of atheism? Such questions call forth only academic answers. 'Why do you want atheism?' had something remarkably human and practical about it. It was Bapu-like. To my recollection, in all my numerous discussions on atheism, no one had put the question to me in that form. But, instead of taking me by surprise on account of its singularity, the question touched my heart and I poured out my heart.

                      I began: "I was in Calcutta last year. I saw the famine-stricken destitutes walking heavily on the pavements. Here and there some of them dropped dead in the streets. They died beside the marts and stalls which exhibited their sweets and fruits for sale.

                      Suppose there was a hungry dog or a bull in the same situation. Would he die of hunger? No. Beat him, scold him, he would persist in his attempts to pounce upon the shop, somehow eat the sweets and fruits and satisfy his hunger. Why did not the destitute do the same?

                      I do not think they were afraid of the policeman. The destitutes were there in hundreds and thousands. No concerted action was required of them. If a fraction of their number had fallen upon the shops, all the policemen in Calcutta put together could not have stopped them. Even confinement in a gaol with its poor diet would have been preferable to death due to starvation.

                      Why, then, the destitutes did not feel desperate and loot the shops? Were all the destitutes abject cowards without exception? Or had all of them such a high sense of civic responsibility as to be unwilling to disturb law and order?

                      No. They were all simple, normal folk with no knowledge of civic rights and duties. Had they known their civic rights and duties in the least, there would have been no Bengal famine at all.

                      "Looking at the other side, were all the shop-keepers so cruel as to allow their fellow-men to die of dire hunger before their own eyes? No. On the other hand they shed tears of pity and contributed liberally and ran the gruel kitchens for the destitutes. They recited hymns of ethics every day.

                      "If the destitute is not cowardly and if the shopman is not cruel, why did so many people die of hunger? I think the reason is their philosophy of life.

                      "Both the destitute and the shop-keeper are votaries of the same philosophy of life. Each one said to himself: 'It is my fate, that is his fate; God made me like this, God made him like that.' On account of the commonness of their philosophy, there was no change in their relationship, though some ate their fill and many starved to death. The destitute's faith in that philosophy made his behaviour different from the animals.

                      "What I have said with regard to the Bengal famine applies also to the relationship between the untouchables and the caste Hindus, between the dark-skinned and the white-skinned. The same philosophy rules all these relationships."

                      End quote.

                      The idea that learning how to be happy despite the circumstances makes for social order is both its positive and negative sides. Definitely worth thinking about.

                      -Arun


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Mayank Shekhar
                      Gora s response in the conversation quoted below is very interesting - atheism, philosophy of life and particularly:   Quote: If the destitute is not
                      Message 10 of 13 , Aug 31, 2013
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                        Gora's response in the conversation quoted below is very interesting - atheism, philosophy of life and particularly:
                         
                        Quote: "If the destitute is not cowardly and if the shopman is not cruel, why did so many people die of hunger? I think the reason is their philosophy of life.
                         
                        In my reading, a lot of people were similarly inclined - atheism. Was this in the chitta, manas and kaala of that period, or rising to be? Though they called themselves atheists I have not found them abstaining from tradition, and they held their tradition in high regard. I, having the advantage of knowing about colonial consciousness, think they were intellectually revolting against something. It will be good to understand what that something was and where were the roots of that something? Was it a result of colonization? Any help please ...?
                         
                        Mayank

                         

                        ________________________________
                        From: Arun <macgupta123@...>
                        To: TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com
                        Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 9:52 AM
                        Subject: [TheHeathenInHisBlindness] Re: The struggle for authority

                         



                        "kannan7s" <kannan7s@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > I think the Indian traditions teach and remind us that it is possible to be happy even if all of one's desires are not satisfied. They then provide action heuristics to enable individuals to realize happiness even if personal or social circumstances are not 'ideal.'
                        >
                        > Most Indian stories provide some models of scenarios where one's welfare is improved by choosing actions aligned with 'dharma' even if there are conflicts and misery abounds.
                        >
                        > The pursuit of 'artha' and 'kaama' is acknowledged to have its place, and the traditions and stories then steer one towards 'dharma' and ultimately 'moksha' as more rewarding pursuits, if one is receptive and ready for them.
                        >
                        > To the extent that societies in India have aligned themselves with the above framework of going about life, I think these pursuits may provide the "mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence" (as phrased in your questions).
                        >
                        > However, I do not see "the struggle for authority" (the title of this thread) as a central theme in the mental life of Indians, or in the collective goings about of Indian communities, though certainly, the question of authority and its place does come up.
                        >
                        > Thanks for posting.
                        >
                        > Kannan

                        Hi Kannan,

                        Your post reminded me of this passage about a conversation between Gandhi and Gora.

