Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reginald Reynolds on the impact of the British

"“Ronald Ross, “ writes Mr. Brailford, “has drawn a mordant picture of a class of children, all with enlarged spleens, struggling to learn by rote a table of the Plantagenet Kings.”

Reginald Reynolds, The White Sahibs in India, 1937:

Culturally the net effect of the British occupation has been aptly summed up by Graham Wallas in Human Society:

What has not changed from 1835

What has not changed from 1835 is the production of idiots.  I've previously quoted Makarand Paranjpe on some of the characteristics of this species, so I won't quote it in full. A distinguishing  characteristic of this species is that they have no independent judgment, for something to be worthwhile it must be blessed by the West.

It is also evident that these elite idiots still hold India in thrall - but I am confident that their days at the top are numbered.

From the Despatch of 1854

The historian draws a picture by selection of elements - including everything is not possible.  One should always be aware that there is a larger picture, both in space and in time.  One has to remember that while Bengal was the capital of intellectual ferment, and Calcutta was the capital of the British Raj, there was a vast other space of activity.  Perusing the history of education in the Madras Presidency is both instructive and a good balance to Bengal and Rammohun Roy.  (E.g., Lord Auckland commented that the Madras Presidency had done well in the spread of the "mere" English language, but had done poorly in imparting any knowledge along with the language.)

There is also the dimension of time.  If anyone imagines Macaulay's minute of 1835 is what has come down to India in 2013, let them be disabused of that notion.

The East India Company's Despatch of 1854 declared, among many other things:
It is neither our aim nor desire to substitute the English language for the vernacular dialects of the country.   We have always been the most sensible of the importance of the use of the languages which alone are understood by the great mass of the population.  These languages, and not English, have been put by us in the place of Persian in the administration of justice, and in the intercourse between the officers of Government and the people.  It is indispensible, therefore, that in any general system of education the study of them should be assiduously attended to........

In any general system of education, the English language should be taught where there is a demand for it; but such instruction should always be combined with a careful attention to the study of the vernacular language of the district, and with such general instruction as can be conveyed through that language.....We look therefore, to the English language and to the vernacular languages of India, together as the media for the diffusion of European knowledge.....
"History of Education in the Madras Presidency" says that the Despatch of 1854 was "called the Magna Carta of English education in India".    (I think here English means British rather than the language.)   Quite a different tone from Macaulay; though historians note that the Company's purpose, just as in 1835, was still to reduce the Company's labor costs by being able to substitute cheaper Indians for more expensive Englishmen, if only Indians had the qualifications.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


In a history that only talks about Hindu orthodoxy versus a Rammohun Roy's line of thought, Rammohun Roy looks like someone who would endorse fully and wholeheartedly Macaulay's 1835 minute, be very much for the construction of "a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect".

But a picture is made of contrasts, and the historian, just like the photographer provides a selective view of the scene.  Except in photojournalism, this is simply part of the art of photography.   For history, well, it is typically constructed with some political end in mind - it does not rise even to the standards of photojournalism.

We are told by Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas, in Social Change in Modern India, that
"Calcutta had, by 1830, an influential group of rationalists who were notorious for their total rejection of the indigenous society and who accepted in its place everything Western, including Christianity.  It is only apt that they symbolized their acceptance of the West with a meal which included beef.   Raja Ram Mohan Roy was too deeply committed to his religion, culture and country to have any sympathy with the Occidentalists and he founded in 1828 the Brahmo Samaj....."
The cited authority for the existence of the group of rationalists mentioned above is the historian Percival Spear

With this in the picture, Rammohun Roy looks rather different, doesn't he?  This Calcutta group was seeming already the "class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect" - all Rammohun Roy had to do was to join them.....

Alissa Caton on Macaulay, etc.
Provides some more context.

Macaulay's unique imperial discourse found in his "Minute" can be better understood by exploring Macaulay as an historian. His most famous historical writing was his History of England published in 1848. Even though this came after the "Minute on Education," the History was a process and a goal of Macaulay during his time in India. His knowledge and opinions of England combined with his experiences of empire in India influenced Macaulay's overall view of history and the role it should play in every nation as well as answering why England was so exceptional compared to every nation. By understanding Macaulay's opinions on England and its history, it becomes clear why he so fiercely advocated for Anglicist reform in the "Minute".

Some little bit more about Rammohun Roy

After reading Makarand Paranjpe, you might get to thinking about Rammohun Roy, "he's a total rejectionist of the Indian traditions". 
At that "first," even "originary" moment of contact between "modern" India and Europe, Rammohun Roy, in his address to Lord Amherst, pleaded for "a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy, with other useful sciences," (Tradition Modernity & Svaraj 98). But in the process, Rammohun also denigrated "Byakjurun," "Vedant," "Meemangsa," and "Nyaya Shastra." Whether such self-ridicule was tactical or serious is not clear. To all appearances, Indians wished to welcome modernity, even as they wished not to give up their traditions entirely. The earliest case of this attempted synthesis is Rammohun himself, with his Brahmo Samaj, a sort of modernized version of Vedanta.
Yet, when Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote his Minute of 2 February 1835 in favour of English education, he made ample use of Rammohun's address to Lord Amherst: "I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia" (ibid 101). In places, his text echoes the very words of Rammohun, as when he cites the procedures laid down for expiating the sin of killing a goat (106), as an example of the uselessness of traditional Indian knowledge.
However, perusing "The Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy" (edited by Sophia Dobson Collet, Calcutta, 1914", one finds otherwise. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A quote from Sir Thomas Munro

"I do not understand", said Sir Thomas Munro in 1813, "what is meant by the civilisation of the Hindus. In the higher branches of science, in the knowledge of the theory and practice of good government, and in education which, by banishing prejudice and superstition, opens the mind to receive instruction of every kind from every quarter, they are much inferior to Europeans.

But if a good system of agriculture, unrivalled manufacturing skill, a capacity to produce whatever can contribute to either convenience or luxury, schools established in every village for teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, the general practice of hospitality and charity among each other, and above all, a treatment of the female sex full of confidence, respect and delicacy are among the signs which denote a civilised people, and if civilisation is to be an article of trade between England and India, I am convinced that England will gain by the import cargo." (Quoted in Reginald Reynolds, "The White Sahibs in India")

The aftermath of the 1857 Revolt

The aftermath of the 1857 Revolt was that the British Government abolished the East India Company and took up the task of governing India. By the statistics, and by the consequences, it seems that the British Government was an even greater blood-sucker than the Company.

More Laissez-Faire!

American financiers today are merely following in the footsteps of their British Brethren from a century and more ago.

(Reginald Reynolds, "The White Sahibs in India")
By 1931 the total capital expenditure by the State on railways stood at nearly £600,000,000. According to Sir John Strachye's Finance and Public Works of India the railways built by State enterprise between 1869 and 1881 involved a total outlay of £26,689,000. The rest of the railways were, in the great majority of cases, built by Guaranteed Companies, most of them having since been purchased by the Government.
The nature of the contracts by which these Guaranteed Companies built Indian railways is probably unique in the history of financial operations.  The Company would be guaranteed an interest on its capital by the Indian Government at a rate which was itself excessive when compared with the prevailing market rates.  Free land would be granted by the Government thus obviating the principal difficulty with which the railway speculator usually has to contend.   If and when the railway showed a profit, that profit was the property of the Company; but when there was a loss the Company's dividends would be paid from the Indian taxes.   Thus with the minimum of cost to themselves, a group of financiers could, without any of the normal risks of speculation, invest their capital with the certainty of a minimum dividend and the hope of a surplus.  The people of India, who were their sleeping partners in this astonishing arrangement were compelled to balance the shareholder's losses and to produce, in addition, substantial dividends for them out of their taxes.
 The result, as per British government committees' own reports, is that the government in India found that it itself could construct railway lines at £4000 per mile in identical terrain that the private parties spent £18,000 per mile.

