• 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
India/western Sociology

What do Indians Need: A History or the Past?
S.N. Balagangadhara</b>
Today, both in India and abroad, we see the emergence of a new intellectual trend: based on painstaking research, to write an accurate history of India. What is new about this approach? In one sense, as I shall explain in this article, this attempt is not novel; in another sense, which too shall be explained, there is something very new in it. I shall talk about both in the course of answering the question raised in the title, which contrasts ‘the past’ with ‘a history’. This contrast needs explication because historiography is seen as an ‘accurate recording of the past’. Yet, I am going to contrast the product of historiography, ‘a history’, with something called ‘the past’.
The story I will pen has contemporaneous relevance: this issue was at the centre of the Ayodhya temple controversy and now it is back with the claims about Rama Sethu. Some people want to make claims from our legends and stories into historical truths and their opponents want to suggest that stories like Ramayana do not have any historical truth. Even though these two appear each other’s opponents, I want to suggest that they are brothers and kins underneath. The Sangh Parivar and the Indian ‘secularists’ share the same bed, eat the same food and mouth the same story. And primarily it is their story that I want to tell.
However, this story is complicated: it has at least two beginnings, two middle points and one common end. There are many branches to this story and, although this is not enough, I will even talk of an alternative. In a way, to an Indian audience, this should not pose a problem: the story of Mahabharata is not unitary; there are stories within stories with multiple narrators and voices, and many synchronous events. I am not a Vyasa to keep you captivated by my narration, even though I wish I were. Unlike his epic, this article is both short and requires a sequel. My hope is to write that sequel in the course of the foreseeable future. However, these are my failings. I hope you are still Indian enough to find the time to give me a hearing and that you have not become all hustle and bustle the way the westerners are.
A first beginning
A few thousand years ago, two intellectual movements existed simultaneously in the Ancient Greek society. The first, with a venerable past, was exemplified by the bards: these were the story-tellers, who moved from town to town recounting Greek legends and mythologies. The bards drew reasonably large crowds wherever they went; they did not merely entertain the audience by recounting Homer and other respected poets but also, through the act of story-telling, addressed the actual problems of their society. They told stories of long ago: Ulysses and the Sirens, Cyclops and Zeus, and about Jason and the Argonauts. The characters in such stories were both human and divine; some among them faced insurmountable challenges; their deeds were, therefore, considered heroic. The poets, it was said, rightly immortalized them. The bards cherished telling such stories and the crowds loved hearing them.
And then, there was another group as well. For the sake of convenience, let us call them philosophers (those who loved wisdom). We know the names of many such; one of them, the most well-known, is Plato. This philosopher was not happy, either with the bards or with what they did. He felt that the bards incited the crowd into irrational behaviour based on irrational feelings. Instead of inculcating reasonableness, Plato thought, these bards pandered to the emotions of people. Emotions were always bad advisors, especially if they concerned matters of polity. He opposed educating the children (who would be the future Athenians) by teaching them legends and mythologies because such stories, according to Plato, always exaggerated, distorted and lied about the past. In fact, Plato envisioned an ideal state that would ban all the poets and bards into exile; such a state, ruled by a philosopher-king, would be the polis to live in because it alone cultivated reason among its citizens. He opposed ‘myth’ to ‘history’, and ‘emotions’ to ‘reason’. He believed that not myths but history should guide the behaviour of the civilized Athenians. He saw the bards as ‘orators’ and counterposed ‘rhetoric’ (the art of speech) of his time to ‘reason’. Oration cultivated demagogy (that which appealed to the irrationality and the emotions of the crowd) and thus poisoned the youth, whereas philosophy cultivated reason.
These two tendencies were apparently each other’s rivals in the Athens of so-long-ago. However, before either of the tendencies could gain dominance, the Greek civilization collapsed. In the future, the torch lit in Athens would be carried only partially by the Roman Empire.
A Second Beginning
We now move the tale forward by a few centuries. At that time, the Roman Empire included many parts of what we now call the Middle-East. Romans had also conquered Judea, a nation of people called the Jews. Like all other nations of the world, the Jews too had a story about their own past. Their story told them of the travails of the Jews, comprising of twelve tribes, who were scattered among other nations as a punishment. The punisher is an entity that we now call ‘God’ and He punished the Jews for forgetting Him, the ‘God of Israel’. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the creator and sovereign of the Universe, and the Jews were instructed to keep the Law He gave them. He instructed them too in the difference between Himself (the ‘True’ God) and ‘gods’ of other nations and peoples, and revealed Himself in Mount Sinai. Being the merciful God that He is, He also promised the children of Israel that He would send down to earth a messenger, who would unite the Jews together again.
This caricature of a story about the Jewish past will do for the moment because what is interesting here is not the story itself but the attitude of the Jews towards it. Unlike the Greeks of yesteryears, the Jews of yesterday and today believe that theirs is a true story. In fact, they do not consider this as a story at all: to them, it is the factual chronicle of events on earth. In other words, their account of their past, the Jews believe, is history. God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – did punish the Jews; God did promise to send His own messenger (‘the promised one’, Christos is a Greek word) to earth, and that this messenger will come because God always keeps His promises.
In the course of time, some Jews began to proclaim the arrival of such messengers of God. Many said that the Messiah had come to earth at God’s behest to save the children of Israel. The most well-known group among them crystallized around the person and acts of Jesus of Nazareth. Believing that Jesus was the Christ (the announced, the messiah, the anointed), this group tried to persuade the Jews about his arrival. Most of the Jews did not buy the idea that Jesus was the Christ. Largely rejected by the Jews, this group then proclaimed that Jesus had come to earth not just to save the Jews but to save the entire Humankind. The Jewish accounts of their past, their history, had already spoken of the Original Sin, Eternal Damnation, Hell and Heaven. The Christians (i.e., those who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ) took most of it over but accused the Jews of heresy and a signal failure to understand their own scriptures. They believed that Judaism was dead and would be soon replaced by Christianity, a creed professed by the Christians, i.e. those who proclaimed the arrival of the messenger of God, his death on the cross for the sins of mankind and his resurrection three days later. This was the ‘Good News’ that the Christians proclaimed to the world at large.
This too is a caricature of Christianity but, again, I want to draw your attention to not only how the Christians looked at these chronicles but also to how they were and are compelled to look at it.
Much like the Jews, the early Christians also believed that their story about their past was not just their history but also the history of mankind. Every event that was chronicled in the Old Testament Bible, from Adam and Eve through the Garden of Eden and the Flood to Noah’s ark, they believed, narrated the facts and events on earth. Adam did commit the Original Sin (as it is narrated in the Old Testament Bible) by thirsting after the knowledge of good an evil and the children and descendents of Adam (the entire humankind) do carry this burden. The Christians claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ; he was crucified by the Romans; he did rise from death three days later and promised humankind ‘salvation’, if they followed him. Those who did not, the disciples of Jesus maintained, would be eternally damned to Hell, the Biblical Hell, ruled by the Devil.
Apart from the Jews, who were sceptical and dismissive of the claims of Jesus to Christhood, the Christians also confronted the intellectuals of the Roman Empire. Among other things, these intellectuals found that the Christians were making ridiculous claims about ‘God’, ‘the Devil’ and Jesus of Nazareth. Even though they tolerated the Jewish customs and traditions, they never accepted the story of the Jews as the history of humankind. In Christians, they not only found a silly sect that claimed that some entity called ‘God’ could create whatever He wanted just by ‘willing’ it into existence but also a new group that made ridiculous assertions about resurrection after death. Jesus must have been a magician, they thought, who merely pretended to die while convincing the gullible that he was ‘really dead’. Who had ever heard of someone being resurrected after death? Among other things, they thought that Christians were simple minded fools, who ran away from all discussions and tried to ‘convert’ only the children, slaves and women. (None of these three, the Romans thought, was able to ‘reason’ the way a mature citizen could.)
Caught between the hammer and the anvil, the Christians had to insist more and more vigorously that they were telling the truth. Theirs was not a story or a myth but the history instead. It was not just the history of the Jewish nation without it being the history of the whole of humankind. The Christian God was not merely the ‘God of Israel’, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendents, but ‘the God’ of the whole of humankind. He became the generic ‘God’: singular, unqualified, and unique. He was ‘God’. He created the Cosmos; He is the Lord and Master of the World; He is the Sovereign and the fountainhead of all morality. His Will was the Law and, as His creatures, we have to obey Him.
Why, then, do different nations have and worship different ‘gods’? This was easily explained: all these ‘gods’ were ‘false’; as followers and lieutenants of the Devil, these false gods lead mankind towards destruction. They were vagrant ‘spirits’, the daimones of the Greeks from which the English word ‘Demons’ is derived. The Greeks, of course, did not think of their gods either as vagrant spirits or as the followers of the Biblical Satan or the Devil. Neither did the Romans. However, the Christians added their own spin to the Greco-Roman thought and, with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, they also gained political power.
In other words, according to Christianity, the Biblical story is the ‘true’ history of the whole of humankind. Jesus of Nazareth had to be a real, historical person crucified by the Romans. The Christians believed furthermore that the stories that other peoples and nations told about their multiple pasts were just that: myths and legends but not history. Bible was History. It was the history of the humankind. Period.

