Tuesday, January 24

Indians are incapable of History

While reading this research paper, I was constantly struck by the impact that colonialism has had on the historical development in the world. Whether we are talking about European Colonialism or Islamic Colonialism or American Colonialism or what have you, how you view history is dependent upon what colonisation you were faced with.

Some nations take up the colonisers ideology whole heartedly (look at the countries who have become Christian or Muslim due to the spread of that religion, or the Norman colonisation of UK, or the European colonisation of USA and and and) while some fight back.

Some sentences in the research paper made me think. I quote:

Ever since G.W.F. Hegel, Orientalist scholars had considered Indians to be incapable of history. India’s lack of historical consciousness,they reasoned, was a direct consequence of spiritual excesses. Indeed, the absence of historical consciousness could be directly attributed to the priestly caste’s need to control and to impose their religion on their naïve followers. As Theodore Goldstücker wrote in 1864, “When, by priestcraft and ignorance, a nation has lost itself so far as to look upon writings like these as divinely inspired, there is but one conclusion to be drawn: it has arrived at the turning-point of its destinies. Hinduism stands at this point…” (73). But all was not lost. “The causes of the gradual degeneracy of Hinduism,” Goldstücker reasoned, were no “different from those to which other religions are subject, when allowed to grow in the dark” (74). “In Europe, religious depravity received its check when the art of printing allowed the light of publicity to enter into the book whence her nations derive their faith” (74). So, too, “no other means” was capable of imposing a “check” on it “in India than the admission of the masses to that original book which is always on their lips, but which now is the monopoly of the infinitesimal fraction of the Brahminical caste able to understand its sense” (74).

As I said, perhaps its this excess of spirituality made India resist the colonisation of external parties, whether the religious kinds (Islam, Christianity) or the temporal kinds (British, French, Turkic)?

Besides this, the links between the silly Aryan Invasion theory and National Socialism hasn't really been explored in the public arena for the common man (Is this the reason behind the fascination Indians have for Mein Kampf?). There are some fascinating links between what Subash Chandra Bose did with the Nazi’s (he was a bit of a fascist himself), the linguistic arguments (Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit etc. are considered to be part of the Indo European Linguistic family)

Other than that, the article was discussing the German Indological academic framework and history. Might be a bit esoteric for most, but then academic debates are like that. I end with a quote:

“ACADEMIC politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” This observation is routinely attributed to former Harvard professor Henry Kissinger. Well before Kissinger got credit for that thought in the mid-1970s, however, Harvard political scientist Richard Neustadt told a reporter, “Academic politics is much more vicious than real politics. We think it’s because the stakes are so small.” Others believe this quip originated with political scientist Wallace Sayre, Neustadt’s onetime colleague at Columbia University. A 1973 book gave as “Sayre’s Law,” “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue—that is why academic politics are so bitter.” Sayre’s colleague and coauthor Herbert Kaufman said his usual wording was “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.” In his 1979 book Peter’s People, Laurence Peter wrote, “Competition in academia is so vicious because the stakes are so small.” He called this “Peter’s Theory of Entrepreneurial Aggressiveness in Higher Education.” Variations on that thought have also been attributed to scientist-author C. P. Snow, professor-politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and politician Jesse Unruh (among others). According to the onetime editor of Woodrow Wilson’s papers, however, long before any of them strode the academic-political scene, Wilson observed often that the intensity of academic squabbles he witnessed while president of Princeton University was a function of the “triviality” of the issues being considered.

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