Let us recall that the contractors to the US Government of Occupation in Iraq had similar deals - cost-plus contracts - and the Iraqis were going to pay for these.  The Iraqis, however, were uncivilized enough to blow up Americans and Iraqis alike, and I think it is the American taxpayer who has had to foot the burden for the Bush fat-cats.

PS: the British added all of this to the Indian debt; the interest on the railways alone amounted to £40,000,000 per year. Most of Britain's Asiatic wars were also charged to India and paid for by the Indian peasant.

Monday, January 28, 2013

From a commentary on Macaulay

Reginald Reynolds has this in a footnote:

"Macaulay was in the long line of British statesmen who found in the administration of India a cure for their financial difficulties.   "No doubt prudential motives", wrote H. H. Milman, " and those of no ungenerous prudence, influenced his determination.   By a few years of economy, careful but not illiberal, he might make a provision for his future life." (Milman's biographical note to Macaulay's History of England.)  He had formerly earned only £200 a year and went to India on account of his father's failure in business.

Free trade!

Reginald Reynolds tells us that the Indian ship-building industry "was also doomed, for we read how "the arrival in the Port of London of Indian produce in Indian-built ships created a sensation among the monopolists which could not have been exceeded if a hostile fleet had appeared in the Thames.  The ship-builders of the Port of London took the lead in raising the cry of alarm.....An obliging Government saw to it that the Indian industry perished."{A Popular History of British India,  W. Cooke Taylor, 1842}

Bengal Famine 1770

In the Bengal famine of 1770,  the official East India Company figures were that one-third the population of Bengal perished  (today estimated to be about 10 million people).  The East India Company did not, however, relent on taxes, specifically the land revenues on agricultural lands.

It is because these blighters write the history, that they are supposedly better than Hitler and the Nazis.  Make no mistake, they were just as murderous.   The number of Satis they prevented were a few hundred a year, this makes them humanitarian - just remember that.  Oh, and a few guys gave some liberal but ineffectual speeches in the House of Commons.  Hitler was not so smart, he should have loved his victims in his speeches, and I'm sure the world would think of him as highly as they do of the English.


PS:  "A Captain Edwards who visited Oudh in 1774 reported it to be "flourishing in manufactures, cultivation and commerce."  After the kind attentions of the East India Company, "Nine years later he found the country 'forlorn and desolate'.   Others confirmed his report, and Parliamentary Reports have recorded their verdicts."  (Reginald Reynolds, "The White Sahibs in India").


PPS: The worst scum on earth today, fit fellows of the East India Company,  are those who try to justify that imperialism today.

PPPS: Let us not forget the class of Indians that was raised by the Company as collaborators.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Prayer of the East India Company's Servants, 1689

Reginald Reynolds, gives us this, in "The White Sahibs in India": "[This prayer, used by the Company's servants, is given as quoted by the Rev. John Ovington, sometime chaplain to the Company's factory in Surat, in his book, A Voyage to Suratt in the Year 1689. (Published in London, 1696.) Three such prayers were in 1698 "approved by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Bishop of London."]


O Almighty and most Merciful God, who are the Sovereign Protector of all that Trust in Thee, and the Author of all Spiritual and Temporal Blessings, we thy unworthy Creatures do most humbly implore thy goodness for a plentiful Effusion of thy Grace upon our Employers, thy Servants, the Right Honourable EAST INDIA Company of ENGLAND.  Prosper them in all their publick Undertakings, and make them famous and successful in all their Governments, Colonies and Commerce both by Sea and Land; so that they may prove a publick Blessing by the increase of Honour, Wealth and Power to our Native Country, as well as to themselves.  Continue their Favours towards us, and inspire their Generals, Presidents, Agents and Councils in these remote parts of the World, and all others that are entrusted with any Authority under them, with Piety towards Thee our God, and with Wisdom, Fidelity and Circumspection in their several Stations;  That we may all discharge our respective Duties faithfully, and live Virtuously, in due Obedience to our superiors, and in Love, Peace and Charity one towards another;  That these INDIAN Nations among whom we dwell, seeing our sober and righteous Conversation, may be induced to have a just esteem for our most holy Profession of the Gospel of our Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be Honour, Praise and Glory, now and for ever.



John Bright, continued

Bright's speech in the House of Commons, June 3, 1853: (emphasis added)
Now, with reference to education, so far as could be gathered from the Returns before the House—he had sought to obtain Returns of a more specific character, but to no purpose, having received the usual answer in these matters, that there was no time for preparing them—but from the Returns they had before them he found that while the Government had overthrown almost entirely the native education that had subsisted throughout the country so universally that a schoolmaster was as regular a feature in every village as the "potail" or head man, it had done next to nothing to supply the deficiency which had been created, or to substitute a better system.

Out of a population of 100,000,000 natives we instructed but 25,000 children; out of a gross revenue of 29,000,000 £ sterling, extracted from that population, we spent but 66,000£ in their education. In India, let it be borne in mind, the people were not in the position with regard to providing for their own education which the people of this country enjoyed, and the education which they had provided themselves with, the Government had taken from them, supplying no adequate system in its place. The people of India were in a state of poverty, and of decay, unexampled in the annals of the country under their native rulers. From their poverty the Government wrung a gross revenue of more than 29,000,000£ sterling, and out of that 29,000,000£, returned to them 66,000£ per annum for the purposes of education!
No doubt Macaulay and Niall Ferguson and the like would think that the 66,000£ was adequate, and that displacing the universal native education system in favor of a vacuum was greatly civilizing for India.  Of course, to balance this imposed universal illiteracy they abolished Sati, and that justifies it all for the benighted latter day disciples of such Apostles of Empire.

John Bright was a Quaker, and I think it is among Quakers that one finds the most humanism, compared to alleged liberals like Macaulay.

John Bright, House of Commons, June 3, 1853


....Mr. Marshman was a gentleman who was well known as possessing a considerable amount of information on Indian affairs, and had, he presumed, come over on purpose to give his evidence on the subject. He was editor of a newspaper which was generally considered throughout India to be the organ of the Government; and in that newspaper, the Friend of India, bearing date 1st April, 1852, the following statement appeared:—
No one has over attempted to contradict the fact that the condition of the Bengal peasantry is almost as wretched and degraded as it is possible to conceive—living in the most miserable hovels, scarcely fit for a dog-kennel, covered with tattered rags, and unable, in too many instances, to procure more than a single meal a day for himself and family. The Bengal ryot knows nothing of the most ordinary comforts of life. We speak without exaggeration when we affirm, that if the real condition of those who raise the harvest, which yields between 3,000,000£ and 4,000,000£ a year, was fully known, it would make the ears of one who heard thereof tingle. 
It had been said that in the Bengal Presidency the natives were in a better condition than in the other Presidencies; and he recollected that when he served on the Cotton Committee, the evidence taken before it was confined to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies, and it was then said that if evidence had been taken about the Bengal Presidency it would have appeared that the condition of the natives was better; but he believed that it was very much the same in all the Presidencies. He must say that it was his belief that if a country were found possessing a most fertile soil, and capable of bearing every variety of production, and that, notwithstanding, the people were in a
state of extreme destitution and suffering, the chances were that there was some fundamental error in the government of that country.

