Another day, another case of an American man whipping up ignorance and divisive idiocy via the Twitter medium they’re immanently associated with. Except in this case, it’s Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. And rather than speaking on a matter that is relevant to America, he’s chosen to wade into India’s ongoing post-colonial internal conflicts over “caste”.
Now, at this point it is probably necessary to make a note of the frantic damage-control sentiment put out by Twitter India. According to them, the “SMASH BRAHMINICAL PATRIARCHY” sign which Dorsey was holding, was “a tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear, and understand all sides of important public conversations” rather than, you know, a sign of Dorsey’s own now presumably a-WOKE-en’ed views on the matter.
And perhaps, this is indeed the case. In which case, I shall look forward to Mr Dorsey, and other senior Twitter corporate figures (Twitter’s leadership team had a number of representatives at the event), holding up signs in pictures which demonstrate *the other sides* of these issues, that they are supposedly also hearing and thence wishing to broadcast.
I know a Kashmiri Brahmin who will be most eager to personally send them some material highlighting the plight of his people since their ethnic cleansing from the homeland – with an especial emphasis upon the events of the past thirty years.
Why the past thirty years? Well, you see – while we often like to pretend that anti-Hindu actions largely ceased following the horrors of Partition … as applies Kashmir in particular, there has been a specific campaign of targeted violence and intimidation aimed in large measure at the state’s Brahmin population, which kicked off in 1990 and has been going ever since. Anti-Brahmin persecution, in other words, is *definitely* not simply a thing of the Partition-era or the Colonial Past.
As a point of interest, one of the resulting outcomes from this situation – which has entailed the displacement of at least a hundred thousand from this Brahmin community, many of them into refugee camps, was the establishment of support mechanisms in some areas to try and help those fleeing their destruction to build some semblance of new lives.
So yes, yes in strict literal terms, it is true to state that some educational institutions etc. have policies that “favour” Brahmins.
It’s just that the bit everybody so eagerly railing against these things tends to leave out – is that far from being the hallmarks of “privilege” … it’s actually generally the *exact opposite*. Mere modicums reliant upon the personal generosity and compassion of all too few, to attempt to in some way help repair the most tumultuous impacts of absolutely catastrophic “disfavour” that has existed in the relatively recent (and ongoing!) past.
Now, yes, the lamentable situation of the Kashmiri Pandits is a bit of an ‘extreme’ example.
Yet it is also – I feel, anyway – an eminently instructive one. For it betrays both the yet-remaining vitriolic – nay, *actively violent* – anti-Brahmin sentiment that continues to exist in parts of India to this day … and also the way in which somebody being wilfully ignorant of such matters could take a look only at one of the *outcomes* of this occurrence (those aforementioned assistance efforts), and draw *exactly the wrong putative conclusions* as to why they’re there in the first place.
Which I would be *entirely unsurprised* to find as the motivation of the “Dalit Activist” who sought to use Dorsey as a billboard. Not, you understand, due to any denial on my part that Dalits, too, have had a pretty rough road in the course of their history – but rather, because of the very real phenomenon whereby a person oppressed, or militating on behalf of those oppressed, not infrequently somehow acquires and attains a unique form of ‘tunnel vision’ that renders them functionally ‘blind’ to the plights of others on any but a most individual (i.e. non-‘systemic’) basis.
But I digress.
The point that absolutely also needs to be made here, is that for many Brahmins – whether they are living ‘traditionally’ or otherwise – the stats, the social and economic stats, show that if there is a systemic “Brahmin Privilege”, then it has widely and almost ludicrously passed by the actual Brahmins themselves.
I mean, to speak first about those engaged in their traditional societal function – it is a matter of fact and common occurrence that a Priest, even if they are not *intentionally* an ascetic, will be living a rather ‘hand-to-mouth’ existence. Partially, this is due to the ethical dictate that they not *ask* for payment – but rather instead make do and live in forbearance off whatever the Devotees requiring of their services feel able to donate. Which is one thing … but in this present modern age, and for a variety of reasons, people both do not seek out these rites and rituals, nor do they often give nearly as much as they once might have (the traditional rates for Dakshina, measured in terms of Cows – appear to have given way, in many places, to a few coins, or a handful of lower-denomination notes. Which are often then ‘tithed’ by the Temple or local authorities, if the Pandit is working under these, leaving even *less* for the Priest and his family should he have one.)
Thus helping to contribute to the present overall situation of Brahminical poverty (whether in or out of their traditional occupations) – where, in addition to the aforementioned plight of poverty-line Purohits, in recent decades we have seen the comparative explosion in Brahmins having to work in areas that would probably be referred to as “McJobs” here – toilet cleaners, taxi-drivers, tea-stall operators … that sort of thing.