                        http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/gora13.htm#CHAP_VII

                        Quote:

                        Bapuji lay stretched full length on his low bed in the open air beside his cottage. I greeted him. He beckoned me to sit by his bed. I did. The situation was encouraging. I felt like sitting by the side of my father to consult him closely on a domestic affair.

                        "Now, you tell me, why do you want atheism?" Bapuji asked me in a calm and affectionate voice.

                        I was struck by the tone as well as by the nature of the question. It was not the usual question: What is atheism? or what is the use of atheism? Such questions call forth only academic answers. 'Why do you want atheism?' had something remarkably human and practical about it. It was Bapu-like. To my recollection, in all my numerous discussions on atheism, no one had put the question to me in that form. But, instead of taking me by surprise on account of its singularity, the question touched my heart and I poured out my heart.

                        I began: "I was in Calcutta last year. I saw the famine-stricken destitutes walking heavily on the pavements. Here and there some of them dropped dead in the streets. They died beside the marts and stalls which exhibited their sweets and fruits for sale.

                        Suppose there was a hungry dog or a bull in the same situation. Would he die of hunger? No. Beat him, scold him, he would persist in his attempts to pounce upon the shop, somehow eat the sweets and fruits and satisfy his hunger. Why did not the destitute do the same?

                        I do not think they were afraid of the policeman. The destitutes were there in hundreds and thousands. No concerted action was required of them. If a fraction of their number had fallen upon the shops, all the policemen in Calcutta put together could not have stopped them. Even confinement in a gaol with its poor diet would have been preferable to death due to starvation.

                        Why, then, the destitutes did not feel desperate and loot the shops? Were all the destitutes abject cowards without exception? Or had all of them such a high sense of civic responsibility as to be unwilling to disturb law and order?

                        No. They were all simple, normal folk with no knowledge of civic rights and duties. Had they known their civic rights and duties in the least, there would have been no Bengal famine at all.

                        "Looking at the other side, were all the shop-keepers so cruel as to allow their fellow-men to die of dire hunger before their own eyes? No. On the other hand they shed tears of pity and contributed liberally and ran the gruel kitchens for the destitutes. They recited hymns of ethics every day.

                        "If the destitute is not cowardly and if the shopman is not cruel, why did so many people die of hunger? I think the reason is their philosophy of life.

                        "Both the destitute and the shop-keeper are votaries of the same philosophy of life. Each one said to himself: 'It is my fate, that is his fate; God made me like this, God made him like that.' On account of the commonness of their philosophy, there was no change in their relationship, though some ate their fill and many starved to death. The destitute's faith in that philosophy made his behaviour different from the animals.

                        "What I have said with regard to the Bengal famine applies also to the relationship between the untouchables and the caste Hindus, between the dark-skinned and the white-skinned. The same philosophy rules all these relationships."

                        End quote.

                        The idea that learning how to be happy despite the circumstances makes for social order is both its positive and negative sides. Definitely worth thinking about.

                        -Arun




                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • macgupta123
                        ... Hi Kannan, Your post reminded me of this passage about a conversation between Gandhi and Gora. http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/gora13.htm#CHAP_VII
                        Message 11 of 13 , Sep 5, 2013
                        • 0 Attachment

                          First, let me say that I don't know whether social order remained in Bengal during the famine in the 40s, or whether British officials hushed up news of food riots and such.


                          So what we're dealing here is with Gora's perceptions.  Which were that people were starving  to death instead of stealing, forcibly appropriating food for themselves. This was their understanding of the dharma, artha, kama, moksha, etc.  One could argue they were mistaken.  Perhaps.  Nevertheless it would appear that the struggle that Lewontin wrote about that would inevitably occur because of the unevenness of human welfare did not occur.