On learning languages

Rammohun Roy (1772-1833) mastered several languages, Bengali of course, Sanskrit, English, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Greek, and Hebrew.  He had a quick and strong memory, and a tremendous power of concentration - he is said to have read Valmiki's Ramayana in one sitting.  Presumably these gifts were what enabled his facility with languages.

Thomas B. Macaulay (1800-1859) was also a polyglot.  I suppose we produce just as many polyglots today, but their influence seems is limited compared to the 19th century.  I noted previously that per Wiki, Macaulay knew English, Greek, Latin, French, German, Dutch and Spanish.   His letters show that he knew Italian, too; (Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, by his nephew, G.O. Trevelyan, M.P.)in his letter from Calcutta, February 8, 1835, he writes "I was enraptured with Italian during the six months I gave up to it; and I was little less pleased with Spanish. But, when I went back to Greek, I felt as if I had never known before what intellectual enjoyment was."  He also picked up some Portuguese - his letter, Calcutta, July 25, 1836 - "I have picked up Portuguese enough to read Camoens with care; and I want no more."

Macaulay too had a quick and strong memory and a tremendous power of concentration.  In the same letters, though, Macaulay reveals a little of how he used them, and hence this note.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reginald Reynolds on the education of the Depressed Classes

Reginald Reynolds, "The White Sahibs in India" (1937) informs us thusly:

In the education of the Depressed Classes, the Government has shown very little initiative.  The Indian States (ruled by autocratic princes who enjoy the support of the British Army against any attempt to remove them) are no models of good government, and must never be considered as examples of that Swaraj (self-government) of which Gandhi said: "Swaraj does not mean a transfer of power from a white bureaucracy to a brown bureaucracy."  Nevertheless, the advances in education made in some of these States indicate what could have been done in British India; and Baroda State showed till recently a higher percentage of educated "Untouchables" that the educated percentage of the total population of the entire country. [20]

Footnote [20] In this State special efforts for the education of the Depressed Classes have been made since 1883.   Free schools were opened in Baroda City and the principal towns, and even clothing, board and lodging were provided free.  There has since been a steady progress in the facilities offered and a rise in the number of schools and scholars.   In 1928-29 there were in the Baroda State 217 schools for the Depressed Classes and the pupils attending numbered 9,533.   In addition, 6,000 students belong to the Depressed Classes were receiving instruction in the ordinary schools; 9.1 per cent of the total population of the Depressed Classes in the Baroda State were at that time educated, while the general percentage of the educated population in India was only 8.1, taking all classes together.

What about Burma?

The apologists for imperialism, said of the British-China Opium Wars,  that (a) the Chinese already used opium and (b) this was really a war for free trade.

Reginald Reynolds, "The White Sahibs in India" (1937) tells us, in a discussion of Katherine Mayo's work,

An example of the social evils which are unlikely to outlive British rule is to be found in the opium traffic. On this subject, Professor Durant in his book The Case of India [73] has stated the facts briefly and without exaggeration:

"Miss Mayo tells us that Hindu mothers feed opium to their children....She does not tell us (though she must have known) that women drug their children because the mothers must abandon them every day to go to work in the factories.  She does not tell us that the opium is grown only by the Government; and is sold exclusively by the Government; that its sale, like the sale of drink through saloons, is carried on despite the protest of the Nationalist Congress.... She does not tell us that Burma excluded opium by law until the British came, and is now overrun with it;[74] that the British distributed it free in Burma to create a demand for it; that whereas the traffic has been stopped in the Philippines, England has refused at one World Opium Conference after another to abandon it in India; that the Report of the Government Retrenchment Commission of 1925 emphasized 'the importance of safeguarding opium sales as an important source of revenue', and recommended 'no further reduction'; that when Gandhi, by a peaceful anti-opium campaign in Assam had reduced the consumption of the drug there by one-half, the Government put a stop to his labours and gaoled fourty-four of his aides."

[73] The Case for India (New York, 1930)
[74] Evidence regarding Burma is quoted by Dr. Sunderland (India in Bondage, p. 155) The evidence given here regarding the use of opium may be compared with that cited by Marx in Capital (Everyman edition, p 424). regarding its use in Britain in the nineteenth century.  He quotes medical evidence regarding the drugging of children with opiates in both industrial and agricultural areas.  The causes were the same in both countries.


The Story of English in India, N. Krishnaswamy, Lalitha Krishnaswamy:

For Macaulay also, education was only a prelude to proselytization, and in 1836, soon after the acceptance of the Minute, he wrote:
No Hindu, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion.  Some continue to profess it as a matter of policy, but many profess themselves pure Deists and some embrace Christianity.   It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence.  And this will be affected without any effort to proselytize; without the smallest interference in their religious liberty; merely by the operation of knowledge and reflection.
PS: My mother's kitchen, January 2013:

The Unity of India

People tend to forget that in the British Raj there were the provinces and some 550 or so princely states;  with the withdrawal of the British Raj, in principle, the princely states were free to go their own way.

Indeed, if it were upto the remaining British imperialists, such as Winston Churchill, that is what would likely have happened.
[On 29 March 1945, Viceroy Wavell met Prime Minister Churchill in London]. A record of this meeting is unavailable.  But one can get some idea of what was discussed from a cryptic entry made by the viceroy in his diary that night: The PM then launched into a long jeremiad about India which lasted for about forty minutes. He seems to favour partition of India into Pakistan, Hindustan and Princestan.
The British imperialists definitely played a role in the partition of India, and we know of the support, e.g., Churchill gave Hyderabad; and the more successful support he gave to Jinnah.  Were it up to them, India would not even have had the unity it now has.   Indian unity was thus not a consequence desired by the imperialists, and any claim of it as a benefit of the Empire is ludicrous.  Let us be clear - the unity of India owes to the English who were dissolving the Empire, not those who would have maintained it.

As it turns out, Sardar Patel, V.P. Menon, with assists from Lord Mountbatten made the accession of the states seem so easy, that that unity is taken for granted.


A quote from Lord Hastings

Came across this in my internet peregrinations.

The Private Journal of the Marquess of Hastings K.G., Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in India, Edited by his Daughter, The Marchioness of Bute. (Third Edition, Allahabad, 1907).

October 2nd, 1813
....The Hindoo appears a being nearly limited to mere animal functions, and even in them indifferent.  Their proficiency and skill in the several lines of occupation to which they are restricted, are little more than the dexterity which any animal with similar conformation, but with no higher intellect than a dog, an elephant or a monkey, might be supposed capable of attaining. 

PS: To be noted that this is after some five decades of British rule & plunder.