Indeed, the recent work of the journalist Francois Gautier, which has focused directly upon this issue, suggests that not only are there disproportionate concentrations of Brahmins to be found in many of these aforementioned occupations (I balk at calling them “careers” or “vocations”), but that perhaps in train with this, the Brahmins of India are also significantly *less* likely to be materially well off in terms of land holdings etc. – and have comparatively strikingly high rates of withdrawal from both primary and secondary education (likely, once again, due to economic pressures).
Of course, at this point there will presumably be a few scratched heads in the audience. After all, many of us can think of this or that famous Brahmin family who’re strikingly well-off; perhaps as the result of pursuing a career in politics or the law, through business endeavours, or through the hereditarily passed-down wealth from the heady days wherein their forebears might have been administrators or other officials (particularly Zamindars) in whichever pre-Independence occupying empire.
But it is a curious thing. You talk to people from the more ‘liberal’ end of politics, and they do not instantly repudiate the idea of a gender pay gap, or of a systemic-wide disproportionality in the number of men in the upper echelons of the corporate world … simply because it’s possible to name prominent female CEOs or rich-listers.
In any case, it is time to confront facts.
There is no doubt that modern India is a flawed society. Although lest I be misinterpreted here, it is probably worth noting that pretty much *all* modern societies are significantly flawed. I do not mean to single India out in that particular regard.
Instead, I seek to elucidate a seriously un-sound trend when it comes to the ascribing of *blame* for why India is not perfect.
Because whether you talk to Tamil “Dravidian Nationalists”, or an array of far left factions, or to various sorts of self-professed “Hindu Reformers”, or “Secularists” and “Atheist-Materialists” … we continually hear this common refrain:
“It is the BRAHMINS! FAULT!”
Indeed, the situation has gotten so bad in some quarters that it’s difficult to even talk about Hinduism without somebody seemingly feeling compelled to raise the idea of our modern religion being more properly referred to as “Brahminism”, and with the not-very-subtle implication that this particular Varna has somehow co-opted and re-written more than three and a half thousand years worth of history and theology and myth and hymn in order to perpetuate a fundamentally self-serving and allegedly heretical agenda.
This is nonsense. In fact, it is worse than nonsense. It is *quite literally* Anarya Screeching.
But I shall not consider these manifestations in greater detail here. It is enough that they are signposted as part of this broader and sweeping trend.
The reality of the matter is that on almost *any* matter wherein the “anti-Brahmin exceptionalists” may choose to attempt to ascribe culpability to the Brahmins, they are operating on a polemical rather than a proveable basis.
I say “on almost any matter”, because there is one area of the Brahminophobics’ ‘grievances’ wherein yes, indeed, it is most accurate to state that Brahmins *do indeed* bear a prime burden of responsibility. That of the maintenance, the preservation, the upholding, and the carrying out of our religion and ways.
Now, I do not mean to sound at all conspiratorial – but it seems abundantly clear that a number of these “Smash Brahminism” types are singling out Brahmins with an intent and an agenda of *directly seeking to undermine* and abrogate Hinduism. Where this is so, you cannot fault their logic. They wish for the Tradition to be sundered – so they attack the Torch-Bearers of said Tradition.
In other cases, where the ‘agenda’ is not directly countenanced (perhaps even by the anti-Brahmin advocates themselves), the implicit motivation seems to be rather different. Namely, singling out Brahmins as emblematic of an established order that disadvantages or discriminates against whichever group or tendency is making the allegation.
And as I have said – I do not for a moment mean to deny or de-legitimate that quite an array of modern Indian society *does* contain these flaws, *does* wind up marginalizing certain groups, in a way that is fundamentally disproportional to others, and unjust when considered externally. (And yes, yes I do *of course* note that my “considered externally” is both a) highly biased, and b) conducted from many thousands of kilometers away).
But to return to that list of ways in which many Brahmins today live a hand-to-mouth and otherwise iniquitous existence … the manifest fact, once again, is that the very same forces which economically oppress and marginalize and undermine these Brahmins, are *also* those which are pretty directly responsible for the plight of many of these *other* groups that often seem to take especial and exceptionalized issue with the rhetorical construct of “Brahminism”.
So let me put it this way.
When we think of a concept like “Brahmin Patriarchy” or “Brahmin Privilege”, what are we really meaning. What are we really talking about.
Because while – again – I am not at all denying that there are some Brahmins-by-blood out there who *are* pretty well off … it seems a most peculiar thing indeed to attempt to single out *the entire Varna* as being somehow axiomatically “privileged” in comparison to all others.