The First Middle Point
There are two middle points I want to talk about. The first is the cognitive attitude one assumes with respect to looking at the past of a group. The second is about the attitude one has to the multiple ways in which human groups have, in fact, looked at their own pasts. Let me begin with the first.
Consider what happens when you look at actions and events in the world as expressions of God’s will. Assume too that this will intends something with such actions and events and that this ‘something’ pertains to the future of human kind. Because, as human beings, our perspective about the present is more limited than our ability to gather records about the past, we can write fuller chronicles about the past. Furthermore, these narratives are important for discerning God’s plan in the events of the past. Such knowledge is extremely crucial to determining the course of actions in the future, as far as we human beings are concerned. The Christians discovered very soon during their existence that the world was not going to come to an immediate end, an end which they hoped to see. Consequently, their problem became: what did God (and Christ) intend with human ‘history’? In the events of the past, which was Christ acting in human history, they were provided with signs that required interpretation. In so far as God’s will is revealed in the world (including in human history), it becomes the tasks of men to study the same to find out what God intends. God’s will is also revealed in the chronicles of the human past. However, it is imperative to studying God’s revelation that one studies what actually happened in the past. Only when we study the past as it actually occurred, only then could we hope to decipher what God intends for the human kind. An imaginary past is no substitute for an accurate rendering of the same. Not merely is such a past no substitute; the situation is even worse: by studying false chronicles about the past as though they were true, one endangers the very possibility of the salvation of the human soul.
The Bible, however, had already chronicled the human past. What was new, after Jesus Christ, was the emergence of the Christian Church. Consequently, one needed to chronicle the history of this institution as something that fulfilled God’s plan on earth in much the same way one chronicled the coming of Jesus of Nazareth as the culmination of the strivings of the nations. Eusebius, the famous Church historian, accomplished both: one in his writings on the history of the Church and the other by showing how the ‘wise’ and ‘noble’ of the pagans from other cultures had actually, if only implicitly, anticipated the arrival of the Messiah.
It was left to St. Augustine to come up with the definitive framework from within which to study the human past. This philosophy of history suggested looking at the growth of the Christian ecclesia as the historical expression of God’s plan. This community of believers (the Christian ecclesia, that is), to Augustine and his followers, was bigger than any empirical society of Christians at any given moment of time. It incorporated the entire set of believers, past, present and future. It was a grand philosophy of history that once and for all set the foundations to answering the question: how ‘ought’ one to study the past? Even more important than this fact is the following: he would make a very counter-intuitive attitude into a trivial ‘but, of course!’ The last sentence needs some explication.
Consider the following question: why talk about the past at all? Or, why do human communities feel the need of talking about the past of their communities? These and analogous questions are raised in order to make the human present representable to those who live. Why represent the past and present to ourselves at all? An answer to this question requires appealing to some kind of an idea about what it is to live as a human being, what we aim at in life and why. Because we are interested in human flourishing (“live a good life”, whatever ‘good’ means in this context), we need to think about ourselves as beings with some kind of a past. In other words, one looks at the past for the sake of living well and flourishing in the present. In most groups that have evolved into cultures, some kind of an implicit consensus is present regarding what human flourishing is, that is, what it means to live a good life. This consensus is as general and as abstract as the question itself (‘human flourishing means to be happy’). In this sense, each human group has some kind of story about its past.
However, St. Augustine formulated the question about the past within the Christian theological framework. That is to say, he formulated a theological question as though the query about the past was indissolubly connected with the ‘truth’ of a story about the past. As I have outlined it earlier on, to the Jews and the Christians, it was imperative that their claims about the past were ‘true’. If such claims were false, and the humankind acted in the present on the basis these falsehoods, its future was eternal damnation. Thus, to St. Augustine, it was very obvious that there was only attitude possible with respect to the past. Such an attitude sought the ‘true’ past: it was an attitude that answered the question “how ‘ought’ one to study the past”? One ‘ought’ to study the past in such a way as to find the true past. This ‘true’ past had to be found through a painstaking study (of scriptures and the writings of the early church fathers), said Augustine, because mankind has been deceived into believing the lies told by the Devil about the human past. In short, because lies about the past abound in human communities (these ‘lies’ are, of course, the stories that human groups have about their own multiple pasts), one needs ‘the truth’. The Bible was the only repository of this ‘truth’, as far as Augustine was concerned.
Because ‘truth’ is what all human beings like to seek, today it has become obvious to talk as though one seeks truth while one studies the past. Two important issues need to be understood here. There is, first, the question why study the past at all? There is, second, the problem of what ‘truth’ means in this context.
Consider the first issue. Why ‘study’ the past instead of recounting your community’s story about the past? I mean, why are we not satisfied in recounting Ramayana, Mahabharata, puranas, etc as our stories about our past? What do we need to study and why? To these questions, there is a plausible sounding answer: ‘we need to know whether these stories are true’. Ask again why: Why do we need to know whether these stories are true? After all, as we believe, these stories have been in circulation for millennia and they have adequately and admirably met the needs of our ancestors (and most of our contemporaries as well) in their quest for human flourishing. So, what extra reasons exist to ‘study’ the past?
Here is the first possible answer, which takes the form of a question: what if our stories about the past turn out to be false? Let me answer it with a counter-question: so what? What does it matter whether what we believe about our past is true or false as long as it helps us in human flourishing? One can choose truth above falsehood if (a) truth about the past helps us live better as human beings and (b) falsehood damages us. Without answering these questions, one cannot provide extra reasons to study the past.
Here is a second possible answer that attempts to sidestep the issue: “we need to know the truth about the past because only as such do we have knowledge about the past. We do not need to justify this knowledge about the past any further because, surely, knowledge is its own justification.” However, this answer too does not work. Why?
This brings us to the second issue. You see, the only intelligible notion of truth we have today is one makes ‘truth’ into a property of sentences, that is, into a linguistic property. (That is to say, it is only of sentences that we can say whether they are true or false.) Even though we do use the notion of truth in multiple other ways (when we say of someone that ‘he is a true friend’ or when we say ‘only truth is the real’ and such like), we are incapable (today) of fleshing out these, other notions of ‘truth’. In this sense, there are repositories of truth in existence today: the multiple telephone directories in the world. Such books are embodiments of ‘the truth’ about the world. Consequently, ‘the truth’ which the historians seek could only be the analogues of telephone directories from the past. While one does not have any objection to collecting factoids about the past, what have these to do with ‘knowledge’, except in a trivial sense of that word?
One might disagree by pointing to ‘historical explanations’. Do these not constitute knowledge? No, they do not. In the first place, all such explanations are ad hoc: one does not generate knowledge by sucking some explanation out of one’s thumb to ‘account’ for the facts already collected, no matter how large that set of facts might be. Second, such explanations do not explain: they merely insinuate some kind of connection between facts and some implicit thesis. Third, invariably, such a thesis is some or another commonsense variant of (or garden variety) psychological or sociological ‘explanation’. Fourth, the assembled facts cannot, in any way, testify to ‘the truth’ of the implicit thesis. As a consequence, except for being ad hoc stories about the past, such ‘explanations’ do not even clarify the nature of ‘historical explanations’.
In fact, there is a radical disjunction between what the historians think they are doing (‘seeking explanations about the past’) and what they do (collect factoids). When he seeks ‘the truth’ about the past, neither the historian nor his reader knows whether he has found it or even why it has to be ‘found’. The ‘archives’ of the historian is not some kind of ‘collective memory’ of the humankind. It is what it always was: a collection of records that sits in a library shelf slowly gathering dust.
The ‘truth’ that St. Augustine sought can never be proved or disproved by any kind of research in the ‘archives’. His ‘truth’ was about the Christ nature of Jesus of Nazareth and about the Bible. His predecessors had established that Jesus of Nazareth existed and their theologies had proved that he was The Messiah. Therefore, he claimed that one ‘ought’ to study the past on the basis of this knowledge. What sense does it make to take over his theological question and try to garnish it with ‘secular’ sounding dogmas?
The Second Middle Point
In 1160, Peter Comestor – the then chancellor of Notre Dame of Paris – wrote Historia Scholastica, a book that enjoyed tremendous popularity in all parts of Europe. As an appendix to his sacred history, Peter condenses some of the ‘mytho¬logi¬cal’ material into a series of short chapters, or inci¬dentiae. In these, he looks at some of the ‘mythological’ figures in the following way: Zoroaster, for instance, invented magic and inscribed the seven arts on four columns; Isis taught the Egyptians the letters of the Alphabet and showed them how to write; Minerva taught sev¬eral arts, in par¬ticular weav¬ing; Prometheus probably instructed the ignorant or fabricated automata. All these mighty spirits, suggests Peter Comestor, are worthy of veneration, as are the patriarchs, and for the same reason: they have been the guides and teachers of humanity, and together stand as the common ancestors of civilization.
This way of looking at stories about other people’s past represents one end of the spectrum. At the other end stands a disparaging attitude towards all such narratives. For instance, this is exemplified by Sir Babbington Macaulay, in his famous minutes con¬cerning the need for a British education system in India:
It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical infor¬ma¬tion that has been collected to form all the books written in the Sanskrit lan¬guage is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridge¬ments used at preparatory schools in Eng¬land...
The question before us is merely whether when we can patronize ... sound history, (or) we shall countenance, at the public expense, ... his¬tory, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long – and geogra¬phy, made up of seas of treacle and butter (cited in Keay, John, 1981, India Discovered. London: Collins, 1988: p. 77, my emphasis).
In the spectrum that I am constructing for the purposes of this piece, these two attitudes reveal two faces of the same coin. One face looks at the tales of the past of their peoples and cultures as disguised historical narration but discovers some ‘kernel’ of truth in such narrations. It assumes, in a manner of speaking, that other people somehow did not know how to compose historical narratives (or did not care to do so) and that one has to ‘interpret’ these stories to extract the ‘truth’ from such stories. This is how, for example, the European intellectuals looked at the Greek myths during the Italian Renaissance. They felt that the Greek legends talked of human virtues but that these narratives represented such virtues (like courage, bravery, generosity, justice, etc) in the form of ‘heroes’ and ‘gods’. So, one had to ‘sympathetically’ read the myths and the legends of the Ancient Greek society to really understand what they are trying to say.
The ‘heroes’ of the European Enlightenment, by contrast, exemplify the second face of the coin. In their ‘Quarrel with the Ancients’, they were vitriolic in their assessment of the achievements of the Ancient Greek society, especially their myths and legends. Opposed to these myths and legends, which were mere stories and products of wild human imagination, stand ‘facts’ and ‘history’. One merely reads these stories for ‘entertainment’; to ascribe to them any other status is to live under an illusion. They were lies about the past which the poets constructed. The Ancients, with the exception of historians like Thucydides, really produced myths and legends. Instead of enlightening us about ‘what the past was really like’, these stories deceive us.
Common to both these attitudes is the idea that we ‘ought not’ to take these stories about the past seriously. Such stories are not about the past; these are merely products of the human imagination. Only historiography can teach us about the past and, if we care about the past at all, we should care about ‘history’. In other words, what these two attitudes say is the following: they claim that our stories about the past are not about anything real. They do not speak about objects or events in the world. If we are perceptive enough, these stories tell us something about the world of the authors indirectly; they do also tell us about the nature of human imagination. In and of themselves, these stories are really about nothing. If this is true, huge questions open up which they never even address: why did people from earlier generations produce all those stories? Why, instead of talking about the world, did they write only fiction? If Thucydides could write empirical history, why could Valmiki or Vyasa not be able to do the same? And so on.
There is something else too that unites them: the belief that they hold the key to the past and that they know how the past ‘ought to’ be studied. To Comestor, his theology had given him the certainty; to people like Macaulay (and to the enlightenment thinkers), it was equally obvious that they knew how to study the past, whereas the earlier generations did not. Do not read them amiss: the ‘heroes’ of the enlightenment were not defending some or another scientific orientation for appreciating the human past. Much like that of Peter Comestor, theirs too was a theological attitude. In which way?
One of the bones of contention between the Catholics and the Protestants was about ‘miracles’. The Catholic Church believed that miracles occurred in the world: in fact, to this day, the Catholics believe that transubstantiation occurs during the Holy Mass, where bread and wine get transubstantiated into the flesh and blood of Christ. They further believe in the intervention of deceased saints in the world: in fact, they attribute miraculous powers to some shrines and relics as well. Arraigned against them and this attitude towards miracles were the Protestants: they denied any such interventions, attributed miracles only to Godhead and had withering contempt for the beliefs about the powers of shrines and relics. In short, their theologies persuaded the Protestants to look at the human past as something that required a different kind of study than even those which the Catholics engaged in. At best, human past consisted of merely those deeds which human beings could perform. Nothing ‘supernatural’ occurs in human history; after all, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (and the miracles he performed) had nothing to do with human beings. The Bible records all the interventions of God (these, after all, are the ‘miracles’) and anything else is a mere human addition to the human past. Any talk of miracles outside of what is recorded in the Bible reflects the disease of the human mind. If anything at all, the history of humanity chronicles their corruption; it is a story of their fall, foibles and follies. Human past is and ‘ought to be’ a mere record of what human beings could do and, ‘in truth’, have achieved. Human history does not edify; at best, it disappoints. Any human flourishing that we might want is not provided by stories about the past. Such stories merely lie and mislead. ‘History’ of the human past is merely a chronicle of the kind of creatures we are. To think that narratives about the human past can teach us how to live or how to be happy or how to flourish as human beings is to assign to historiography a power that it does not possess and could never hope to possess.
Only God’s Grace, which is what ‘true religion’ is, can pull us out of the misery that the human past, present and future is. It is the task of the ‘true religion’ to tell us what happiness is and how to reach it. To think differently is to arrogate the status and power of God to human beings. The enlightenment thinkers merely reproduced (garbed, of course, in a fashion appropriate to their times) this theological stance towards the human past. Macaulay is a child of this Protestant attitude to the human past. What we call today as a ‘historical attitude’; our ideas about why study the human past; how we ‘ought to’ do that; these are all solidly rooted in Protestant Christianity. That is, it is both Christian (thus partially shared by the Catholics and the Protestants) and Protestant.
The Common End
Under the colonial rule, the British aggressively pushed their beliefs onto us. They quizzed us about our past in ways we were not used to before. Taking our multiple stories, epics and puranans as though they were historiographies, they derided us for believing in their ‘truth’. Our intellectuals, whose story under the colonial rules (both Islamic and British) is a sad story of succumbing to what they did not understand, broadly took the only two paths available to them: either deny the truth of such stories or try and show that these stories were ‘true’ chronicles of the past. It did not occur to these intellectuals to study the culture of these colonizers and figure out what kinds of questions the colonizers were asking. They merely assumed that the attitudes of the colonial masters were exemplifications of reason, rationality and scientificity. In the first phase, our intellectuals accepted the absence of historiography in the Indian traditions and set out to solve that lacuna by writing histories of India. Of course, these were based completely and totally on the ‘philosophy of history’ that the Europeans sold at steeply discounted prices on the Indian continent. In the second phase, they joined the Europeans in deriding the Indian traditions and the stock of stories about the past. In the third phase, they simply took over the European historiography of India and went on to garnish it with Indian spices, which merely meant adding new ‘empirical details’, as and when one ‘discovered’ them. In this sense, the attitude of writing a history of Indian culture and civilization, based on a meticulous ‘study’ of the past is not anything new. It is an old knee-jerk reaction to the Protestant critique of the Indian culture and traditions.
What do these historiographies accomplish? They teach us, for instance, that the Mahabharata war could have taken place, except, of course, it was probably a war between a collection of tribes. It is merely the poetic exaggeration that has provided us with a description of epic proportions. So, in all probability, these historians assure us, there was some kind of a war, somewhere in the north of India about a few thousand years ago. As far as Krishna lifting the mountain with his little finger or about Ghatotkacha fighting the war with ‘the magic’ of the Rakshasas, they do not even bother to hide the snigger: of course, it is all either nonsense or mere poetic exaggeration. Surely, we know that no human individual can lift the mountain with his little finger and, in all probability, the ‘Rakshasas’ was the name of another tribe, which, perhaps, was neutral in this tribal war. In other words, Mahabharata and Ramayana (and all our stories about the past) are merely disguised historiographies or lies and exaggerations of our incompetent ancestors (‘incompetent’ because they could not even do what Thucydides did or the Chinese did so many thousands of years ago) which only the current generation of historians can decipher.
In one sense, until recently, the damage was limited. It was limited because this group of historians shared the deep, Nehruvian contempt for Indian culture and her traditions. They strutted around in the enclaves of elite universities, flew to international conferences to present their papers there and, generally speaking, felt much above the rest of the Indian ‘masses’ steeped in ignorance and superstition. Not knowing about their own profound ignorance of the origin, nature and meaning of these ‘scientific’ questions, these historians were content to reproduce whatever their Metropolitan masters wanted. They had built a wall of separation between their ‘secularism’ and the ‘religiosity’ of the Indian masses.
Today, especially in the last decades, the picture has changed drastically and alarmingly. It is important for us to understand this latest development.
Both British ‘liberalism’ and the Nehruvian ‘secularism’ brought another reaction into existence in India. We are familiar with one kind: the kind that derides Indian culture, her traditions and holds the West as the picture of perfection. These people have been dominant in the press and the universities for centuries long. But, I want to talk about its antipode: a tendency that too is a child of British Protestantism, Christian to the core, but one which borrows from other strands available in the European Christianity.
This tendency goes the other way: it claims that our stories about the past are literally our histories. We too have historiographers from the past, we too know ‘the truth’ about our past, what we say about our past is the literal ‘truth’ and they are not poetic lies or exaggerations. Enter the Sangh Parivar.
The Sangh Parivar, actually, is a confluence of at least two orientations. On the one hand, it intuitively reacts to the Christian descriptions of Indian culture. It senses that there is something profound about Indian culture, her traditions, her multiple stories about the past, and so on. It senses too that there are various ways of being on earth and that the Christian and the Muslim ways of ‘being-in-the-world’ are but two out of many different ways. And it reacts with incomprehension as well, while listening to the criticisms of the religiously founded ‘secular’ criticisms of everything Indian. But, it is also profoundly and deeply ignorant of the western culture.
On the other hand, for reasons I am not fully clear about, the Sangh Parivar has no intellectuals. It merely has ideologues. Lacking the ability to do intellectual research, these ideologues of the Sangh Parivar pick up whatever is readily available. Two such things are readily available: nationalism and the Christian stories about history. The ideologues of the Sangh Parivar have picked them both.
Of course, in picking them both, the Sangh Parivar was forced by its own logic of wanting to suggest that Ramayana was the factual truth. Because it merely possesses ideologues, the Parivar was unable to face the challenges the ‘secularists’ confronted them with. Instead of taking issue with the way these secularists formulated the problem, the ideologues of the Parivar swallowed the secular articulation of the problem hook, line and sinker. The result is anything but salutary.
These two things, when mixed together, are catastrophic in nature. The ideologues of the Sangh Parivar threaten to do what centuries of colonialism tried but could not accomplish: destroy the Indian culture and her traditions irreplaceably and irrevocably. They are going to do that while promising to ‘save’ the Indian culture and her traditions. Let me explain why.
Our multiple stories about the past, among other things, provide us with a deep connection to a collective past. We read or hear Mahabharata and the Ramayana and we feel that Rama, Duryodhana, Dharmaraja, etc were our kings. When we participate in the festival of Deepavali, we open our doors to Bali, a rakshasa, as the greatest king we ever had. We feel connected to Sita, Draupadi and Abhimanyu. We have wept when we heard the story of Ekalavya; we feel touched by Karna’s fate; we get angry at Shakuni and Dushyasana. We want brothers to be like Rama and Lakshmana. We feel connected to all these people in a myriad of ways and our connection is deeper than our connections to great grandfathers, whom we have never met (in all probability). In short, we feel part of that genealogy which these multiple stories present as our collective past.
As children, we have often wondered where these people lived and what languages they spoke in. Did Krishna speak in a local language, Sanskrit or something else totally? In which language did Yaksha ask questions to Dharmaraja? How did Sita or Hanumantha speak to Ravana? How did the rishis and the kings from Khamboja communicate with those from Jambudwipa? Are the nagas of today the descendents of Arjuna, is the Mathura near Delhi also the place where Krishna lived? Are the vanaras that helped Rama the ancestors of those monkeys that we see today? And the Yugas; what are they actually? Is the treta and the dwapara yuga merely how the earth was so many hundreds of thousands of years ago? And so on and so forth.
As we grew up and learnt our geographies and sciences, we did try to combine both: how could there be treta yuga when our species is hardly 50,000 years old? How could Bhima really have the strength of 10,000 elephants and Duryodhana merely 9999? How could Dharmaraja ‘walk’ to Swarga and, if he did, why could Trishanku not do the same? And so on as well. We went to our elders with these questions and their answers, which were no answers at all, satisfied us. And, over a period of time, we stopped asking these questions. Not because we knew the answers or that they were unanswerable. But we stopped asking such questions because we learnt, in whichever way we did so, that these were not the right questions to ask. To grow up as an Indian is to learn that these stories should be treated differently than claims from our geography lessons. Finally, we assumed an attitude that was indifferent to the facticity of these stories. We reached a stage where we could endorse the following dialogue between a Swiss-German and a Balinese (from Bichsel, Peter, 1982, Der Leser, Das Erzählen: Frankfurter Poetik-Vorlesungen. Darm¬stadt und Neu¬wied: Hermann Luchterhand Verlag. Pp. 13-14, my translation and italics):
When I discovered, or when it was explained to me, that Hinduism is a pedagogical religion, namely, that in so far as the best “good deed” of a Hindu consisted of explaining something or the other, I lost my inhi¬bi¬tions and began with questions...
A young Balinese became my primary teacher. One day I asked him if he believed that the history of Prince Rama – one of the holy books of the Hindus – is true.
Without hesitation, he answered it with “Yes”.
“So you believe that the Prince Rama lived somewhere and somewhen?”
“I do not know if he lived”, he said.
“Then it is a story?”
“Yes, it is a story.”
“Then someone wrote this story – I mean: a human being wrote it?”
“Certainly some human being wrote it”, he said.
“Then some human being could have also invented it”, I answered and felt triumphant, when I thought that I had con¬vinced him.
But he said: “It is quite possible that somebody invented this story. But true it is, in any case.”
“Then it is the case that Prince Rama did not live on this earth?”
“What is it that you want to know?” he asked. “Do you want to know whether the story is true, or merely whether it occurred?”
“The Christians believe that their God Jesus Christ was also on earth”, I said, “In the New Testament, it has been described by human beings. But the Christians believe that this is the descrip¬tion of the reality. Their God was also really on Earth.”
My Balinese friend thought it over and said: “I had been already so informed. I do not understand why it is important that your God was on earth, but it does strike me that the Euro¬peans are not pious. Is that correct?”
“Yes, it is”, I said.
Were we to disagree with the above dialogue, or assume answers we feel comfortable with, even here, the basic point is this: we learnt that our attitudes towards ‘the truth’ of these stories are independent of our acceptance of these stories as our stories and as stories about ‘our collective past’. Whether or not some story about our past took place on earth or not, such a ‘fact’ is utterly irrelevant to accepting these stories. This attitude works as long as we are not brought up with the idea that the ground for accepting such stories is their ‘historical truth’.
What happens when people make claims that ‘rama sethu’ exists, Ayodhya is situated somewhere in northern India and such like? What happens when such ‘historical’ claims begin to find their way into people’s consciousness?
In the early phases, there is happiness and euphoria. Not because we can now say, “ah, after all, everything that Ramayana says is true”. But because we feel our connections to the past have taken on tangible presence. We feel that we recognize these empirical markers because we have always been familiar with them. Dwaraka, Brindavana, Kurukshetra, Ayhodhya... these are our cities and our past. Suddenly, there is exhilaration: it merely requires a few days journey to go to Kurukshetra! However, this is merely the first phase. What happens in the subsequent phase when this claim is pushed further, as it is invariably going to be?
Consider the following scenario. It becomes common ‘knowledge’ that the war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas was a tribal war, fought somewhere in the north of India some three thousand years ago. And that ‘rakshasa’, ‘vanara’ merely named some or another tribe in India. Krishna was a dark-skinned upstart from some tribe; Rama was a king somewhere up north; Draupadi was a daughter from yet another tribe that practiced polygamy, and so on. In short, we discover that our epics and puranas are badly written historiographies that chronicle the lives of ordinary human beings like you and me. We discover what we knew all along: it is not possible to train the monkeys that swing from tree to tree to build a bridge between India and Sri Lanka.
Then the ‘Dalit’ and progressive intellectuals turn up. They tell us that some or another ‘Brahminized’ poet merely described the work of the ‘slaves’ of a human king called ‘Rama’ as the work of ‘monkeys’. By calling these slaves as ‘monkeys’, they add, the ‘upper-caste’ proves yet again its disdain and contempt for and the oppression of ‘the Dalits’. As has been typical of the ‘Aryans’, the Brahmin priests were not even willing to consider such ‘slaves’ as human beings. The same argument would then get applied to the Danavas and Rakshasas: we ‘discover’ that the ‘Dravidians’ were the Rakshasas and the Danavas of our epics.
Do not mistake the point I am making here. No factoid or even a set of factoids will ever lend truth-value to these claims. They would be mere surmises and guesses. But they will get pushed across as ‘scientific’ and ‘historical’ hypotheses that very soon end up becoming ‘facts’ about the Indian past. They will acquire the same status that the ‘Indological’ truths have today. For instance, which intellectual in the world challenges the claim that ‘Buddhism’ battled against ‘Brahmanism’? Almost none. How many know of the circumstances that produced this ‘guesswork’ or even about the amount of Christian theological baggage required to sustain this claim? Alas, hardly any.
In exactly the same way, with such stories accompanying the growth of a new generation, which one of them will ever want to become a Bhakta of Rama, Krishna or Anjaneya? How many will go to their temples or even build them? When they grow up in the knowledge that ‘kurukshetra’ names a place somewhere in North India where the local tribes from the region fought a war fought during 500 B.C.E; when they grow up in the knowledge that a tribe called ‘Nagas’, from some remote part of India, also figure in an imaginary epic whose authoritative critical edition is published by some or another University Press in the US; when they ‘know’ that the local events in some remote city (Bikaner, Ayodhya...) were presented to their credulous forefathers as ‘the history’ of India; when they know all these and more, what would be their connection to what we consider as our past today?
Perhaps, they would even end up being ashamed of their past and of their stories about the past: such stories confirm the worst that the world has told about India. Indian culture and her ‘religions’ were created to inflict massive injustice on fellow-human beings. ‘Hinduism’ would, of course, be the main culprit.
We are almost past the first phase. The ideologues of the Sangh Parivar are initiating the subsequent phase. Instead of asking questions about the nature of ‘historical truth’; instead of studying the religious culture where such questions originate from; instead, that is, of understanding the relationship between stories about the past and human communities, the ideologues of the Sangh Parivar want to establish the ‘historicity’ of our epics and stories. In the process of pushing this Christian theme, these ideologues will also achieve what Islam and Christianity have always desired: destruction of the ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ culture that India is. What the Muslim kings and the Evangelical Protestants could not achieve over centuries, the ideologues from the Sangh Parivar will achieve in a matter of decades.
In order to destroy the past of a people, all you need to do is to give them history. What is called ‘history’ today is a secularization of the Christian religion. Christianity (Islam, Judaism) is hostile to anything that is different from itself. Especially, what it considers Pagan and heathen. This hostility persists in its secularized form as well. The ideologues of the Sangh Parivar, in their haste to capture political power, in their utter and total ignorance of the western culture, are pushing a Christian religious theme on to the Indian culture. Where explicitly Christian and Islamic attacks on the heathen culture of India failed, there, if left unopposed, this disguised attack on India will succeed. The saddest thing of it all is this: the Sangh Parivar genuinely believes that it is helping the Indian culture. However, its ideologues are not; they are helping destroy the Indian culture.
So, it appears, the questions facing us are these: do we need a history that Christianity has written, or do we need to retain our past? What do Indians need?