One of the differences between India and China

China emphasized universal literacy and universal primary education very early.  But universal primary education remained merely a directive principle of the Indian Constitution, if I remember right, and the fact is that the Indian government spent its efforts in raising those temples of modern India, the universities and IITs.  While I'm a beneficiary of the system, I should note that the Chinese policy has worked much better than the Indian policy.  It is only in the last decade or so, that the Indian government has adopted universal literacy and universal primary education as a goal (though there were a lot of non-government efforts, they hardly had the strength or resources to realize this goal).

In "The Story of English in India", N. Krishnaswamy and Lalitha Krishnaswamy trace this Indian policy to, who else, Macaulay.  I'm quoting more than necessary here, but I believe quotes should carry the context. They tell us that the Englishman William Adam in his Reports, argued that

The tragedy of Chandrabhan Prasad and India

As Philip Mason notes in his history of the British Indian Army (A Matter of Honour: An Account of the Indian Army, Its Officers and Men),  the English in India absorbed the prejudices of the Hindus and were just as harsh or harsher on the lower castes than the Hindus.

Yet after tremendous indigenous effort, a Chandrabhan Prasad must still clasp the feet of a Macaulay. His bitterness is understandable, but the reason India is in a mess is because her elite class still follow the West rather than Gandhi. When I say follow, I do not mean in the sense of following an ideology. It is instead developing one's own judgment and faculties; finding out what is important by looking around one instead of importing it from the West.

PS: This illustrates it nicely.

What we’re seeing now is the result of the political class’ double failure; not only did they fail to indoctrinate the rest of India with appropriately English values, they also failed to find an alternate, more inclusive paradigm for discussing politics.

The fact is that the political class did have a model for an alternate, more inclusive paradigm for discussing politics. It was lost in a love for those imports, Marxism and Fabian Socialism.

PPS: from the same source, he gets it very well, read the whole thing, but an excerpt is here.

I agree with Dhume’s sentiment here. What I find surprising, however, is its unparalleled laziness. There are certainly instances in which looking at American history can help illuminate current events in India. Take America’s treatment of Native American in the 19th century and the Adivasis’ current plight in India, for example. Or maybe we use the Teapot Dome scandal in order to come to a better understanding of the 2g spectrum scandal. What we can’t and SHOULD NOT do is rely on the evolution of democratic institutions in America to find and prescribe solutions for India’s own political woes.

The term “middle class” itself cannot be bandied about in such a manner, for it implies not only a position within a particular society, but an ethos endemic to that class. For what its worth, applying the label to the tea party is itself a tenuous claim; evidence indicates that, on the contrary, tea party voters are richer and indeed better educated than your average American. And in regards to the “tea party effect,” as Dhume would puts it, well, it’s not much of an effect at all. Its band of crazies are tolerated by the GOP only insofar as they bring more voters into the fold and the Democrats, despite their insistence to the contrary, rely the tea party for it makes their own party more palatable to disgruntled progressives. But that’s beside the point, for Dhume has opted for shallow supposition in lieu of an honest attempt at understanding India’s current political situation.

A good question!

Someone asked me: Why are you wasting time with the works of bigoted dead white men?

The fact is, yes, their pitiful descendants will continue to try to find something good coming out of their evil works, no different from the apologists for any other cultural atrocities, including those of India - there is plenty of that to go around.

But they are in the dustbin of history.  Nobody will remember them if you don't remind them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sauce for the gander: Just what did Macaulay read?

In the comments, CIP remarked:
I try not to have opinions on books I haven't read at least a little of.
Excellent point.  Macaulay had an opinion of an entire literature.  Actually, more than one literature, because he commented on both Sanskrit and Arabic in his infamous minute of 1835.
I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the oriental learning at the valuation of the orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.
Fine, Macaulay claims to have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanskrit works, and all seems well.  The question arises, which translations of which works?  

As per Wiki, Macaulay knew English, Greek, Latin, French, German, Dutch and Spanish.  So the question arises, which translations of the celebrated Arabic and Sanskrit works might have been available to him in any of these languages, on or before 1835?

English in India

"The earliest public institution for the teaching of English in India was perhaps the Hindu College of Calcutta, established in 1819.  It owed its origin to a discussion at the Atmiya Sabha of Rammohun Roy in 1815." - The Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy, edited by Sophia Dobson Collet, (1914)
The college was founded by David Hare (a watchmaker in Calcutta, described by Dr. Alexander Duff to the British House of Commons in 1853 as "an ordinary illiterate man,....but...a man of great energy and strong practical sense") and Rammohun Roy.

Macaulay was a boy of 19, studying at Cambridge at the time.  His famous minute setting the course of education in India came in February 1835.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Another view on Macaulay

This is from Makarand Paranjpe, part of a talk on a different theme (Decolonizing English Studies: Attaining Swaraj), but provides a perspective on Macaulay, and Macaulay's children.  First, read the excerpts if not the essay (beneath the fold).

Secondly Macaulay's prophecy of English as a global language was an accidental one - he did not forsee instant communications, the world wide web and globalization - his prediction was based on a prejudice similar to the "thousand year Reich", namely the durability of the British Empire. 

Thirdly, regarding language riots in India after independence - it was a promise of the Congress to have linguistic reorganization of the British provinces - and Nehru tried to walk back on that. 

Fourthly, the immediate reactions to having a 2-language formula (mother tongue + national language Hindi) resulted in the institution of the 3-language formula (mother tongue + English + national language Hindi) (1968 or earlier).   This, long before globalization raised the value of English for Indians and Dalits in particular - for India this was 1995 or later, when the demand for English education started rising (e.g., see this news item from 2005).

Niall Ferguson and the Third Kind of Wrongness

In the comments, ttt points us to this excellent take-down of Niall Ferguson.
Excerpt after the fold. There is also a pointer to Krugman's blog, where Krugman points out:
Matters are quite different when it comes to the third kind of wrongness: making or insinuating false claims about readily checkable facts. The case in point, of course, is Ferguson’s attempt to mislead readers into believing that the CBO had concluded that Obamacare increases the deficit. This was unethical on his part – but Newsweek is also at fault, because this is the sort of thing it could and should have refused to publish.
The first two types of wrongness Krugman lists are (1) wrong opinions, and (2) conceptual errors. 

Since Niall Ferguson is consistently in the third type of error territory,  I have to ask again - what are motives of those who promote him?  The following excerpt I think confirms my suspicions, includiing that lying in the cause of empire has always been respectable among imperialists.

Gandhi's ecological concerns

From CWMG (electronic volume 43):

[Before December 20, 1928]
God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 millions took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts. Unless the capitalists of India help to avert that tragedy by becoming trustees of the welfare of the masses and by devoting their talents not to amassing wealth for themselves but to the service of the masses in an altruistic spirit, they will end either by destroying the masses or being destroyed by them.
Young India, 20-12-1928
So Gandhi is "anti-modern".  He associated imperialism with industrialism (given that the Industrial Revolution might have been greatly delayed but for the subjugation of India, that may not be so off the mark.) Today, industrialism is no longer associated with imperialism, but is nonetheless implicated in a heavy burden on the environment.

 In any case, it is too late, there is no going back, 6+ billion people cannot be supported without the use of high technology (for instance, nature does not fix enough nitrogen to provide sufficient protein).  The only slim hope is that technology advances sufficiently to allow us to give all a good life as well as keep from an ecological collapse.


