Monday, August 11, 2008

my morally challenged elders

I shouldn't speak ill of my elders, but with all due respects, they are a bunch of scumbags.

One moment, they will say "Joy Bangla! (Victory to Bengali)", and the second moment, they will say to their children, "Get out of this country; this country has no future; what will you do here?"

Most of my elders are Awami Leaguers, though there are some BNPers. Both groups are mad, especially the former (the latter are focused on money, which, as economists will tell you, is highly rational).

As Harvard anthropologist Stanley J. Tambiah has observed: “In India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, the attempt to realise the nation-state on a Western European model has virtually failed. The nation-state conception has not taken deep roots in South Asia or generated a wide-spread and robust participatory “public culture” that celebrates it in widely meaningful ceremonies, festivals, and rituals”.

Some of my relatives refuse to 'salam' people – that wouldn't be 'Bengali' (sorry, Bangalee); that would be – Allah forbid! – be Muslim. One branch, my mother assures me, used to wear the "dhoti" – including the women. My parents themselves get the vapours whenever they see a burqua!

Their nationalism consists of identifying with the pre-Islamic "culture" of South Asia, I suppose. But then, why stop at Hinduism? Why not Buddhism? After all, Bengal was the last redoubt of that noble religion. The magnificent ruins at Paharpur are those of the first Buddhist monastery in the world, drawing tourists and experts regularly from east Asia.

Or why not Jainism? Or Sikhism? These are South Asian religions, too.

The answer is that nationalism, a western ideology when transplanted to the east becomes
incoherent – all manner of contradictions result. It becomes a dogma only for fools and the intellectually challenged.

A similar phenomenon can be seen in Iran. Some – certainly not most – of my Iranian friends are nationalist.

What does that mean?

That means that they 'believe' in Takhte Jamshid, or Persepolis. They 'identify' with Zoroastrianism and the Achaemenids – like the deranged Shah.

But – at the same time – they are immensely proud of the great (very Muslim) poets – Hafez, Rumi, Sa'adi....These poets were devout Muslims, but Iranian nationalists reject Islam and yet cling to Muslim poetry.

And why identify with Zoroastrianism? Why not with Manichaeism, or its many variants?

Indeed, why not identify with the religions of the Central Asian linguistic group, the Aryans (from which the word 'Iran' comes)? Why not identify with Central Asia?

How far back in time should we go? We should go back to East Africa, where humanity was born (if you believe in evolution; otherwise, with Adam and Eve, if you are Jew, Christian or Muslim); and there are Hindu, Buddhist....cosmologies and cosmogonies – take your pick, it's a la carte, not table d'hote.

If we stop at central Asia – at the Aryans – then Indians and Iranians are – wait for it! – the same people!

Nationalism in Asia is the ideology of morons. In Europe it was the ideology of lunatics (I say 'was' because the European Union is the attempt to destroy nationalism where it was born.)

German nationalism (the reflex of French nationalism, which cost around 2 million lives all told) was internally consistent. The German race was the Aryan race (consistent, but factually incorrect, for 'Aryan' refers to a linguistic, not racial, group). The blond beast was the greatest of all beasts – the uberman, to vary the metaphor. Given this premiss, all else follows with horrible logic: the lebensraum struggle, the killing of the mentally retarded Germans, a punishment extended to gypsies, homosexuals, and, finally, the Jews.....

How can any human being want to be a nationalist?

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