[Bangalore, 08-08-2008; S.N. Balagangadhara is Director and Professor at the Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent University, Belgium; http://www.cultuurwetenschap.be]
<b>What unites India</b>
By U R Ananthamurthy - Posted on August 16th, 2007


<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>My grand father, deeply religious and orthodox, would never have used a sentence like “I am an Indian” in his whole life. </b>Yet India was still an idea, a concept derived mostly from her rivers. When he drew water from our well and poured it over his head he recited a mantra which prayed that the waters of the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswathi, Narmada and Kaveri be present in the well water of our home and sanctify him. As he sat for his prayers he positioned himself in the universe beginning with Bharata varsha and then Bharatha khanda and then Jamboo dweepa which further got focussed into the actual place he sat in and the ever recurring time according to the lunar almanac. Thus seated he  got all the Gods to dwell in several parts of his body who enabled him to propitiate Gayatri- a prayer to enhance the psychic ( Dhee =mental?) energy of the whole of mankind.

Only when I went to my village school, India became a geographical place for me and not just a puranic akash kind of space.  I was told by my teachers this India was not free, and was made poor by her alien rulers.  I was ten years old when Gandhiji gave the ‘Quit India’ call to the British and we sang patriotic songs. Yet India..


For people like me the great shift in the idea of India was from the Puranic to the political and historical,  and it was primarily Mahatma Gandhi who brought it about. But I must add , however, that Gandhi did not abandon the Puranic but revised it. ‘Iswara Alla there Nam’ a line in his Ram Bhajan goes against the exclusivist fundamentalist belief of both Hinduism and Islam, but it opposes fundamentalism without abandoning the true religious piety. This was both politics and religion for uniting India. The search for a strong Nation, of the kind one finds in the history of Europe can only divide India- for a strong nation needs one religion one language and one race. That is what Savarkar wanted, and nuclearised India of today wants. But our contemporary political experience tells us that if we over centralize in the interest of the unity of India we are sure to balkanize.