Banana Republic

Nasty trick by Virginia Republicans

The state Senate is split 20-20 between Republicans and Democrats. On Monday, while state Sen. Henry Marsh (D) — a 79-year-old civil rights veteran— was reportedly in Washington to attend President Obama’s second inaugural, GOP senators forced through a mid-term redistricting plan that Democrats say will make it easier for Republicans to gain a majority.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Language and the Ultranationalist Jingoistic Hindu Fundamentalist Indian

K.M. Munshi was many things in his career, including a drafter of the Indian Constitution, and along with Sardar Patel, rebuilt the temple at Somnath that had been destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni.   Munshi was present at the founding of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is considered nowadays to be a vehicle of Hindu fundamentalism.   Here, we just want to mention K.M. Munshi's stance on language.

Munshi's mother tongue was Gujarati; he wrote extensively in it, and is called the father of modern Gujarati drama.  (Munshi, incidentally, was a great fan of Shakespeare.)  In the Constituent Assembly, Munshi promoted Hindi as India's national language.  As chancellor of Gujarat University, he made English required, declaring English to be necessary in order for India to be linked to the world.  Munshi promoted Sanskrit, the classical language of India, founding a Sanskrit college.  Munshi also promoted other regional languages of India.

This is the nature of the "Hindu fundamentalist".  It is only secularists that say, don't teach Sanskrit,  or this language or that and who by nature are mono-lingual.  

It is only morons who require a Macaulay.

Advice to readers regarding fiction

Never read fiction to learn something or to "improve your mind" or to cross off a classic or whatever.  Fiction is meant solely and purely to be read for fun.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Another attack on the universality of religion

Via de Roover's post on the absence of the supernatural in the Indian traditions,

Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality, and the Politics of Translation (Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture) by Arvind-Pal S. Mandair.

The book description is:
Arguing that intellectual movements, such as deconstruction, postsecular theory, and political theology, have different implications for cultures and societies that live with the debilitating effects of past imperialisms, Arvind Mandair unsettles the politics of knowledge construction in which the category of "religion" continues to be central. Through a case study of Sikhism, he launches an extended critique of religion as a cultural universal. At the same time, he presents a portrait of how certain aspects of Sikh tradition were reinvented as "religion" during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

India's imperial elite subtly recast Sikh tradition as a sui generis religion, which robbed its teachings of their political force. In turn, Sikhs began to define themselves as a "nation" and a "world religion" that was separate from, but parallel to, the rise of the Indian state and global Hinduism. Rather than investigate these processes in isolation from Europe, Mandair shifts the focus closer to the political history of ideas, thereby recovering part of Europe's repressed colonial memory.

Mandair rethinks the intersection of religion and the secular in discourses such as history of religions, postcolonial theory, and recent continental philosophy. Though seemingly unconnected, these discourses are shown to be linked to a philosophy of "generalized translation" that emerged as a key conceptual matrix in the colonial encounter between India and the West. In this riveting study, Mandair demonstrates how this philosophy of translation continues to influence the repetitions of religion and identity politics in the lives of South Asians, and the way the academy, state, and media have analyzed such phenomena.

PS: Elevated from the comments (thanks! dwc), Jakob de Roover's review of the book:

An observation by Syed Ahmed Khan

In his booklet Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind (The Causes of the Indian Mutiny), Syed Ahmed Khan observes the various causes leading to Hindustanis' suspicion that the British government was going to try to convert them to Christianity, and then notes (1873 translation) (emphasis added)
All these causes rendered the Muhammadans more uneasy than the Hindus. The reason of this, I take to be that Hindu faith consists rather in the practice of long-established rites and forms, than in the study of doctrine. The Hindus recognise no canons and laws, or appeals to the heart and conscience. Their creed does not admit of such things. Hence it is that they are exceedingly indifferent about speculative doctrine. They insist upon nothing excepting the strict observance of their old rites, and of their modes of eating and drinking. It does not annoy or grieve them to see such rites and observances as they consider necessary, disregarded by other men.

Muhammadans, on the contrary, looking upon the tenets of their creed as necessary to Salvation and upon the neglect of them as damnation, are thoroughly well-grounded in them. They regard their religious precepts as the ordinances of God. Hence it was that the Muhammadans were more uneasy than the Hindus, and that, as might have been expected, they formed the majority of the rebels. It is wrong and impolitic on the part of a government to interfere in any way with the faith of its subjects. But of all courses, the most unjust is to hinder the study of the tenets of their religion: and especially of such an one as is heartily believed by its votaries to be true. But be this as it may, all I wish to prove is that, whatever the intentions of Government might be, matters were so managed that the people were left to stumble on in error, suspicion, and ill-will.
Syed Ahmed Khan notes the indifference of Hindus to doctrine, canons and laws, and he mentions that Muslims consider their religion to be true; by absence of mention, he perhaps thinks Hindus are indifferent to the truth of their "religion" (my scare quotes).   These remarks are interesting in the context of the Balu's theory of religion.

Syed Ahmed Khan on the Causes of the 1857 Revolt

Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) is an important figure in the history of India, Muslim separatism is sometimes traced to his influence.   But here the focus is on the events of 1857.  Wiki tells us:
Born into Muslim nobility, Sir Syed earned a reputation as a distinguished scholar while working as a jurist for the British East India Company. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, he remained loyal to the British and was noted for his actions in saving European lives. After the rebellion, he penned the booklet Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind (The Causes of the Indian Mutiny) – a daring critique, at the time, of British policies that he blamed for causing the revolt. 

Several English translations of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan's booklet are available here.  One should read these, of course taking the author's loyalties into account, just as one would with Niall Ferguson.

Colonialism and Gender

Mrinalini Sinha's Colonial Masculinity: The 'Manly Englishman' and the 'Effeminate Bengali' in the Late Nineteenth Century, which I have only glimpsed in pages in Google books, and am yet to read,  shares a them with Women and Gender in Islam, by Leila Ahmed, which I have read.

I'll quote at length from Leila Ahmed, who writes about Egypt:

Even more instructive

Niall Ferguson claims to be a historian of some sort.   Alas, so many things escape him.
Even the Governor-General, William Bentinck, was forced to report that “...the misery hardly finds parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton weavers are bleaching the plains of India.”
Thereby improving the share of the villages in the Indian economy, and promoting equality.

It is very revealing that Niall Ferguson is considered to be a respectable intellectual, the mind-set and motives of those who support and promote him are interesting to contemplate.  (Would someone trying to promote phlogiston theory get a hearing?)  In a nutshell, the ideology being promoted is that the West need have no qualms about trying to dominate the world by force, that imperialism wasn't so bad.

And I've had comments directed at me, why not at Niall Ferguson, that he is promoting a romantic view of the Empire, a wish for a past that is not recoverable, that he is promoting jingoistic nationalism and anti-modernism (the Empire was good!) and considering that the US and Europe are still quite inclined to impose themselves with armies on other countries, isn't Niall Ferguson promoting war (the Empire was and will be good!)?   Why the lectures only to me?

I'll just point out one thing - the result of the impoverishment and delayed industrial development of India is that the subcontinent now holds 1.5 billion people, instead of maybe a fifth that number had there been no empire, and India had developed normally and had a demographic transition paralleling that of the West.   This fact, in light of the ongoing ecological crisis, is going to be consequential to everyone on this planet.