                          -Arun




                          --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, <theheatheninhisblindness@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

                          Arun, I don't know how this quote about the Bengal famine characterizes what it means to be happy according to the Indian traditions. In the Mahabharata, Krishna convinces Arjuna to fight against his family members, elders and teachers, armed and lined up against him on the battlefield.  Kannan --- In theheatheninhisblindness@yahoogroups.com, <macgupta123@...> wrote: "kannan7s" <kannan7s@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > I think the Indian traditions teach and remind us that it is possible to be happy even if all of one's desires are not satisfied. They then provide action heuristics to enable individuals to realize happiness even if personal or social circumstances are not 'ideal.'
                          >
                          > Most Indian stories provide some models of scenarios where one's welfare is improved by choosing actions aligned with 'dharma' even if there are conflicts and misery abounds.
                          >
                          > The pursuit of 'artha' and 'kaama' is acknowledged to have its place, and the traditions and stories then steer one towards 'dharma' and ultimately 'moksha' as more rewarding pursuits, if one is receptive and ready for them.
                          >
                          > To the extent that societies in India have aligned themselves with the above framework of going about life, I think these pursuits may provide the "mitigating mechanisms that maintain social order and dissipate violence" (as phrased in your questions).
                          >
                          > However, I do not see "the struggle for authority" (the title of this thread) as a central theme in the mental life of Indians, or in the collective goings about of Indian communities, though certainly, the question of authority and its place does come up.
                          >
                          > Thanks for posting.
                          >
                          > Kannan

                          Hi Kannan,

                          Your post reminded me of this passage about a conversation between Gandhi and Gora.

                          http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/gora13.htm#CHAP_VII

                          Quote:

                          Bapuji lay stretched full length on his low bed in the open air beside his cottage. I greeted him. He beckoned me to sit by his bed. I did. The situation was encouraging. I felt like sitting by the side of my father to consult him closely on a domestic affair.

                          "Now, you tell me, why do you want atheism?" Bapuji asked me in a calm and affectionate voice.

                          I was struck by the tone as well as by the nature of the question. It was not the usual question: What is atheism? or what is the use of atheism? Such questions call forth only academic answers. 'Why do you want atheism?' had something remarkably human and practical about it. It was Bapu-like. To my recollection, in all my numerous discussions on atheism, no one had put the question to me in that form. But, instead of taking me by surprise on account of its singularity, the question touched my heart and I poured out my heart.

                          I began: "I was in Calcutta last year. I saw the famine-stricken destitutes walking heavily on the pavements. Here and there some of them dropped dead in the streets. They died beside the marts and stalls which exhibited their sweets and fruits for sale.

                          Suppose there was a hungry dog or a bull in the same situation. Would he die of hunger? No. Beat him, scold him, he would persist in his attempts to pounce upon the shop, somehow eat the sweets and fruits and satisfy his hunger. Why did not the destitute do the same?

                          I do not think they were afraid of the policeman. The destitutes were there in hundreds and thousands. No concerted action was required of them. If a fraction of their number had fallen upon the shops, all the policemen in Calcutta put together could not have stopped them. Even confinement in a gaol with its poor diet would have been preferable to death due to starvation.

                          Why, then, the destitutes did not feel desperate and loot the shops? Were all the destitutes abject cowards without exception? Or had all of them such a high sense of civic responsibility as to be unwilling to disturb law and order?

                          No. They were all simple, normal folk with no knowledge of civic rights and duties. Had they known their civic rights and duties in the least, there would have been no Bengal famine at all.

                          "Looking at the other side, were all the shop-keepers so cruel as to allow their fellow-men to die of dire hunger before their own eyes? No. On the other hand they shed tears of pity and contributed liberally and ran the gruel kitchens for the destitutes. They recited hymns of ethics every day.

                          "If the destitute is not cowardly and if the shopman is not cruel, why did so many people die of hunger? I think the reason is their philosophy of life.

                          "Both the destitute and the shop-keeper are votaries of the same philosophy of life. Each one said to himself: 'It is my fate, that is his fate; God made me like this, God made him like that.' On account of the commonness of their philosophy, there was no change in their relationship, though some ate their fill and many starved to death. The destitute's faith in that philosophy made his behaviour different from the animals.

                          "What I have said with regard to the Bengal famine applies also to the relationship between the untouchables and the caste Hindus, between the dark-skinned and the white-skinned. The same philosophy rules all these relationships."

                          End quote.

                          The idea that learning how to be happy despite the circumstances makes for social order is both its positive and negative sides. Definitely worth thinking about.

                          -Arun
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