India can’t be a nation like European nations; we are a civilization. I am never tired of retelling a story that I heard from A.K.Ramanujan, a great poet and translator. Once he was collecting oral Ramayanas in the villages of Karnataka. He heard a dialogue between Rama and Seetha. Rama was exiled to the forest and Seetha insisted that she should accompany him as she was his wife. As usual Rama tried to reason with her that life in a forest would be hard for the delicate Seetha. Both Seetha and Rama in this story were non-literate and they were making up the argument. <b>At one point when Rama came up with a strong argument Seetha replied: ‘In every Ramayana I know Seetha accompanies Rama to the forest. How can you then say no to me?’ This is a fascinating example for the intertextuality that unites India. </b>One of my friends always insists that among innumerable languages of India there are two that are understood all over the country. They are the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha—none of us have read these two epics for the first time.A communalized India will only kill the creativity of our religious innovative spirit.

Both the globalized rootless modernity and the ferocious fundamentalist communalism will only weaken the Puranic sense of unity that is there among the common people of India.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->What happens when people make claims that ‘rama sethu’ exists, Ayodhya is situated somewhere in northern India and such like? What happens when such ‘historical’ claims begin to find their way into people’s consciousness?
In the early phases, there is happiness and euphoria. Not because we can now say, “ah, after all, everything that Ramayana says is true”. But because we feel our connections to the past have taken on tangible presence. We feel that we recognize these empirical markers because we have always been familiar with them. Dwaraka, Brindavana, Kurukshetra, Ayhodhya... these are our cities and our past. Suddenly, there is exhilaration: it merely requires a few days journey to go to Kurukshetra! However, this is merely the first phase. What happens in the subsequent phase when this claim is pushed further, as it is invariably going to be?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Is there any difference between the Hindus fighting to liberate Ram Janambhoomi from the mlecchas and the present "movement"? Even Guru Gobindji attempted the same. Does fighting against the iconoclasm of tirthsthanas necessarily involve accepting the truth claims of the iconoclasts?

The prime argument during Ram Sethu controversy was that the Existence of Rama was irrelevant to the proposed destruction of Rama Sethu, along with geopolitics of LTTE and the like. This was much improved argumentation over the Archaeology of Ayodhya debates from before.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Consider the following scenario. It becomes common ‘knowledge’ that the war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas was a tribal war, fought somewhere in the north of India some three thousand years ago. And that ‘rakshasa’, ‘vanara’ merely named some or another tribe in India. Krishna was a dark-skinned upstart from some tribe; Rama was a king somewhere up north; Draupadi was a daughter from yet another tribe that practiced polygamy, and so on. In short, we discover that our epics and puranas are badly written historiographies that chronicle the lives of ordinary human beings like you and me. We discover what we knew all along: it is not possible to train the monkeys that swing from tree to tree to build a bridge between India and Sri Lanka.

Then the ‘Dalit’ and progressive intellectuals turn up. They tell us that some or another ‘Brahminized’ poet merely described the work of the ‘slaves’ of a human king called ‘Rama’ as the work of ‘monkeys’. By calling these slaves as ‘monkeys’, they add, the ‘upper-caste’ proves yet again its disdain and contempt for and the oppression of ‘the Dalits’. As has been typical of the ‘Aryans’, the Brahmin priests were not even willing to consider such ‘slaves’ as human beings. The same argument would then get applied to the Danavas and Rakshasas: we ‘discover’ that the ‘Dravidians’ were the Rakshasas and the Danavas of our epics.

Do not mistake the point I am making here. <b>No factoid or even a set of factoids will ever lend truth-value to these claims. They would be mere surmises and guesses. But they will get pushed across as ‘scientific’ and ‘historical’ hypotheses that very soon end up becoming ‘facts’ about the Indian past. They will acquire the same status that the ‘Indological’ truths have today. </b>For instance, which intellectual in the world challenges the claim that ‘Buddhism’ battled against ‘Brahmanism’? Almost none. How many know of the circumstances that produced this ‘guesswork’ or even about the amount of Christian theological baggage required to sustain this claim? Alas, hardly any.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Colonial genesis of a supposed Hindu Buddhist animus has been argued by Ram Swarup in <i>Buddhism vis-a-vis Hinduism</i>.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->In exactly the same way, with such stories accompanying the growth of a new generation, which one of them will ever want to become a Bhakta of Rama, Krishna or Anjaneya? How many will go to their temples or even build them? When they grow up in the knowledge that ‘kurukshetra’ names a place somewhere in North India where the local tribes from the region fought a war fought during 500 B.C.E; when they grow up in the knowledge that a tribe called ‘Nagas’, from some remote part of India, also figure in an imaginary epic whose authoritative critical edition is published by some or another University Press in the US; when they ‘know’ that the local events in some remote city (Bikaner, Ayodhya...) were presented to their credulous forefathers as ‘the history’ of India; when they know all these and more, what would be their connection to what we consider as our past today?

Perhaps, they would even end up being ashamed of their past and of their stories about the past: such stories confirm the worst that the world has told about India. Indian culture and her ‘religions’ were created to inflict massive injustice on fellow-human beings. ‘Hinduism’ would, of course, be the main culprit.
We are almost past the first phase. The ideologues of the Sangh Parivar are initiating the subsequent phase. Instead of asking questions about the nature of ‘historical truth’; instead of studying the religious culture where such questions originate from; instead, that is, of understanding the relationship between stories about the past and human communities, the ideologues of the Sangh Parivar want to establish the ‘historicity’ of our epics and stories. In the process of pushing this Christian theme, these ideologues will also achieve what Islam and Christianity have always desired: destruction of the ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ culture that India is. What the Muslim kings and the Evangelical Protestants could not achieve over centuries, the ideologues from the Sangh Parivar will achieve in a matter of decades.

<b>In order to destroy the past of a people, all you need to do is to give them history. What is called ‘history’ today is a secularization of the Christian religion. </b>Christianity (Islam, Judaism) is hostile to anything that is different from itself. Especially, what it considers Pagan and heathen. This hostility persists in its secularized form as well. The ideologues of the Sangh Parivar, in their haste to capture political power, in their utter and total ignorance of the western culture, are pushing a Christian religious theme on to the Indian culture. Where explicitly Christian and Islamic attacks on the heathen culture of India failed, there, if left unopposed, this disguised attack on India will succeed. The saddest thing of it all is this: the Sangh Parivar genuinely believes that it is helping the Indian culture. However, its ideologues are not; they are helping destroy the Indian culture.
So, it appears, the questions facing us are these: do we need a history that Christianity has written, or do we need to retain our past? What do Indians need?

[Bangalore, 08-08-2008; S.N. Balagangadhara is Director and Professor at the Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent University, Belgium; http://www.cultuurwetenschap.be]

A chilling scenario. RSS scholars tend to focus almost exclusively on colonial motivations of Max Mueller, British designs, and the like. The neohistorical school, which insists that their philological conclusions should impact Hindu practice, is outside the RSS proper.
Latest Talageri book supposedly has arguments for "Puru imperialism" and the like which appear to be framed as a consolation prize to the goras. Surmising the 'meaning' of the 'scriptures' and a narrative of imperialism from incidental information is definitely a dangerous undertaking. Ghent group previously had a statement that historical evidences independently confirm the falseness of AIT and that genesis of AIT can be explained as an Enlightenment and Protestantism product in the European "encounter" with India.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The Caste System and Aryan Invasion Theory
Marianne  Keppens

The controversy about the Aryan Invasion Theory has occupied scholars from several domains over the last few decades. The advocates of this theory claim that a Sanskrit-speaking Aryan people invaded or entered India around 1500 BC and brought along a language, religion and social structure, which they imposed on the indigenous population. The opponents claim that the Aryan people, their language and religion have always been present in India and hence that an invasion could never have happened. When we analyze the arguments from both sides, these sustain only one general conclusion: India has a long history of co-existence and cross-fertilization of different groups of people, cultural traditions, languages, etc. Given the trivial nature of this conclusion, the question becomes: why have so many scholars debated the Aryan Invasion Theory with such passion? To answer this question, my paper looks at how the Aryan Invasion Theory was developed in the nineteenth century. I argue that the theory itself did not emerge from empirical evidence or scientific theorizing about the Indian languages, archaeology or history. <b>Instead this theory developed as an explanation of two entities central to the European experience of India: the caste system and Hinduism as a degeneration of Vedic religion.</b>The Aryan Invasion Theory not only explained how the caste system came into being, it also accounted for the degeneration of the religion of the Vedas and allowed for the classification of its evolution into three main phases: Vedism, Brahmanism and Hinduism. <b>The contemporary debate shows that it remains impossible to defend the occurrence of an Aryan invasion on the basis of the available linguistic, archaeological and other evidence. </b>However, the significance of the Aryan invasion controversy becomes intelligible when one realizes that this theory did not emerge as a description of real historical events. <b>Rather, it is a theory that explained entities which exist only in the European experience of India. </b>As such, if we desire to understand how the ‘Aryan invasion' as well as the ‘caste system', ‘Brahmanism' and other related concepts came into being, we need to study the development of Western culture. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Dhu, Off topic but I too came to the same conclusion when I read "Europe in the Middle Ages" for the whole system that was described was something that got superimposed by the foreigners to understand the new culture they came in contact with.

Vedas, Shruti, Smriti and so on are not a code to be deciphered, unlike the Good News Gospels. Therein lies the danger of (Indian) historical inquiry into our "experiential texts". It is possible that nationalistic monotheistic judaism arose in response to such historical meddling by the normatizing and sterilizing colonizer. Balagangadhara is warning of the same in our "historical" researches into our "texts". The second part will hopefully offer the way out.

Isn't it surprising that all our colonial travails can be described by the truism that the colonizers were only projecting their own neuroses onto their "subjects". This is Psychology 101 !!!!

The Problem with Talageri's model is that "tribes" are specifically a Religious and Abrahamic construct:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Marianne Keppens
<b>The Tribes of India as the ‘Tribes of Israel'? The Christian Notion of ‘Tribe' and Colonial Understanding of India</b>

Today nobody would accept the claim that Brahmins are a tribe. In fact, if there is one group that is very clearly not a tribe it would be this caste. Brahmins definitely do not characterize themselves as a tribe and there is a clear distinction, accepted by social scientists and politicians alike, between the classifications of Indian social groups into castes on the one hand and into tribes on the other hand. <b>However, in the colonial writings of the beginning of the nineteenth century Brahmins were explicitly described as a tribe comparable to the Levitical tribe of the Jews. </b>We also find that the terms ‘caste' and ‘tribe' were used interchangeably at that time.  <b>Moreover, we find that descriptions of the Brahmins and other tribes correspond to the Christian image of the tribes of Israel.</b>

How to account for this change in the perception of ‘tribes'? <b>In this paper I will argue that the South Asian notions of ‘tribe' of today are indeed a product of a ‘colonial classification' </b>and that this classification was transformed accordingly as certain elements within the colonial culture changed. <b>If we want to understand and contest the notions of ‘tribe' in contemporary India, we cannot but trace the characteristics and origins of the concept of ‘tribe' in the history of the Christian West.</b> That is, we need to understand how and why notions of ‘tribe' changed as they did: how could the Brahmins first be regarded as a typical tribe later to become the opposite of what constitutes a tribe? <b>Several scholars have argued that a Christian framework determined the colonial understanding of India. </b>I will examine to what extent Christian notions of the relation between ‘tribe', language and religion structured the colonial descriptions of the Indian society, which still prevail today.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
The British created Pakistan for the sole purpose of suppressing India and its eventual growth as a major world power. It is also important to note that Saudi Arabia agreed to the creation of Israel in exchange for the creation of Pakistan. At the time the main source of Saudi income was Muslim Haj pilgrims. India was its largest source of such pilgrims. Fearing its loss of revenue upon the freedom of India, the Saudis negotiated the creation of Israel with the British. A vast chunk of India (Pakistan) for a minute albiet crucial portion of West Asia (Israel).The American House of Saud: The Secret Petrodollar Connection: Steven Emerson

From #71 above
<!--QuoteBegin-Husky+Feb 20 2009, 04:30 AM-->QUOTE(Husky @ Feb 20 2009, 04:30 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-Bodhi+Feb 19 2009, 04:07 PM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Bodhi @ Feb 19 2009, 04:07 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->[...] two separate approaches to studying the itihAsa-purANa-s.
One should understand that there is this time factor that changes all human things including the practices in religious realm.
[right][snapback]94731[/snapback][/right]<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Bodhi was talking about the Itihasas and Puranas not Vedas of course.

But still feel I need to state the obvious:
The Vedas, at least in TN and those parts of Karnataka I am familiar with and possibly other parts of greater Bharatam (in any case I've heard that the matter is the same in AP and Kerala), have been passed down unchanged not only in how they are performed and their recitation (like intonation) - the only things witzel seemed to want to admit to earlier - but also in <i>understanding</i>.
That is, the understanding these traditional Vadyars have of the Vedas is still exactly the same as what Hindus' ancestors had of the material since at least when this whole oral tradition started. Goes without saying that Talageri's (or Elst's, or for that matter Witzel et al's) interpretations of 'what the Vedas are actually saying' is only the <i>modern</i> understanding of what the Vedas 'must have meant' and what 'the ancients must have thought it meant' - it does not actually reflect what the ancient Hindus understood its contents as.