It is instructive to see just how much some in the West desperately seek to find some good in colonialism, Niall Ferguson being a prime example.  One can hope it arises from a feeling of shame and guilt.   There is so much material to the contrary, that is hard to give a simple reply.  But perhaps this great benefit of British rule would make it clear.
In 1929, the people of India were taxed more than twice as heavily as the people of England.  The percentage of taxes in India as related to the gross product, was more than double that of any other country.  While most of the taxes extracted by the British went out of the country, much of the revenues extracted by Indian rulers went back to the people, with only about 5% being retained by the ruler in 1750.  The actual producers got 70% back, 10% went to religious, cultural and educational projects, 7.5% to economic services and the police, another 7.5% to the army and the political aristocracy.

(from one of the theses here, ultimate source: Romesh Chandra Dutt, The Economic History of India)

The Permanent Settlement

The article in Wiki on The Permanent Settlement is quite mild.  It merely says
In addition, the government tax demand was inflexible and the British East India Company's collectors refused to make allowances for times of drought, flood or other natural disaster. The tax demand was higher than that in England at the time.
Apart from beggaring the country, the class of landlords that the British created was to have a significant impact on India.  The Indian National Congress was promising land reform, and that would hurt this class.   The Hindu landlords had no where to go, but the Muslim landlords became supporters of the separatism of the Muslim League.

Syed Ahmed Khan on land revenue arrangements

From the 1873 translation (The Causes of the Indian Revolt) of Syed Ahmed Khan's work from 1858
(remember that he was a British loyalist in 1857), there is a lot we can learn about Niall Ferguson and the civilization that considers him a scholar, rather than Indian history. (emphasis added).

Agriculture and the rulers of India

Further benefits of British rule (the points 93, 94, and 95 are so Republican that they have contemporary relevance - i.e., by the custom of the government promoting agriculture and manufacture, the people have become poor, indolent and ignorant, and thus libertarian policies are, alas, not feasible.).
(from) Readings in the Constitutional History of India 1757-1947, edited by S.V. Desika Char

Revenue Letter to the Government of Bengal, Selections of Papers from the Records of the East India House relating to the Revenue, Police and Civil and Criminal Justice, London, 1820, pp. 65-6.

The Court of Directors on the duty of the Government to undertake works of public utility, 15 January 1812.

93. In a highly improved state of society, and for a people wealthy, prosperous and far advanced in useful science, to provide the means of defence and protection is almost the sole duty of the Government.   The grandest and most expensive undertakings may then with safety be left to individual enterprize or the excitement of public spirit; and the wisest policy of the sovereign is to allow his subjects to pursue their own interests in their own way,  and according to their own judgment.

94. A different, and in some respects an opposite duty, belongs to the sovereign of a people, poor, indolent, and ignorant.   Besides providing for their external and internal security, by arms, negociation, and salutary laws, it is necessary that his government, for the purpose of producing a happy change in the character and fortunes of the nation, shall occasionally aid individuals with advances of capital, and take upon itself the construction and maintenance of works of great public utility.

95. We find that the sovereigns of India have long been in the practice, not only of advancing money to the cultivators and weavers, with the view of promoting the agriculture and manufacture of the country, but of fencing the country against sudden and destructive inundations, and of supplying the land in the dry season with the means of artificial irrigation.  The task of banking the rivers, of constructing and upholding tanks and reservoirs, has thus, by established usage, become a duty of the Government.

96. The advantages which must result to agriculture from such constructions are too obvious to require development, and as long as the revenue of Government consisted in a fixed proportion of the produce of the soil, it was clearly in its interest to continue and extend the system of active vigilance and precaution, by which the productive powers of the land could be best protected and secured.

97.  Under the permanent settlement, we have fixed to perpetuity our demand on the land, without renouncing the obligation of continuing our care of what in Bengal is called the poolbundy, and in the southern parts of India, of the tanks and watercourses.  The consequence of this arrangement is, either that the whole advantage of these mounds, reservoirs and canals, is ceded to the Zamindars, while all the trouble and expense of upholding them and keeping them in repair is defrayed by the Government, or that Government is exposed to the temptation of relaxing its zeal, and moderating its disbursements on account of works of great public utility, but in the preservation and extension of which it has no direct nor immediate interest.

98.  If, as has been shewn, a duty of this nature be imposed upon the Government of India, by ancient usage as well as by the total inability of the people to perform it with their own scanty means, it will, we think, be difficult to reject the conclusion, that the sovereign has a right to indemnity for the expense incurred in the undertaking, that the certainty of obtaining such indemnity can alone furnish security for the duty being performed as it ought to be; and therefore that a settlement of the land, under which this indemnity would always be within the reach of Government, is preferable to one under which all prospect of compensation is excluded.

99.  To a Government taking an interest in the improvement of the country, with a view to the increase of its own revenue, it might be a further subject of consideration, whether more could not be done than has hitherto been attempted towards bettering the system of Indian agriculture.

Ferguson on the benefits of British rule of India

Via CIP:
Under British rule, the village economy’s share of total after-tax income actually rose from 45 per cent to 54 per cent. Since that sector represented around three-quarters of the entire population, there can therefore be little doubt that British rule reduced inequality in India.
The collapse of urban centers had nothing to do with the increased share of the villages in the economy? And were the villagers really better off?

A quote:
(Wiki) By 1780 Warren Hastings, the Company's Governor-General of India, had brought all salt manufacture in the Bengal Presidency under Company control. This allowed him to increase the ancient salt tax in Bengal from 0.3 rupees per maund (37 kg) to 3.25 rupees per maund by 1788, a rate that it remained at until 1879. This brought in a huge amount of revenue for the company, amounting to 6,257,470 rupees for the 1784–85 financial year, at the cost of the Indian consumer, who would have to expend around 2 rupees per year (2 months' income for a labourer) to provide salt for his family.
Of course, it is a great British benefit to Indian laborers to make them pay 2 months of income just for salt.  Niall Ferguson seems to have forgotten how much the issue resonated, when Gandhi conducted his Dandi Salt March in 1930, to protest the British tax on salt.  Certainly it was a major highlight of Attenborough's movie, so Niall Ferguson must have missed that.

Nick Robins wrote:
Just five years after the Company secured control over Bengal in 1765, revenues from the land tax had already tripled, beggaring the people. These conditions helped to turn one of Bengal's periodic droughts in 1769 into a full-blown famine. Today, the scale of the disaster inflicted on the people of Bengal is difficult to comprehend. An estimated 10 million people – or one-third of the population – died, transforming India's granary into a 'jungle inhabited only by wild beasts'. But rather than organise relief efforts to meet the needs of the starving, the Company actually increased tax collection during the famine [similar policies were applied again more than a hundred years later by the government of British India - see Present Hunger, Past Ghosts]
          {Between 1814 and 1835} the population of Dacca shrunk from 150,000 to 20,000. 

Easy way of increasing the rural share of the economy even while beggaring the people.

Women BAs in India and England

Wiki tells us that from the University of Calcutta "Kadambini Ganguly and Chandramukhi Basu became the first lady graduates of the country in 1882."

Elsewhere (emphasis added)

Henry and Eleanor Sidgwick set up Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1880. Mary Hamilton wrote about her experience at Newnham College in the early 1900s in her book, Remembering Good Friends.