After all – when various waves of invaders seek to break the spirit of Hindu or Indian societies they wish to dominate … who do they come for, and round up, and forcibly feed beef to or attempt to induce to convert?
When we encounter a Sadhu on the road, who is just coming down from the Mountains, bearing most of his worldly possessions (well, ‘tools of the trade’ one might perhaps more accurately say) upon his back … do we look at this gentleman (often possessed of an emaciated frame and leathery skin from exposure to the elements) and immediately conclude “Oh, here stands the illegitimately rich and unduly powerful over our entire society figure!”
Looking upon, again, the sad specter of what has happened to my Kashmiri comrade’s people – do we look at a refugee camp in Jammu, or Pandits driven from their homes to be scattered across both India and the world at large, reliant in part upon the charity and goodwill of others … do we look at these people, all hundred thousand plus of them, and *instantly* come to the assessment that they’re somehow “privileged” in a manner that MUST be “SMASHED”?
Further, I admit that I am biased here – not just due to religion, but also due to personal observance and experience.
I spent several months, as a slightly younger man, stationed at a Shaivite Mandir here in Auckland. During that time, and after, I had cause to observe the life of the Nath Priest that was the AcharyaJI in residence for much of this time. It was an instructive experience, for so many reasons. In particular, I saw that – despite the fact that he was deservedly and justifiably held in serious respect by the Hindu community which had grown up around the Temple, due to the imposing strictures of his lifestyle (being up before sunrise, and spending many hours a day at the Temple, administering to the needs of said community; earning a figure *well below* our country’s minimum wage for what was ultimately a huge workload time-wise; with very little time to ‘call his own’ for other activities outside the bounds his responsibilities there in the context of our Faith) … he was absolutely dependent in many regards *upon* said community.
Far from being some kind of “master” over the people, he was instead the foremost “servent”. With any respect and admiration and acclaim rendered (most appropriately, I again add) to him not being due to any “unearned affixion” of simple station or blood-quanta or imagined political influence or whatever it is that people who go on about “SMASHING BRAHMIN PATRIARCHY” tend to presume underpins this alleged “Privilege” of the Brahmins.
But rather, *precisely because* he had *absolutely earned* this positive regard through his tireless efforts on all of our behalves.
Now certainly, I again acknowledge that this is not always the case with some religious figures. And that false-teachers and Western-amenable self-styled “Gurus” abound. Who may even flaunt their material prosperity, and attempt to turn their position of pretend-power and impressionable “influence” into a status we can very rightly decry as “Privilege”, in the “unearned” and “unsound” sense.
Yet once again I say it, for three times is the appropriate number for its reiteration:
I *cannot* countenance the idea that an honest Brahmin, devotedly and devoutly engaged in his (or, for that matter, her) ancestral Mission, the Calling that they have been empowered to rise to where other men would run …
… I *cannot* tolerate still much less allow to go unchallenged this downright demonic and insipidly infiltrating notion that somehow these incredibly hard-working, iniquitously often-persecuted, and inequitably nowadays *outright marginalized* people … constitute a “Privileged” “Patriarchy” whose very existence (as such or otherwise) must be “Smashed”.
To be clear: I do not disagree that some of the demographics whom Twitter’s Dorsey thought he was meeting with the representatives of, have had a hard road both historically and in Hindustan today.
And I do not disagree that some serious conversations can, should, and *are* being had with a view to improving the societal situation and structure prevalent within Bharat at present. [Although it is, of course, probably necessary to note that what I’d consider to be an “improvement” is probably quite some leagues away from many of the sorts of people who’d prevaricate about so-called “Brahmin Privilege”]
But as I said towards the start of this piece: I *do not* believe that Twitter, and more especially its CEO, are genuinely engaged in fostering and promoting these.
At the moment, anyway.
After all, a “conversation” is an at-least two way flow of voices, featuring multiple parties, and multi-faceted perspectives getting their spot in the Sun.
By choosing to make himself into an ambulatory, semi-sapient billboard for “SMASH BRAHMINICAL PATRIARCHY”, Dorsey et co have shown that they are resolutely committed to only *one* side of the putative “discussion”.
And that’s not really a “discussion”, now, is it.
When it comes to the actual situation of Brahmins across India (and also the broader Hindusphere, Diaspora, etc.) – I shall be *most surprised* if Twitter actually makes “efforts to see, hear, and understand” the realities of this matter.
More than likely, they shall do everything in their power to studiously avert their gaze, whether corporate or individual, from the plight of the Pandits, and the many other ways in which a monolithicized “BRAHMIN PRIVILEGE” makes absolutely no semblance of social-justice sense.
Still – that’s why *we’re* here. Still here. For as long as it takes.
Because Dharma Is Eternal.