Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Curious Case of Clear and Present Apartheid

By now readers have an idea that I am a cynic (aimed-for realist rather than a reviled pessimist). That said, please don't be offended -- the following is only my opinion after all and a very fallible opinion that is commonly proven wrong...

Rishikesh is a town in a province in a country run by Brahmins...no problem...well, except the wretched caste hierarchy that is very much in place and pervades the mind set and actions of the populace (the entitled castes will tell you that caste discrimination and abuse has been done away with and they largely run the media, government, bureaucracy, schools, businesses, hospitals, military, police etc and so on--ultimately holding the reigns of power and influence). Don't believe it for a moment, caste discrimination, segregation and abuse is alive and strong, and as I've said before, casteism is simply a euphemism for apartheid.

Casteism is as insidious and dehumanzing an apartheid as ever was...curiously, nearly all foreigners are unawares here. They just don't see it and don't make distinctions and are sold a pack of lies from those in power with influence and glib tongues eager to exonerate themselves. In truth, the 'upper' castes are the chief reason for underdevelopment and are at the forefront of societal ills including--discrimination, lack of education, grinding poverty, ill-health, old-guard-myopic patriarchy, female infanticide, female oppression, lack of opportunity, lack of representation by women and youth and so on and so forth in many grisly, unholy ways. They have been in power for centuries with much pain to show for it and much to be ashamed of.

Yet, despite a dismal track record, the entitled castes still hold a holier than thou attitude and sense of entitlement by birth...for example, the leading hatha yoga schools of the world today were developed and led by Brahmin boys...the other children simply weren't allowed to practice yoga and attend higher classes on spirituality and to this day there is that prejudice and especially in northern India where it is very subtle but pervasive and insidious...most happens outside the radar of foreigners.

Some visitors come and get beguiled by Hinduism, even becoming fanatical, gleaming-eyed devotees wearing the dress and accessories and participating in rituals...while there is much good in any religion, generally such participation occurs generally with the 'elite' castes and helps glorify Hindu conservatism and reinforces the holier than thou priestly-Brahmin mindset.  These foreigners often don't know but a sparse spattering of language (mostly mispronounced), are generally blind to culture and history and some are tantamount to fanatical Christians in Hindu clothing...

Conservative Hinduism is the cause of as much harm and suffering as Conservative Christianity and Conservative Islam et cetera...probably more because it validated caste discrimination and abuse among many other horrors. Then again, conservatives of other religions don't exactly have a clean chit.

The docu-movie Kumare...entertaining and eye-popping...is a must see for would-be travelers to Disneykesh (Rishikesh), especially those wishing to don the apparel of a conservative Hindu...

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