Eleanor Sidgwick and Henry Sidgwick had, throughout their life together, chosen to give their time to college. She had renounced mathematical research of a very high order in order to come and assist Miss Clough in the early days. Early in their married life, which was a perfect partnership, they gave up their own home to come and live in Newnham… They enjoyed the triumph of 1881 in the passing of the Senate of the Graces admitting women to the right of sitting for Tripos examinations and being placed on the lists, the struggle for full recognition - the granting of degrees, and admission to membership of the University was entering on a long, slow phase, with no end in sight. (It was in fact to take forty years and a world war to persuade the authorities to grant degrees to women.)
Oxford tells us:  (see this also)
Women were not admitted to membership of the University until 1920, although they had been allowed to sit some University examinations and attend lectures for over forty years by that date. It was thanks to individual initiatives, and the pioneering work of the Association for Promoting the Higher Education of Women (AEW) that women's colleges came to be established in Oxford. Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville opened in 1879, followed by St Hugh's in 1886 and St Hilda's in 1893. St Anne's, which in 1952 was the last of the women's colleges to be incorporated by Royal Charter, originated as the Society of Oxford Home Students, catering for women students who lived with private families in Oxford while attending courses organised by the AEW. The five women's societies were granted full collegiate status in 1959.  

The Upshot of Gun Appreciation Day

Thinkprogress has the tally.  On this year's Gun Appreciation Day, the first ever,  gun shows were held around the country, and the practical safety of guns in the hands of experienced users, was visible for all to see.

1. Three people were shot when a gun accidentally discharged at the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, North Carolina.  This was at the show's safety check-in booth.  A shotgun went off as the owner was removing it from a case.

2. In the Cleveland suburb of Medina Ohio, a man was shot and injured in arm and leg, when a gun dealer checking out a semi-automatic handgun accidentally pulled the trigger.

3. At the state fair grounds in Indianapolis, Indiana, a man shot himself in the hand while trying to reload his gun in the show parking lot.

Niall Ferguson and the White Mutiny

Niall Ferguson traces the beginning of the Indian Independence movement to "The White Mutiny".  Wiki refers to the White Mutiny as a rather different episode.   Anyway, a search in Google books,  gives us this narration of the basic facts:  (Mrinalini Sinha's Colonial Masculinity: The 'Manly Englishman' and 'The Effeminate Bengali' in the late nineteenth century.) (emphasis added).

On 9 February 1883, the Law Member of the Government of India, C.P. Ilbert, introduced a bill in the Legislative Council to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Indian Penal Code.   The Bill, popularly called the Ilbert Bill, proposed to give various classes of native officials in the colonial administrative service limited criminal jurisdiction over European British subjects living in the mofussil, or country towns in India.   The Ilbert Bill, which was widely interpreted as a challenge to the control European capitalists exercised over sources of raw material and labour in the interiors of India, provoked a 'white mutiny' from Anglo-Indian officials and non-officials alike.   The opposition secured a victory when Viceroy Lord Ripon was forced into an agreement or 'concordat' to get a modified bill passed on 25 January 1884, which undermined the original principle of the Ilbert Bill.  Although the new Act accorded native magistrates criminal jurisdiction over European British subjects in the mofussils, the special legal status of European British subjects was preserved.  The European British subjects in the mofussils won the right to demand trial by jury of whom at least half were European British subjects or Americans.
 Mrinalini Sinha (in the pages visible in  Google books) gives extensive quotes about how opponents to the Bill "raised the cry of danger to European women" and how they expressed their disdain of native civil servants, describing them as effeminate.   She tells us that "The celebrated Anglo-Indian writer Rudyard Kipling, who was in India during the Ilbert Bill controversy, considered the Bill even years later as a measure that made white women more vulnerable to the dangers posed by native men."

To the 'white mutiny'  Sinha has a footnote, but that is not visible in the Google books preview.

Wiki on the Ilbert Bill controversy has this interesting tidbit:
English women who opposed the bill further argued that Bengali women, who they stereotyped as "ignorant", are neglected by their men, and that Bengali babu should therefore not be given the right to judge cases involving English women. Bengali women who supported the bill responded by claiming that they were more educated than the English women opposed to the bill, and pointed out that more Indian women had academic degrees than British women did at the time, alluding to the fact that the University of Calcutta became one of the first universities to admit female graduates to its degree programmes in 1878, before any of the British universities had later done the same.
These aside, I should mention with regard to the timeline:  Bankin Chandra Chatterjee (Wiki) published his highly influential Anandmath in 1882.  Modern India's national song is from that novel.  The Ilbert Bill is only one of several tributaries flowing into the river of the independence movement.

The Great Hedge

Roy Moxham's group - The Great Hedge of India.

An Atheist With Gandhi

Here, and here.
He had not been averse to my atheism nor did his god scare me away. He appreciated a principle far more for its efficacy than for its mere academic or intellectual considerations. His primary concern was humanity. On account of this deep concern, he could proclaim boldly: "I can neither say my theism is right, nor your atheism is wrong." He was not a fanatic to quarrel about method, nor was he a poet to praise the ideal; but he was a prophet who perceived the direction. He never denounced anything that contributed the commonweal; on the other hand, he helped it, in spite of the wide divergence between its method and his. His conception of god, as well as his estimation of atheism appear to me to be based on this essentially humanitarian consideration.
Besides, he was pre-eminently a practical man. As a practical man, he took any situation as it obtained with all its paradoxes. He never sat down to scan and to sift its contradictions intellectually; but he moved the whole situation towards the ideal of happiness for all mankind. He condemned nothing beforehand lest a good cause should be lost by bad judgement. He only let things drop when they could not bear the strain of progress. Practice was his test of fitness. He subordinated intellectual and sentimental considerations to practical purposes. He tested a system of medicine by the cure it effected; he tested the advocate of a cause by the work he turned out; he allowed me to dissect a frog when it served a practical purpose. 

No retreat on the modern world

Who wants to go backwards?  Maybe some few southern American conservatives, some Muslims of Salafi persuasion, and so on.

The real issue is - who wants to go forward on the wrong foot?

As a very simple example, the epic Ramayana has had many tellings.  Its role in human life, whatever it is (and we don't understand it) therefore is not that of the Vedic Samhita or the Bible or the Quran, in which the canonical form of the work is very important and huge human effort has been put in to preserve that form.   Some Indians do not want to see that, influenced as they are by the idea that Christianity is the template for understanding everything. E.g., for such reactions, see here, or here.

As Jakob de Roover put it:
Eventually, the colonial inferiority complex of the nineteenth-century Hindu reformers inspired a massive attempt to transform the native traditions into a Hindu theism–Protestant theology dressed up in Hindu garb.  In my analysis, what happens today is a replay of those events....The Hindus will accept the terms of description as fixed by the western culture, just like the nineteenth-century Hindu reformers succumbed to the colonial image of the Indian culture.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

U-turns in knowledge flow

Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, by Rowan Jacobsen is a great book; you will want to become a bee-keeper, too.

One of the persons mentioned in the book is Kirk Webster, a beekeeper in Vermont's Champlain Valley, who figured out how to keep his bee stock healthy.
Central to Webster's worldview was the work of Sir Albert Howard, the father of the organic farming movement.  Howard, Britain's imperial economic botanist in India in the early 1900s, studied the farming practices of India's peasants and wrote two books based on his observations: An Agricultural Testament and The Soil and Health.  He was knighted for his work in 1935.
For Howard, successful farming and food production - healthy plants, animals and people - required balance.   Any agricultural enterprise must achieve a state of equilibrium that mimics nature if it is to survive and prosper.....