I may be misunderstanding, but I think this is what Dhu was discussing in his posts 83, 84 and 87 of the India/western Sociology, All about sociology - Deconstructing thread. And I imagine this is also what the following person commenting on VijayVaani's review of the latest from Talageri meant:
<!--QuoteBegin-Husky+Jan 5 2009, 03:22 AM-->QUOTE(Husky @ Jan 5 2009, 03:22 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplay...cle.aspx?id=322
<b>Comments on
"Demolished once for all: Aryan Invasion Theory"
Virendra Parekh</b>
<!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Has it ever occurred to anyone, including you, that this entire debate bypasses a whole community of people who are well versed in the vedas? Have you ever noticed any comment from scholars of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, for example? Do you really think that the translations and treatises on the vedas in various Indian universities has any value whatsoever? 
  04 Jan 2009 
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->[right][snapback]92678[/snapback][/right]<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->If people want to learn to understand Hindus' <i>past understanding of the Vedas</i>, best to go to some remote village - say in TN or Karnataka or wherever you know they have passed it down in unbroken line and unmodified - and learn from them, rather than learn to understand it from a textbook.

The fact that Witzel offered a position to Talageri (see Wacky on Talageri) and that Talageri refused saying he was an unapologetic nationalist, had long made me think on the matter. The west approves of his work - the methods and class of conclusions he draws - because this modern style of interpretation denies and delegitimises the traditional (ancient) Hindu understanding of the Vedas. Because it enables: "You Vadyars got it all wrong. What it <i>really</i> means and how it is really meant to be interpreted is..."
The christowest never could stand the continued Hindu institution that handed down the Vedas unaltered and unsubverted. The only difference is that now Hindus are unknowingly carrying out the same. This is not to impute any ill-intention to Talageri. He sees only the nationalist cause: that of defending Bharatam against the AIT. But the side-effect of his interpretations (and the inevitably western method he is using to make them) in order to mount this defense, is to merely tell the masses of Hindus that the actual traditional Vadyars who have been keeping the real Vedic system alive for Hindus for thousands of years are 'deluded and plain wrong'. When Hindus start accepting this (modern interpretations as the 'original' Hindu Dharma, and devaluing and outright denying the validity of the actual original Hindu Dharma), it tells me that the subversion is completely invisible/undetectable and therefore lethal now.

Somewhere last year I wrote the following to Bodhi in a personal communication:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->it reminds me of how Max Mueller wrote to his wife:
<!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->'The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3,000 years.'<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->You said the Vedas were the supreme authority of Sanatana Dharma, yet what authority remains to these books now that they are reduced to being regarded as merely histories - from this perspective, they've really become irrelevant as they happened ages ago with characters that could barely concern us now. [...] What really is the supreme authority it has then? There's been a changeover in what Hindus understand the Vedas as, and Hindus missed this change. Yet this switch in perception - why it started, how it started, who if anyone started it, what way of thinking/what new manner of reading and interpreting the Vedas caused this change of perception - is something very important. It will have/already has repercussions.<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->My view now is mostly unchanged from the above, though I wasn't able to find the appropriate words to express the ideas back then (still can't).

The above is what I <i>think</i> Dhu's post 86 and Acharya's post 81 with ref to Balagangadhara, Sociology thread are kind of discussing.
Church's History in India - Pseudo liberal racist theory: hegel and mill 1 of 2 ( RM - Video )

Church's History in India - Pseudo liberal racist theory: hegel and mill 2 of 2 ( Video )

<i>Origins of Liberalism</i>

Church's History in India: Dividing Hindus to Rule Them - Jati becomes Caste ( Video )

Church - Its Historic Role in Hindu Divide and Rule Politics: How it Manipulates Education ( Video )

More on Churchist Deceit: Rajiv Malhotra on Church's Ways - Good Cop Bad Cop et. al. ( Video )
Remembering Veer Savarkar

Savarkar won fame with his book, ‘The War of Independence of 1857,’ scrupulously researched in the India Office library, where he was ultimately denied admission because Scotland Yard learnt of his studies. (<b>The “free” societies of the West are pretty much the same even today; unrelenting monitoring of the activity of atomised individuals gives society a quietist demeanour, making rule by the State or Corporate Leviathan easy).</b>

But both of them, it is interesting to note, do not believe in parliamentary democracy at all. Neither of the two believes in it. It's worthwhile asking a question why two opponents, so bitterly opposed to each other, especially Ambedkar (he's so bitterly opposed to Gandhi), why is that they are so deeply united with respect to what they considered the futility of parliamentary democracy, which is merely a cloak. i'd like to make a suggestion that underlying this unity between them (apparent hostility of these two people) is a fundamental intuition of Indian society and culture, and I'd like to formulate the intuition in terms of a thought experiment. It is in all western political thinking, including those in the middle ages, the last two thousand years of western political thinking, assumes the following: namely, that is the task of the state to intervene in civil society, or in society ( if we don't want to use the word civili society). The state has to intervene in society and more groups of people, and regulate the way they live, and this regulation can take multiple forms, but that's not the issue. The point is that is the fundamental task of the state. And of course, most of the time it does so through laws, through legislations, especially after the year 1100 in the whole of western Europe, it does through legislation so that the order of the Sovereign. And especially after the emergence of Democracy, the question became 'why should citizens obey the laws of the state?' 'what is the legitimacy?' In other words, the question of legitimacy, of obeying the 'laws of the state' arises only, remember, if a society is such that an internal regulation of Society - cannot take place - cannot be undertaken by the society itself, but you need an external apparatus coming from the outside, intervening in it.

Now one of the extraordinary characteristics of Indian literature on the subject of politics has been the following: the state was denied any possibility of intervening in society. The state had no role to play in regulating civil society. Civil society regulated itself. Society regulated itself. <b> So when Society regulates itself and the State merely provides the condition for the existence of a people together in a particular territory, there the question of Democracy is utterly, utterly irrelevant.</b> There is no question of either Democracy or Dictatorship. Neither of the two come into existence because Democracy is sensible only when you ask the question what is the legitimacy for the State to interfere in the fates of the citizens. Where the State doesn't do that, there is no question of legitimacy of the state. there is no question of Democracy or Dictatorship or anything else. In other words, and that's one of the reasons why when Gandhi went further than the constituent assembly debates, especially his followers (he wanted to bring in the idea of Panchayat raj, etc), Ambedkar maneuvered it such a way that it became a maxim directed by principles, and certainly not enforceable by Law. So.. Quite simply, not because he believed in the form of state that India was going to get, that had already got, or believed in Democracy, but he certainly did not believe that there was anything of substance, in a way he was right, to Gandhi's ideas which are completely utopian. but both of them implicitly, especially in their early writings, raise the following question: namely, why Democracy at all, actually? 'why do we need State to take this form at all? and, of course, both are against injustices, but neither raises the question what kind of just society do we want and what arguments do we have against it.
<!--QuoteBegin-"Acharya"+-->QUOTE("Acharya")<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-"ramana"+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE("ramana")<!--QuoteEBegin-->But by same token the US supported the Community Development part of the first Indian Five year plan.The emphasis on India was economic development while it was military aid to TSP.

India was a domino that the US could not afford to fall to Communism. India by not falling served the West's interests in Asia and the developing world. So while India was in opposition to the West's hegemony it also was a bulwark of West's interests. This was understood only by the most astute of West thinkers while petty politicans scored browny points. As the leader of the third way India ensured that the newly emergent countries did not fall into the Communist camp.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Any fall to the communism by the newly independent states during the period 1940s to 1970s was the biggest fear.<b> Communism <span style='color:blue'>which was funded by the west was out of their control by 1930s.</b></span>
The real fear was communism getting inside US mainland and this led US elite change the policy for the people with the new deal and budget deficit funded welfare from the 1930s.<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Packaging poverty

Anuradha Dutt

India continues to be seen through Western eyes

The boundless euphoria of English-speaking urban Indians over the eight Oscars awarded to Slumdog Millionaire and one to Smile Pinki, both based on India’s deprived, is a pointer to the embarrassing fact that over six decades after shaking off colonial rule, our frame of reference still remains the West.

There is a similar eruption of joy on the part of the media and intelligentsia whenever an Indo-Anglian writer wins the Man Booker or some other literary prize, instituted by Britain, the US or Europe. Proclamations of “We are as good as them” resound on television channels, newsrooms, academic circles and at seminars. The same degree of hysteria was triggered in the recent past by the crowning of Indian girls at international beauty pageants, sponsored by Western cosmetics firms and allied companies, eager to find a huge market here. These very companies now look for beauties and a customer base in other Third World countries.

The films that have made headlines have three things in common: One, they owe their success to the ‘vision’ of Western directors looking at us through the prism of their sensibilities; two, they portray the ills of sub-continental poverty and redemption, a hackneyed theme that was earlier beaten to death in Salaam Bombay and City of Joy, with Kolkata providing the setting for collective Hollywood catharsis; and, three, they serve to reinforce stereotypes about India being wretched and backward.

That there is a huge upwardly mobile middle and lower middle class, outnumbering Americans, and a brave new world of entrepreneurs, inventers and saviours co-existing with this reality, and still another realm of greatness, comprising an enduring heritage and spiritual masters and savants, is cunningly ignored. India is too vast and diverse to be summed up by an entertaining potboiler about a poor boy’s miraculous rise to riches and fame via the Who Wants to be a Millionaire formula of British television, or the correction of a village girl’s cleft lip through the intercession of an NGO, funded no doubt, by some foreign agency.

The question that arises is why those involved with making these films could not have chosen less hackneyed subjects which sell poverty, if they were serious about taking India to the West, and, in particular, Hollywood. As the West slides into economic recession, with banks and mammoth companies going bust and workers being laid off even as the unemployed lose the roof over their head because of their inability to pay back home loans, poor Indians are not the only ones facing the spectre of destitution.

In fact, they are finding new economic opportunities as mobile phones reach remote areas, and development spreads into the backwaters. A film could as well have been made on how increased communication and mobility via mobile phones and enhanced public transport has empowered vast numbers of poor people. But that would go against the grain.

Viewed with dispassion, the hysteria over the Oscars jamboree seems to be an exaggerated marketing ploy to ensure a sizeable audience for movies, emanating from Hollywood and other Western film-making centres. For, the bottomline is success and money. Even if 10 percent of a population of over a billion pours into cinema halls to see such films, their makers can go all the way laughing to the bank. They did so when they made Gandhi, a homage to the Mahatma, and Freedom at Midnight.

Sadly, both these films viewed the freedom struggle from a colonial standpoint, which single-mindedly focussed on Gandhi’s role and that of Jawaharlal Nehru, anointed by him to lead free India. Other stalwarts, such as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and those who willingly laid down their lives rather than have any truck with the British, were ignored. It is Indian directors who have made films about Netaji, Bhagat Singh and other martyrs.

There is clearly a great difference in perception of Indian filmmakers and their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. In the meantime, reports are pouring in that Slumdog Millionaire is doing robust business at the box office ever since the hype surrounding the run-up to the awards ceremony and its aftermath. Ticket sales picked up sharply after the film swept the Oscars.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->JeeQJeeQ  posted 4 yrs ago
Indian identity in American Schools

always good to read something by you alex, but i think you are making a fundamental mistake.  the term "e pluribus unum" doesn't really ratify/promote pluralism, and in actuality is more of a 'exclusionist' motto.  essentially it is saying "there are many, but out of that came one"...like there were many polytheistic gods but out of that came one jehovah.  perhaps i am being a bit cynical and you are in fact actually right, but that is how i have always taken that motto.  there has never been anything pluralistic about america.
There is fatal flaw in Western society programming. Ever since the Greek City-states overcame their enemies in the Peloponnesian wars and in turn got conqured by the Macedonians to modern times- economic crisis, defeat of an existential enemy leads to the the own demise within a generation or two. Why is that?
Cross-posting here.....

Illustrative the workings of Western Society?

They call this practice Brainpower Yoga. Watch - it is both funny and Sad.


Oh man, this is what we used to do in front of Vinayagar we called it "thoppukaranam" in Tamil.
Even though the mantle of "leader of the Free World' was thrust upon the US right after World War I it was taken up truly only after 1943. Unfortunately the intellecutal process was not updated till end of 20th century. The founding fathers were frozen between Reformation and Enlightenment and did not advance the ideas. Their contribution was the founding of a Republic and all the trappings of preModern European especially English society were preserved. England was ahead in casting of her attitudes towards slavery and ant-Semitism. The US Civil War brought about Modernism and Vietnam brought about Post-Modernism in US. So there is a lag of 30 to 50 years in the intellecutal progress.

The recent economic meltdown could lead to a roll back of these advances in Western intellectual thought
On The Structure of certain belief systems and its Implications / Consequences
-By Onimusha

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->This article studies the (logical) structure of certain belief systems on the basis of their own claim/s and core belief/s. The implications and consequences of such fundamentals are discussed.

