Playing the "PC" Card

Fri Dec 8 10:12:43 UTC 1995

I suspect like many others I've been watching this thread -- which is darn
important -- degenerate into academic demagoguery. That anyone speaking for or
about the Indian tradition, with its plethora of positions, gods, traditions,
etc., could contemplate that there is only one correct political position
(especially since the term "politically correct" comes from a movement more
prone to factionalism than almost any other) is astounding. Mr. Sharma has,
rightly in my mind, tried to very carefully and politely suggest that we make
an important distinction between the issues and events that have engendered
certain Hindu concerns (many of which are legitimate and dire concerns) and the
reactions that certain Hindus have had to those concerns (some of which may be
questionable, but some of which may be more legitimate or understandable given
the circumstances than some of us might wish to admit or recognize at first

The concerns -- which are what we should be concentrating on -- have been
buried under posturing, jargoneering ("pc sensitizes to suppressed issues," "pc
is intimidation that suppresses free thought and expression", "facist",
"fundamentalist", etc.), and the basic fact that Indians have both
historical and contemporary reasons for being legitimately concerned about the
original "orientalists", viz. the Muslims, who, amongst other orientalist acts
coined the term "Hindu" (which the British eventually turned into a legal term)
and their future impact on the future of India, has gotten lost in the
crossfire. The presence of Muslims in India (and the disappearing presence of
Hindus in Pakistan, etc.) is not analogous to the growing Muslim presence in
European nations like France and England, which are, after all, reaping the
unwanted harvest of their own imperialist actions. The Muslims, not the
Indians, were the imperialists. And they wiped out Buddhism, which had been
the dominant religion throughout Central Asia from Parthia (eastern Iran) 
eastward, on their way to India. They finished the job once they got there.
Jains survived by transforming the foundations of their tradition, shifting
from a monastic tradition to a lay tradition. Events since 1947, since the
partitioning, have done little to assuage Indian/Hindu fears.

That Temples were destroyed and/or converted to mosques is fact. Whether all of
the mosques today being identified as such are actually such is another
question. That Indians/Hindus have not been in control of their own destiny
for roughly a thousand years until the middle of this century, is also a fact.
That neither their present borders nor population balances are stable is also a
fact. Nor is it the case that it is only Hindus today who preach and practice
nontolerance of their co-nationals and neighbors; aside from a vague principle
that one should respect others' religion, South East Asian muslims most often
raise their children to have few pleasant thoughts about Hindus, something my
Pakistani and Indian Muslim students have never denied -- more often they
express how happy they are to be in the U.S. where they can both recognize the
silliness and harm of such posturing, and take steps to overcome that attitude
ingrained within them without running into the peer pressure that would make
such reconsiderations close to impossible back home.

Few of us enjoy seeing conflict and worse; and it's not necessarily our task to
take sides in this old struggle. But wagging one's finger at one side without
recognizing the legitimacy of their concerns while simultaneously ignoring
equally provocative attitudes and actions from the other side is tantamount to
taking sides.

If all the posturing and jargoneering succeeds in distracting the conversation
from the real issues, that will go a long way to proving that pc is indeed a
means for suppressing critical thinking and free expression, despite all
protests to the contrary.

Dan Lusthaus
Macalester College

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