For India's Macaulay's children,  there is no knowledge in their native practices  (unless it is blessed by the West).   Thus indigenous knowledge is lost, and then recovered, for instance through Sir Albert Howard's descendants,  India will re-import "organic farming".

(I'm not saying that the practices that India's farmers followed cannot be better understood by science, and improved upon - I am saying that this was work that Indians should have done, had they the awareness and self-confidence.  If an area has had flourishing agriculture for centuries, one should ask, how did they do it, what are their practices that made it sustainable? and proceed from there.)

There is a similar loss of genetic heritage, except for efforts like this one.

On the evolutionary roots of religion

Suppose religion is something to do with the supernatural, then what does studying the evolutionary roots of religion mean?

As we have already seen, it definitely does not mean that human brains universally and naturally come up with the ontology dividing the world into the natural and supernatural.  We have seen the arguments already that the ancient Greeks, ancient Romans and ancient Indians had no such ontology.

We can think deep and hard about it - I will simply present the conclusion, which is what is to be explained is the human tendency to create intentional agents - entities with intentions that they act upon - where there are none.  Yes, that seems to be everywhere, and may be something seeking an explanation.  But what does that have to do with religion?   It is not clear to me how we distinguish Herbie, The Little Engine that Could or Belldandy from Thor or Athena or Ganesha - per science, these are all non-existent intentional agents that do not exist in nature -  without smuggling in the concept of supernatural. 

The other human quality is that of having "mystical experiences" that might be ripe for an explanation from evolution.  Of course, I don't know whether "mystical experience" is problematic, so I'm just guessing.


Another try - as you may know, Islam teaches that Allah sent many prophets to humankind, prophets being entirely human messengers of God.  Muhammad was the final and best of them, and we've lost the names of most of the couple of hundred thousand of them; but Adam, Moses and Jesus were also prophets.   Now, as per Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God, more than just a human.  If you recognize that "Jesus is a prophet" is the claim of a particular religion, then I say that you should likewise recognize that "the world is divided into natural and supernatural" is the claim of a particular religion.  At least, as it stands today.   Can this claim be made universally intelligible?  Either one has to do some hard work to make it so, or else one can perhaps count on globalism to uniformize humanity so much that there is no one left to assert that it is not intelligible.  Extinct cultures cannot talk back, and so we can safely assume anything.



Wolpertisms, etc.

 In response to a question from Vishal in the comments:

1.  An account of the events around the Cabinet Mission Plan is here.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for the author of the site.  It is a collection of primary and secondary sources and some commentary.   Of course, the selection of source material quoted can be biased - but you can make up your own mind.  A summary take is here.

2.  Wolpert has a habit of dramatizing history to make it more interesting, and in that he creates fiction, in my opinion.   Here are some examples, you can judge for yourself:

a. Gandhi-Jinnah 1915
b. Gandhi-Mountbatten-Nehru 1947 -1
    Gandhi-Mountbatten-Nehru 1947 - 2
c. Gandhi's nervous breakdown, 1915
d. Gandhi and All-Parties Conference, 1928

This might seem minor.  But Wolpert constructs out of them things he makes out to be fundamental to the characters he describes:
Nehru was shocked to learn that his Mahatma was quite ready to replace him as premier with the Quaid-i-Azam......But Nehru had tasted the cup of power too long to offer its nectar to anyone else - last of all to that "mediocre lawyer", the "reactionary-Muslim Baron of Malabar Hill" as so many good Congress leaders thought of Jinnah.
Or for instance, the supposed snub Gandhi delivered to Jinnah in 1915.  Taking Wolpert seriously at that point would obscure the real Gandhi-Jinnah difference.  Gandhi was for mass participation in politics.  Jinnah was republican in the sense of many of the American founding fathers, namely the affairs of the nation and politics were to be run by a wealthy, educated class only.

US programmer outsources own job

Via a friend, this CNN story.

"Bob" outsourced his own job to China, paying a fifth of his salary.  Bob's contractors would log-in under his credentials and do his work for him.
Bob received excellent performance reviews of his "clean, well written" coding. He had even been noted as "the best developer in the building."
Bob was fired.  Bob should instead be commended.  His outsourcing overhead is lower than the usual outsourcing, and without the long chain of managers in between; and he got good code out it, which is just as rare.


Swaraj versus Independence

One needs to understand Swaraj, Gandhi did what he did for Swaraj, not for Independence.  What is the difference?  Swaraj goes beyond independence.

Gandhi had published a book in 1909,  "Hind Swaraj".
As Pinto explicates, "The principal theme of Hind Swaraj is the moral inadequacy of western civilization, especially its industrialism, as the model for free India."
Gandhi could not have known about global warming, but it is true, as we know today:  if Indians seek and achieve living like the West, it means ecological catastrophe, not just of India, but for the world.  Industrialism has to reform its basis or else people have to reform their ideas of what it means to live well. 

PS: "The moral inadequacy of industrialism" - may provoke some raised eyebrows.  What is the connection between morality and industrialism?  Isn't industrialism morally neutral?  The answer to that is, yes, it doesn't translate well,  dharma is very much concerned with sustainability.  

Gandhi's reply to Why non-violence?

India could have won freedom about ten years earlier than it did through some violence against the British. But we were not only fighting the British, but also our own causes of poverty, unemployment, and untouchability. A nation becoming free after a violent struggle is bound to capture power in few hands and the suffering of India's large masses would not have changed if we became free by violent means.  I wanted people of India to partner with the English people after independence, so a peaceful transfer of power was necessary.
 PS: This appears to be a composite statement, rather than a direct quote.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Niall Ferguson and India

If people want to learn about India from Niall Ferguson, perhaps criticisms like this one should be kept in mind as well. ("Niall Ferguson's ignorant defence of British rule in India : Oddly for a historian, Ferguson doesn't appear to have taken much notice of history", by Paul Cotterill, in the New Statesman, August 16, 2012.)

Or this. (The truth? Our empire killed millions. I've been told I should 'check my facts'. I have. Many times. And the truth is still there", by Johann Hari, The Independent, June 19, 2006.) The commentary on this latter piece by Eric Zuesse reads:
On 19 June 2006, a lengthy commentary by Johann Hari appeared in Britain's Independent, headlined "The Truth? Our Empire Killed Millions. A Reply to Niall Ferguson." Ferguson was at the time a Cambridge University educated professor teaching at (simultaneously) Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford, and the world's leading apologist for both the British and the American empires. Columnist Hari ripped his work to shreds, specifically citing Ferguson's benign portrayal of Britain's treatment of India during the 1800's. "When I criticised Ferguson for dedicating almost as much space in his revisionist history of Empire to the slaughter of 29 million people as he gives to a description of a statue of the Prince of Wales, ... he responded primarily with personal abuse."
Or this. (Warning: I greatly dislike Pankaj Mishra.) London Review of Books, Vol 33 No 21, November 3, 2011.  Per the NY Times,  Mishra's "blistering takedown of the historian Niall Ferguson in The London Review last November prompted extensive coverage in the British news media — and threats of a libel suit from Mr. Ferguson."