Consider the statement : “This is the only Truth”
in whatever context whether it is about the existence of a single God or way to God or way of life / salvation.

The empirically observed fact is that there are various claims and claimants to the same.
The immediate conclusion is that (at most except for one, even if one was to discount the inherent absurdity of such a sweeping claim for all time to come), all such claims are necessarily and intrinsically false as there cannot exist more than one such True claim.

Being a fundamental principle of faith, such a claim is a core axiom and a foundation of the system. So, the foundation of such a system is based on a key axiom which is inherently and demonstrably false.

Hence, it becomes immediate and necessary in such a system to eliminate all ‘other’ contenders / claimants to the same statement.
Moreover, the (logical) system which follows from/rests on such a false axiom is naturally inverted.

Conversion is to be seen in the specific context of the particular belief system/s:

This necessary elimination by one such contender to the inherently false claim and false axiomatic of the system, in order to present a fait accompli ‘establishing’ the ‘truth’, since no argument can ever establish the truth of such a claim, is Conversion, from the misbelievers into the faithful.

If the grass is violet, then the cow jumped over the moon:

In order to arrive at correct conclusions from a system of reasoning and arguments, one needs premises which are true and also arguments which are sound.

Consider the Truth Table

F => F is T (i)
F => T is T (ii)
T => F is F (iii)
T => T is T (iv)

Hence is such an inverted system, any nonsensical and false statement can logically and consistently be derived, (i) above, on the basis of the false premise and axiomatics.

Whereas if one has to arrive at logical and ethical statements starting from a True statement, by (iii) and (iv) above Only True statements can be derived.

Hence, in the inverted system based on the above-mentioned premise, one could logically and consistently derive various statements e.g. it requires 4 witnesses to a rape and it is correct to punish the victim. The query as to what 4 ‘gentlemen’ would be doing if there was one victim gets disposed of by the nature of the system within which such arguments are formulated and the reasoning carried out therein.

As this is a foundation and one of the core principles, i.e. an axiom, of faith, and a system on which the entire ethical, moral, legal, societal, …, values depend, are derived, discussed, interpreted or reasoned – it is evident that all of these rest on a base which in inherently and demonstrably false and a system which is inverted. Hence the systems and civilizations based on this could more appropriately be called inverted and anti-civilization.

Thus, Samuel Huntington’s proposition could more appropriately be rephrased as –
“The Clash of anti-civilization with civilization and the unmaking of world order”.

Furthermore, as is evident from the Truth table above, once a person has accepted or accommodated
the system with the false axiom, any argument would be provable whereas the system or person starting
from a True proposition would stand only a one in four chance of proving his point – apart from being subject to greater scrutiny as the other side anyway does not accept. This is not understood by people beginning from the True proposition in the propaganda war which would ensue – politeness and
accommodation has already accepted and handed the logic as well as victory to the inverted system. Further
events are just the implementation and unravelling of the inverted logic which has been accepted and which has already won.

The history of the church / islam vis-à-vis or more appropriately versus humanity is an experimental demonstration of the falsehood of the axiom and the inversion of the system.

Historically, the church was the only ‘truth’ and killed human rights, freedoms, the state, judiciary, science and scientists, culture (dark ages), excommunicated kings, … .

Humanity and more specifically the christians are rediscovering their murdered freedoms – secularism, democracy, human rights, scientific and rational thinking, etc.

This has happened through much pain and bloodshed through the ages and eventually, the people have
in effect ex-communicated the super-inverted-state largely from their affairs, called secularism.

Secularism – the fight between humanity, more specifically between the subject peoples of the inverted system and the church in respect of the notions of the state, and by inclusion and implication on various freedoms, laws and ethics, etc. Eventually the people won and gave to themselves a ‘secular’ state, ex-communicated the church and captured it conceptually – the Vatican is another state.
This is so because it is not the church which was reformed fundamentally by the members of the church, i.e. by the Christians giving to themselves a democratic church with various freedoms that they want. The domain of the church continues to be almost everything and in respect of its fundamentals it is still the same, a super-state with the same inverted system – the only truth.

For all practical purposes most if not all ‘religions’ are ‘secular’ except for the 2 state religions and various of their sects. Essentially people have certain sets of philosophies, moral guidelines, etc. based on which one can reason out and derive various notions of rights, freedom, the state, systems, administration, …
These sets of philosophies serve the purpose of a base or guiding templates which do not necessarily impose their dogmas on the people, except in the case of the state religions.
In fact, most civilizations and religions do not even have the word secularism in their native language or traditions – they do not need to.
In the case of the state religions, the notion of secularism is at best a containment or keep the distance policy vis a vis the church. However, the word secularism itself cannot be well defined or demarcated. This is because the super-state, i.e. the church is a superset of everything including features of the state and what is purely religious or where exactly the state could possibly draw the line can in reality never be well defined. Furthermore, there are areas which are well known to be religious as well as have purely temporal implications simultaneously.
The notion of secular therefore is ab-initio inapplicable, irrelevant and void in the case of non-proseltysing religions and non-claimants to ‘the only truth’.

Consider the following table:

To do what:
Agree Agree - (i)
Agree Disagree - (ii) Democracy
Disagree Agree - (iii)
Disagree Disagree - (iv) Anti-Democratic

Clearly, democracy consists of agreeing that there are disagreements and that it is acceptable to disagree.
In contrast, the compulsion and necessity of conversion has to do with eliminating the others and with eliminating the disagreements purely as a matter of principle – they disagree that any differences have a right to exist and must necessarily be converted to ‘the only truth’. Hence, conversion is inherently anti-democratic and so will be a system based on this as a core article of faith.

The intrinsically false statement of ‘the only truth’ is equivalent to ‘conversion’ in this context, which is equivalent to eliminating other belief systems and their practitioners as a matter of principle. This is in effect the ideology of genocide of the infidel/kafir, or the ideological genocide of the infidel/kafir.

At this point it may be pertinent to pause and consider the following illustration –
(Male) domination concepts may perhaps be linked to many imbalances, crimes, …, female foeticide.
However, this is a concept of domination and not outright elimination, in case of an ideology of elimination,
Would it not cause grave imbalances and legitimized crimes and murder?
Secondly, it may not always be possible to identify – here is the problem, take this out and it is the end of domination. Similarly, it may not always be possible to identify and pull out ‘the’ thing which is the problem
in every issue. The problem is the inverted axiom and that must be rejected ab initio rather than getting into unprovable arguments – a given in propaganda and warfare.

Equality, Ordering people or choices, Social Welfare and Dictatorship:

A pre-condition to equality is a certain symmetry between the two or more entities that may be deemed to be equal. On the other hand, ordering a set of objects - people, choices, systems, or whatever else – has to have a pre-condition of anti-symmetry – which is evident in the key belief of the inverted system. Such a system is inherently anti-symmetric wrt any other system, as it is the only truth and all the others are false and all the others must further be eliminated, inequality is axiomatic. Not only is inequality axiomatic but further the unequal entities are ordered – as the believers pre-destined to greatness and the misbelievers in any case very inferior and going to hell.

Hence, in such a system, ordering becomes almost synonymous with inequality, at a fundamental level.
However, it is a fact that unequal entities may not necessarily be comparable or ordered as smaller or greater and the situation as obtains above is another false position in such a system.

Arrows Impossibility Theorem is a statement about a social welfare utility function. Stated in simple terms for the lay person, it states that such a utility function which places an order on the set of choices people can exercise, which is moreover anti-symmetric (notion of less or greater than) and transitive, must necessarily be imposed or dictatorial.

The false claim as mentioned in this discussion together with the automatic designation of the infidels/kafirs as infidels/kafirs, marked for elimination and the believers as pre-destined to greatness, alongwith the ‘choices’ exercised, to eliminate the infidels/kafirs.
i.e. the believers = 1 (if not infinity) and the misbelievers = -1 in the set of choices.
So trivially the conditions of the theorem are satisfied and hence the welfare function, i.e. christianity or islam must necessarily be imposed or dictatorial. This is true for all on whom the welfare function is sought to apply – the believers and the misbelievers.
Hence, the believers of such a system may not properly be called followers, in contrast to practitioners of other open and pro-choice belief systems – there is no choice, they MUST.

Why is loyalty necessary and very fundamental to such a belief system -

This is so because the basic premise is intrinsically and demonstrably false.
For the same reasons that the other belief systems must necessarily and in principle be eliminated, the believers must obviously remain absolutely loyal to such a system no matter what. For this reason it is necessary to not question at all, even in the face of contrary evidence. In other words, the subject of such a belief system must give away his ‘soul’, to the church, which ensures that the questioning and rationality
about the premises and the system, are gone along with the soul and completely subjugated to it irrespective of anything.
It is a clear understanding and enunciation of this very fact that the highest authority of the church, the pope himself, talks about ‘a harvest of souls’, which is conversion into his inverted belief system.

Loyalty and elimination hence go together and are a very basic and fundamental feature of such a system. This is reflected in the responses of such a system towards disagreements – they will seek to eliminate the source, i.e. the person who voices the opinion to which they disagree – fatwas to eliminate whether it is cartoons, prose, critique, or other such thing. In contrast, practitioners of other belief systems seek to reason and argue out the differences – which may go out of hand at times. However, the point is that here in principle the argument is over the issue and it is the arguments which must be sorted out whereas in the inverted system the argument is secondary and it is the person holding the contrary belief who must be sorted out, by elimination. The same fundamental is at play in a sentence of ex-communication or death by authorities in such systems.

Such a system also has to be fore-closed permanently as a logical system, not subject to any questioning. Its implementation is by imposition or dictatorship and their own connotation of loyalty and elimination of the people having differences of opinion or systems.
Reasoning, rationality, freedom and democracy is the opposite of such fundamentals and was rediscovered in the process of the fight between the church and the state.

From n Choose r:

The number of combinations which can be made from a set of ‘n’ objects taken ‘r’ at a time is given mathematically by nCr. Thus the number of ways ‘n’ religions could have fought, taken two at a time, is given by nC2. If one assumes there were 10 religions to start with, this number is 45, for 20 religions it is
190 and for 50 religions as one may calculate it is 1225. So these are the number of possible combinations
of fights between religions taken two at a time from the initial set.
The observed facts are however that from this entire set of combinations, the only religions and their believers to have fought are primarily the subset containing the two state religions, the two converting religions.

Thus, the larger part of humanity, belonging to the numerous non-converting systems, have by and large been at peace with each other so far as religious grounds and sanction is concerned. In this multitude, there are primarily 2 systems and their analogous sects, who have been fighting on religious grounds with specific religious sanction. They have not only been fighting with others but also between and within themselves, within their own sects because any difference within is also contrary to the claim of being the only truth which must be eliminated.

It is no surprise that in the cacophony of propaganda and warfare, these 2 are primarily at the forefront of claiming that they instead are the saviours, egalitarian, good, the only truth, etc. This would make even an ignorant person suspicious of such claims, further when multitudes of their own believers and society are in poverty, face many problems apart from ethical and moral issues as well. Of course, the millions of people who have been put to death, pain, torture and humiliation of various kinds, over the ages and over many geographic locations, cultures, due to a clash of religions, cannot voice their contrary opinion for the simple reason that they, or their voice, do not exist.

It is significant that there have never been crusades, inquisitions, decrees, fatwas to eliminate, etc. between any other two religions at all on any comparable scale.
A point to be noted is that the Jews, who have been persecuted and despised in (not by ) every country except for one (India), by the followers of the converting religions, do not have any such conflicts with the practitioners of any con-converting belief systems – the Hindus, Parsis, Buddhists, Sikhs, …

In all probability, if hypothetically Hinduism had been a converting religion based on such fundamentals, India would have shared the border not with China but with Russia, Korea, etc.

Definition of fundamentalism and who are the fundamentalists and extremists:

Fundamentals are the core beliefs of the system, the basic principles, axiomatics, foundations. These form the basis on which other things rest, provides the structure and framework within which things may be seen to exist and reasoned.
A fundamentalist/extremist is one who carries a fundamental to the extreme. In this respect, the subjects of the converting belief systems, claimants of the only truth, may be called fundamentalists or extremists at an ideological level itself, by definition, due to the very nature of their belief and its inherent falsehood, and further that they seek to eliminate the others, no less, an extreme act in itself, simply because they exist.

The Paradox of the 2 Cannibals / The Paradox of Inclusion and Exclusion :

Consider inviting people to a feast who may be of any kind, vegetarians, non-vegetarians, or even man-eaters/cannibals. Of course the cannibals might say that they will be well behaved and will not eat up any of the invitees. Of course one knows very well that this will at best be an unreliable and foolish thing to go by, with the cannibal having made a tactical statement and only waiting for a suitable opportunity to eat a human being. Eventually the cannibal would like to see only himself, not even the other cannibal to survive. Of course no one would like to invite cannibals to a feast knowing this.

So the question and paradox is whether to exclude the exclusivists and nihilists or to include them. This has an unequivocal answer and only one answer that can sustain – exclude the cannibals. For including them would only mean suicide for the many others who are harmless.
Democracy excludes the exclusivists else it ceases to exist.
It must exclude dictatorships, totalitarian and exclusivist systems. This is a confusion which may self proclaimed ‘liberals’ have and which must be corrected.

For this reason and also because it is not the church which has reformed (see section on secularism) or become democratic and is still a super-state, with the inverted system as discussed earlier, conversion into the proselytizing religions must not be permitted at all.

The concept of (religious) minorities is relevant and generic to those regions where the dominant system of religious practice is one of the exclusivist state religions. From the foregoing account, the followers of such belief systems are in principle against the very existence of other belief systems and consider them false. They consider all that the kafirs/infidels believe or practice to be essentially immoral and illegitimate. In such a situation, practitioners of other systems face an existential threat in principle and ideologically and, by implication, all their practices and systems face an ‘a priori’ threat simply on existential grounds, permanently, no matter what. As long as they do not convert, whatever they do they will face these kinds of overt and subliminal threats and prejudices. Hence, in such situation, with other belief systems co-existing, it becomes necessary to protect the non-proselytising systems from the converting religions. This remains true irrespective of the numbers of which group is larger or smaller – it is a matter of who threatens and has a nihilist principle towards which other system. In reality this does not have to do with numbers but with the principle – the majority in numbers of a non-proselytising open system are still the ones who need protection from the nihilist ideology and consequent prejudices and practices of the converting religions. However, the word (religious) minorities has again its genesis in countries where the other systems were wiped out and the dominant ones in terms of numbers are the converting religions, so it is incorrectly understood as simply applicable to religious minorities in terms of number. It has to do with the belief system. In other words, if in principle something is incorrect, it remains to be so irrespective of the number of people following it. Furthermore, by the time people in regions where largely an open system is practised wake up to this, it becomes too late and the number (majority) is incorrectly taken to be the defining feature and the inverted logic has once again established itself. Note e.g in. India, in Muslim or Christian numerical majority states, the Hindus are not considered ‘minorities’. This is consistent with the ideology that they are the only truth and that the other systems (Hindus) must be eliminated.

Claims of Secularism, conversion into an exclusivist state religion in a pro-choice or democratic ethos:

In case of the exclusivist, totalitarian, state religions, for its subject to call him/her self secular or democratic is itself unsustainable and perverse. This is because in the case of such a system and its subject (‘follower’),
both the belief system and the democratic values are supposed to exist in the same individual. However, unlike in the case of a divorce, where any one person walking out is effectively the end of the relationship, in this case it is not 2 different individuals. Moreover, the belief system is totalitarian, a super state, so it leaves nothing out of its purvue. At the same time, the belief system, i.e. the church itself has not reformed itself fundamentally and become democratic or not totalitarian or exclusivist and it still is very much a ‘state religion’. Hence, for such persons to talk about secularism is inherently false and schizophrenic.

Furthermore, any state, more so a democratic one – why should it at all allow another state (religion) within the state?

For these reasons, conversion into the exclusivist systems specifically must not be allowed at all, in principle.

This is apart from the observations of the Supreme Court of India which does not legitimize or protect institutionalised conversion attempts from the church, but rather protects the individual (citizen’s) right to move into another belief system. i.e. the choice and the attempt to change is from one side and not the other.
This is the same confusion or subterfuge that the followers of state religions resort to in order to justify their conversion efforts and seek to protect it or legitimize it – in keeping with their fundamentals.

In view of the above analysis, conversion between non-exclusivist systems or into a non-exclusivist system may be permitted – the onus and choice rests with the individual and not the other converting side. However, conversion into the state or exclusivist religions / systems must not be permitted at all.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Long post. Jefferson lecture bu Donald Kagan of Yale.


In Defence of History

Donald Kagan

I am most grateful for this great honor. When I think of the list of my brilliant predecessors I feel as most Yale freshmen do soon after arriving on campus. They look about them at their remarkably talented fellow-classmen and nervously ask themselves, "did the admissions office admit me by mistake?" At any rate, I come as a defender of the faith, of the humanities as they were understood ever since the invention of the concept many centuries ago. Their goals were nicely stated by the Renaissance humanist Pietro Paolo Vergerio some six centuries ago as the purposes of a liberal education:

We call those studies liberal which are worthy of a free man, those studies by which we attain and practice virtue and wisdom, that education which calls forth, trains and develops those highest gifts of body and mind which ennoble men and which are rightly judged to rank next in dignity to virtue only, for to a vulgar temper, gain and pleasure are the one aim of existence, to a lofty nature, moral worth and fame.
The training of the intellect was meant to produce an intrinsic pleasure and satisfaction but it also had practical goals of importance to the individual and the entire community, to make the humanistically trained individual eloquent and wise, to know what is good and to practice virtue, both in private and public life.
Such was the understanding of the ancient Greeks and of the Renaissance humanists but not, I fear of many teachers of the humanities today, who deny the possibility of knowing anything with confidence, of the reality of such concepts as truth and virtue, who seek only gain and pleasure in the modern guise of political power and self-gratification as the ends of education.

Among them it is common to reject any notion of objectivity, of truths arrived at by evidence or reasoning external to whims or prejudices. One famous professor deplored such an idea as foundationalism, defined as, "any attempt to ground inquiry and communication in something more firm and stable than mere belief or unexamined practice."1 Such views are proposed by literary critics, but their significance is much broader than for the interpretation of literature; they assert that all studies are literature, all, therefore subject to the same indeterminacy as all language. Even death is merely "the displaced name for a linguistic predicament."2 It should not be surprising, then, to learn that "the bases for historical knowledge are not empirical facts but written texts, even if these texts masquerade in the guise of wars or revolutions."3 What we know of history, after all, we learn from written accounts whose rhetoric "allows for two incompatible, mutually self-destructive points of view, and therefore puts an insurmountable obstacle in the way of any reading or understanding."4 Including, I presume, any reading or understanding of the quotation I just read.

Such ideas have made their way even into the study of the Classics, but I remain grateful that I have spent much of my life in the exploration of the ancient civilizations, especially that of the Greeks. Because they are at the root of modern civilization, so like us in many ways and so different in others, they offer a perspective removed from the prejudices of time and place that threaten to distort our understanding and yet continually relevant and illuminating to those who will examine them with a mind open to the possibility that useful wisdom can be found in their thought and experience.

Let me offer an example of how a study of the ancient world may help our understanding: the question of the role of the artist in his society. Ever since the beginning of the Romantic movement the dominant belief has been that a true poet or artist, whatever his genre, must be a rebel against the established order of society. Writers of the past who don't fit the model seem always to be merely the victims of their place in corrupt societies or stooges of those who rule them. The modern critic who discovers this is, of course, free from such influences. To me, and to the poor writers of the past, ignorant of their pitiful roles, art, and especially literature, has an autonomous place apart from politics and sociology, even from philosophy. Its power comes from its ability to choose its own subject, style and purpose. Literature that is shaped merely by its author's time and his place within his society, by his prejudices and purposes, is a poor and weak thing that deserve the social scientific analysis and pseudo-philosophical mumbo-jumbo that pass for literary criticism in our day.

But true artists are not bound by such things. They see through and beyond the prejudices and passions of their own time and place and are bound only by the limits that bind all human beings at all times in all places: the reality of nature and of human nature. There is a natural world outside of human will and desire; man's genius can manipulate it to a considerable extent, and the results can be wonderful, but they are inevitably constrained by the enormous power and mystery of nature and by the limits imposed by man's own nature. For confirmation I turn to the tragic poet Sophocles and especially his drama Antigone. There his chorus describes the dilemma:

Wonders are many on earth, and the greatest of these
Is man, who rides the ocean and takes his
Through the deeps, through wind-swept valleys of perilous seas
That surge and sway.
    He is master of ageless Earth, to his own
        will bending
The immortal mother of gods by the sweat of his brow,
As year succeeds to year, with toil unending
    Of mule and plough.
    He is lord of all things living; birds of the
Beasts of the field, all creatures on sea and land
He takes, cunning to capture and ensnare
    With sleight of hand;
    Hunting the savage beasts from the
        upland rocks,
Teaching the mountain monarch in his lair,
Teaching the wild horse and the roaming ox
    His yoke to bear.
    The use of language, the wind-swift
        motion of brain
He learnt; found out the law of living together
In cities, building him shelter against the rain
    And wintry weather.
    There is nothing beyond his power. His
Meets all chance, all danger conquers.
For every ill has found its remedy,
    Save only death.
    O wondrous sublety of man, that draws
To good or evil ways! Great honour is given
And power to him who upholds his country's laws
    And the justice of heaven.
    But he that, too rashly daring, walks in sin
In solitary pride to his life's end,
At door of mine shall never enter in
    To call me friend.

Man's ingenuity and power are great, but both his power and life are limited. Such is the basis for the Greeks' tragic view of life. There is no excuse for passivity, for human beings can help shape the environments that shape them and they have the opportunity and the power to defy their societies and their unjust laws, as Antigone does in defying Creon. He has overridden the unwritten divine law by forbidding the burial of her brother, killed in a rebellion against his state. She chooses to bury her brother and accept a horrible death as the penalty, and we marvel and admire her for it.
So far, it is possible to think of Sophocles as the kind of artist favored today--the champion of revolt against man's fate, so often in our time taken to be the revolt against his society and its ways. True artists, like Sophocles, however, are not propagandists but pursuers of deep, usually complicated, understandings of the human condition. Sophocles's play reveals such complexity. There is something to be said for Creon. His decree is meant to preserve the security of the state and society, the minimal requirement of civilization, the thin veneer that protects us from the plunge into barbarism and savagery. Modern artists tend to assume that the established order is always wrong. Ibsen's Dr. Stockmann in An Enemy of the People made it clear that the rule applies even to democratic establishments with his passionate assertion that "the majority is always wrong." But the greatest artists are prepared to search for the truth of the human condition wherever the trail may lead. They do not prejudge the outcome. The establishment or the defiant rebel may be right or, as is typical of real tragedy, each may be right in his own way, even as the two rights clash disastrously. Sophocles's portrayal of the struggle is so even-handed that some ancient scholars thought that Creon's case is the stronger and that the play should be called Creon, not Antigone. That must be wrong, for Antigone alone displays the willful, defiant, single-minded, unrelenting, uncalculating determination to do what she must, regardless of consequences, that is characteristic of Sophoclean heroes. But the point is that Sophocles wrestles with the issues and depicts their champions with such honesty as to do justice to the depth, difficulty and universality of the subject and his characters.

Such an artist does not reflexively take the side of any rebel against the established order. It may be that the establishment is right. More likely, there is a degree of right on both sides, so that the difficult task for human beings is to gain a deeper understanding of what is at stake, both for individual and society, to understand that the needs of individual and society are both competitive and complementary and to contemplate the resulting dilemma with the seriousness and awe it deserves.

In Antigone, Sophocles is concerned, in the first place, with the temptation that power can place in the way of a political leader like Creon to do whatever is necessary, even to violate divine law, in the interest of the state. That would be a comfortable position for a writer in our times. But Sophocles understands the enormous cost when an individual tramples on human law, even in defense of the most fundamental human needs. The resulting clash leaves us neither with a burning determination to overthrow the regime nor to suppress all insurgency. It leaves us emotionally stimulated and then drained, and it leaves our minds alerted and sobered. We have become deeper individuals and wiser citizens.

André Malraux said that "All art is a revolt against man's fate." If he is right, Sophocles's plays, the other tragedies, and much of ancient Greek literature are not art. Malraux seems to me to reflect the Romantic view that is determined to see the artist as an individual apart from, superior to and in rebellion against the established order. Sophocles, like Aeschylus and Thucydides, was very much a part of his society. He fought its battles as a soldier, he understood and appreciated its necessity and excellences even as he probed its dilemmas and weaknesses. His plays, among other things, helped their audiences to understand and come to terms with man's fate. It is man's fate, part of the tragic human condition, to revolt and struggle against its negative elements. But human excellence, virtue, even survival depend on the establishment of a decent social order and its defense even against the most passionate and sincere rebels who would smash it in search of some imagined perfection beyond human grasp.

Because he was part of the society in which he lived and understood its needs and virtues he could compel his fellow citizens honestly to confront its conflicts and its deepest contradictions. They did not suppress, scorn, or, what is worse, ignore him. Instead, they honored him with prizes, election to the highest military and political office and with deep and abiding reverence. Would that all this were possible for modern artists and their audiences in the world today.

To understand this question, which involves both literature and philosophy, one must study history, my own special field of interest, the dearest to my heart. I want to make the case that history, defined not meanly in the current style as an infinitely malleable tool to be used to achieve current political ends, but as the Greek founders of the genre did, can be the most valuable approach to achieve the proper goals of the humanities.

The world we live in is a difficult place to try to make a case for the value of history. Through the centuries its claim has rested chiefly on its search for truths arrived at by painstaking research conducted with the greatest possible objectivity, explaining events by means of human reason. Its various goals, as the late Arnaldo Momigliano put it, were "to provide an example, constitute a warning, point to likely developments in human affairs." The ancient Greek historians, the earliest and still among the greatest, set the agenda, taking as their subjects large events affecting great numbers of people in dramatic and powerful ways.

Herodotus, the first true historian, wrote of the war in which a band of small Greek city-states defended their freedom against the assault of the vast and mighty Persian Empire. He wrote, he said, "so that time may not blot out from among men the memory of the past, and that the fame of the great and marvelous deeds done by Greeks and foreigners may not be lost, and especially the reason why they fought against each other." Here, from the very beginning of the genre, we can discern the special place occupied by history among humanistic studies. Like literature, specifically the epic poetry of Homer, it has the responsibility of preserving the great, important and instructive actions of human beings, individually and in the mass so that we may marvel at them and learn from them. It sets the historian the task, however, not merely of describing events in evocative language that will impress them on human hearts and arouse an emotional response but also, like philosophy, to explain their meaning by the use of reason.

Thucydides, a younger contemporary of Herodotus, took on the same assignments. He wanted to memorialize the great event of his day, the war between Sparta and Athens.

Thucydides tells us that he undertook his history:

in the belief that it would be great and noteworthy above all the wars that had gone before…. For this was the greatest upheaval that had ever shaken the Hellenes, extending also to some part of the barbarians, one might say even to a very large part of mankind.
No one who has read his dramatic accounts of the debates in the various assemblies, and especially his heart-rending account of the destruction of the Athenian forces that invaded Sicily will doubt his literary artistry in achieving that goal. But Herodotus' story had a happy ending, while Thucydides' tale was far grimmer. The account of the Persian War seems filled with sunshine; the report of the Peloponnesian War seems to have been written in twilight. Herodotus, like Homer, tells good stories for their own sake, whether he believes them or not. Most of his explanations of events credit human agents alone, but, again like Homer, he leaves plenty of room for the intervention of the gods. Thucydides ruthlessly excludes everything not clearly relevant to his task and employs cold reason alone in his explanations. Herodotus obtained the necessary information by asking people who seemed to know something he was interested in, sometimes reporting more than one account of things without choosing among them, sometimes making a choice based on the exercise of reason and what seemed likely. This was not good enough for Thucydides. "As to the facts of what happened," he said, "I did not learn them from any chance informant nor did I think it proper to write down what seemed probable to me but by investigating each of them with the greatest possible accuracy, both those events at which I was present myself and those I learned about from others. And the discovery of these facts was laborious, since eye-witnesses to the same events did not give the same reports of them, either because of partisanship or failure of memory."
Thucydides understood that his careful attention to factual accuracy came at a literary price. "Perhaps," he says, "the absence of the fabulous from my account will seem less pleasing to the ear." But he judges the sacrifice necessary to achieve a higher goal, a philosophic one with great practical application: "If those who wish to have a clear understanding both of the events of the past and of the ones that some day, as is the way in human things, will happen again in the future in the same or a similar way, will judge my work useful, that will be enough for me. It has been composed not as a prize-essay in a competition, to be heard for a moment, but as a possession forever."

These lines seem plainly to be a critique of Herodotus and then a bold claim to contribute to rational, philosophic understanding. Even beyond that, I believe, they lay claim to practical usefulness in dealing with real human problems in the real world. These are the missions for the historian: to examine important events of the past with painstaking care and the greatest possible objectivity, to seek a reasoned explanation for them based on the fullest and fairest possible examination of the evidence in order to preserve their memory and to use them to establish such uniformities as may exist in human events, and then to apply the resulting understanding to improve the judgment and wisdom of people who must deal with similar problems in the future. That is the legacy the Greek historians handed down to their successors which, when practiced well, makes Clio the Queen of the Humanities, standing between and slightly above her noble handmaidens, the muses of literature and philosophy.

So say I, but not everyone has agreed. Critics of history have been legion, running the gamut from the sophisticated, wickedly witty Voltaire, who asserted that: "History is a pack of tricks the living play upon the dead," to the simpler remark of Henry Ford that "History is bunk." A more serious critique, favoring literature, came soon after the invention of history from Aristotle's Poetics, which says:

A poet's object is not to tell what actually happened but what could and would happen either probably or inevitably. The difference between a historian and a poet is not that one writes in prose and the other in verse. Indeed the writings of Herodotus could be put into verse and yet would still be a kind of history, whether written in meter or not. The real difference is this, that one tells what happened and the other what might happen. For this reason poetry is somewhat more philosophical [philosophoteron] and serious than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts.
By a general truth I mean the sort of thing that a certain type of man will do or say either probably or necessarily. That is what poetry aims at. A particular fact is what Alcibiades did or what was done to him.

Aristotle, of course, would have claimed the same advantage for philosophy which must also be more philosophos than history. He had great learning and wisdom but, like Homer, even he occasionally nodded. The primary source for what Alcibiades did and suffered, in fact, is Thucydides, and it is hard to believe that Aristotle did not read his history. If he did, this assertion is truly astonishing for, as we have seen, Thucydides took the greatest pains to discover what particular people did precisely in order to establish general truths about human behavior. He stood at a position on the road from literature to philosophy. Like the poet he was free to select his topic, to define its boundaries, to treat some events and topics at greater length than others, to emphasize some things and touch lightly on others. Unlike the creative writer, however, the historian may not invent characters or events or chronology but must report with the greatest possible accuracy the doings of real people, keeping to the true order in which they happened. To the extent that he fails in those responsibilities he is not a bad historian but no historian at all.
Yet, if he follows the rules, carefully establishes the facts and reports them in their true chronological order and does no more, he is still not a historian but a chronicler. It is not enough to record a certain level of events each year, however accurately. The historian must select a topic of importance. Even a narrative history must organize and arrange events in such a way as to reveal their significance most effectively. He must try to explain why things happened as they did and what may be learned about human affairs and behavior in general from the events he has studied. In this respect his work must be philosophical.

But unlike philosophers and their post-enlightenment offspring, the social scientists, who usually prefer to explain a vast range of particular phenomena by the simplest possible generalization, historians must be prepared to explain the variety of behavior in various ways. The well-known lines of the ancient Greek poet Archilochus present the two fundamental choices: "The fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one:/ one big one." This may work in the animal kingdom, but in the world of human affairs, wildly complicated by the presence of individual wills and of different ideas of what produces or deprives people of happiness and honor, in what does interest consist and of what there is to fear, extremely general explanations are neither useful nor possible. Historians, in the first instance, need to be foxes, using as many tricks as they can to explain as many particular things as accurately and convincingly as they can. Then, they should try to find revealing examples from the wide variety of human experiences to support generalizations of varying breadth. They should not expect to find the one big trick that will explain everything, but the lesser generalizations that can be tested by other understandings of the evidence and by new human experiences as they arise, which can still be interesting and useful. It is this mixed path taken by the historian, chiefly of the fox but with a necessary element of the hedgehog that promises the best results.

The poet, inspired by a unique personal perception and understanding, may shed a more intense and powerful light on some human affairs than the most careful and serious historian. We may admire its brilliance and originality, but are his revelations right? When we think so, it is by intuition that we are convinced or by some feeling that the poet's perception accords with our own experience. But everyone has his own intuition and experience. The literary road to the understanding of human things calls for generalizing from a single perception. It can be galvanizing, inspiring, but not satisfying to the mind. The literary experience is primarily aesthetic and emotional, not intellectual or practical.

Philosophy is a word and concept harder to define but among the many definitions I find in my dictionary the following strikes me as most central: "inquiry into the nature of things based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods." The pursuit of philosophy does not preclude the study of human experience to provide material for contemplation and analysis by ordered reason, but experience is clearly subordinate and ancillary. Even Aristotle, who for centuries was known as the philosopher and liked to begin his inquiries with reference to the experience and thought of real people, did not investigate these widely or deeply but just until they produced the inevitable intellectual difficulties, the aporiai, to which he then applied his great powers of logic and reason. There are great advantages for our understanding of the nature of things in it: pointing out sloppy thinking and helping to correct it; the ability to analyze things that appear unitary or to bring together others that seem hopelessly disparate; the search for simpler, more general principles than those available to the empirical students of human experience, among others. But philosophy inevitably leads to metaphysics, the investigation of first principles and the problem of ultimate reality, which over the millennia has led to massive disagreement, no progress, cynicism and rejection. Wags have described the pursuit of metaphysics as looking in a perfectly dark box for a black cat that doesn't exist. More seriously, the situation has driven professional students of philosophy to such despair as to reject entirely the most basic and compelling questions as impossible, in fact as non-existent, merely the result of bad thinking or improper grammar. In that spirit the Enyclopaedia Britannica defines philosophy narrowly as "the critical examination of the grounds for fundamental beliefs and an analysis of the basic concepts of such beliefs." Aristotle must have rolled over in his grave when he first learned of the thin gruel modern teachers have made of his rich philosophical porridge. Fortunately, a small band of scholars have not given up the search for wisdom that is true philosophy, but their tribe is small and their enemies legion. A field of study in such shape can not help us much in our efforts to comprehend the human condition.

None of this is to say that history is without its problems for our purpose. Although, in its moderate way, it has not suffered so badly as philosophy from the linguistic analysts or literature from the pseudo-philosophers, it has not escaped the assaults of post-modernism in its various forms. A major assault is in the area of subject matter and attitude. The traditional great events and subjects: high politics, constitutions, diplomacy, war, great books and ideas, are not to be considered, except to show why they must be excluded as the product of dead white males engaged in the permanent process of oppressing good ordinary people of one kind or another. The purpose of the enterprise is not to seek the truth with the greatest objectivity one can muster but to raise the consciousness of the oppressed, to bring them the self-esteem they will need to overthrow the current version of this ancient establishment.

Some historians may not be convinced by these beliefs, observing that post-modernists assert that there is no such thing as truth, only self-interest, prejudice and power, that there is no objectivity, that all statements of fact or value are relative and claims to the existence or search for objective truth are part of the racket by which the ruling groups try to retain power. Such doubters may point out that the opinions of those making these claims should be ignored since, by their own admission, their claims can not be objective or true but merely devices to gain power.

Although historians in universities have given far too much ground to such mindlessness promoted by contemporary political partisanship, as historians they are better situated than their colleagues in the other humanities to recover their senses. They know that the current fad of skepticism and relativism is as old as the Sophists of ancient Greece and had a great revival with the Pyrrhonism of the sixteenth century. On both occasions their paradoxical and self-contradictory glamour yielded in time to common sense and the massive evidence that some searches are more objective, some things truer than others, however elusive perfect objectivity and truth may be.

Historians have reason to know this and to resist the blatantly subjective and untruthful assault of the modern-day sophists, confident that if they hold, or return, to their traditional methods, which allow them to correct errors in our beliefs about the past, or, sometimes, to bring new evidence and perceptions, that may have the effect of refining or even confirming what has been believed. For history is a discipline in which the improvement of understanding is not impossible, random, nor merely cyclical, but cumulative.

Perhaps you will think that my own approach is not entirely objective, that it is shaped by what the French call a déformation professionelle, so let me say at once that it goes without saying that literature, philosophy and history have long been valuable roads to the understanding of the human condition, and all make important contributions, but I confess that as to their relative merits my mind is not completely open. Perhaps my view could be compared with that of the clergyman who listened to a heated debate among his fellow divines, each claiming the superiority of his sect. At last, he intervened with these words: "Friends, let us not quarrel among ourselves in this sectarian fashion. We all seek to work God's will, you in your several ways, I in His."

But I believe there is more to my claim than mere prejudice related to professional deformation. Two millennia ago the Roman historian Livy's introduction to his great narrative account of his nation's history included this observation:

What chiefly makes the study of history wholesome and profitable is this, that you behold the lessons of every kind of experience set forth as on a conspicuous monument; from these you may choose for yourself and for your own state what to imitate, from these mark for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result. (1.10)
That is a view of the purpose of historical study that went out of favor with professionals in the nineteenth century and is not thought respectable in our time. As a result it has been increasingly harder to persuade people that they have anything to learn from history. At the same time, the retreat by professors of history from the tradition of writing narrative accounts that explain the past by telling a story has further repelled potential readers. This has not, however deterred millions of people hungry for historical writing from reading those historians who will interpret the past by narrating a story and are alert to the moral implications, personal and political, of the story they tell. And why should it be otherwise? The fact is that we all need to take our moral bearings all the time, as individuals and as citizens. Religion and the traditions based on it were once the chief sources for moral confidence and strength. Their influence has faded in the modern world, but the need for a sound base for moral judgments has not. If we can not look simply to moral guidance firmly founded on religious precepts it is natural and reasonable to turn to history, the record of human experience, as a necessary supplement if not a substitute. History, it seems to me, is the most useful key we have to open the mysteries of the human predicament. Is it too much to hope that one day we may see Clio ascend her throne again and resume her noble business at the same old stand?

Stanley Fish, cited by Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals, New York, 1990, p.156. [Return to lecture]
Paul de Man, cited in David Lehman, Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man, New York, 1991, p.93. [Return to lecture]
Ibid., p.81. [Return to lecture]
Ibid., p.129. [Return to lecture]
© Donald Kagan, 2005


Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)