Violence, 'threats to culture', etc.

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at GMX.LI
Thu Dec 14 13:27:59 UTC 2000

It has been stated repeatedly on this list that the professionals
should simply ignore nonsense and delete it without much further
ado. However, two questions remain: (a) should an originally
academic forum, for which there as yet is sadly no alternative,
degenerate to a place where political activists, religious
fundamentalists and a variety of other weird folk send earnest
researchers garbage on a daily basis? (b) does silence on the part
of those who know better in this forum not implicitly lend legitimacy
to the vicious statements of such characters? Academic
researchers will not be fooled; however, it is most regrettable that
for a long time there has been activity by non-academics,
apparently aimed at the numerous innocent non-academics on this
list, using this forum for the spreading of sickening ideas.

Apparently a few new people have joined the list. The following is
meant for them rather than for the professional experts for whom
the list was meant.

Am 13. Dec 2000 schrieb Vikrant Shah:

> So any threat to our culture should be very well dealt with..

If we understand a culture to be a living body of knowledge, values,
norms, customs that help people to shape their lives and to find
meaning in life, then it can only be threatened (a) by physical
annihilation of those who are the bearers of that culture (this is a
possibility in Tibet, but surely not in India with its thousand million
people), (b) by an inner weakening of support for that body of
knowledge etc., i.e., when people who associated themselves with
that culture find that it no longer fulfils their needs and (an)other
culture(s) appear more appropriate and / or fulfilling.

If Indian culture is at all under threat, it can only be a threat of the
second type. The first is materially impossible.

If people who identify themselves with any variety of Indian culture
feel that their culture is threatened, they must look inward and look
for the reasons why they feel that their culture has any
shortcomings. (If no shortcomings are perceived, then the culture
cannot be under threat.) Either old insights of the culture must be
revived and their relevance for today must be shown, or those
aspects of the culture that are found to be outdated should be
altered or discarded after a rethinking and reforming of that culture.
This has happened all over the world in all times and in all cultures,
also in India.

When certain persons believe that 'threats' to their culture can be
warded off through the cultivation of hatred against scapegoats
(incl. the flogging of long-dead horses of history, 'historical crimes /
injustice' etc. etc., as we keep seeing on this list), through the
physical persecution of persons who are perceived as 'enemies' or
'others' who 'threaten' the culture, through the physical destruction
of property of such other persons, and other types of revanchism -
then those persons show that they are already culturally bankrupt.
They show that their personal culture has no inner strength, no
creative, constructive dynamism, nothing positive to contribute to a
world where there already is more than enough hatred and harm,
and they offer their fellows-in-their-culture nothing but paranoia and
odious conspiracy theories. No truly cultured person, anywhere
and of any background, can have any respect for persons of such a
presumably 'threatened culture' or for their doings.

Clamourings about 'threats to Indian culture', 'the need to rewrite
history in order to set right historical wrongs and reestablish Indian
self-respect', etc. are all bogus. We know which kind of totalitarian
ideology is the source of such bunkum and why it wants to create
scapegoats. It has been discussed on this list more than once.

Fortunately, there is a lot more to Indian culture than what
politically motivated alarmists have to say. And fortunately, most of
the people who pursued political agendas and kooky varieties of
religious fundamentalism have left this list and continue their antics
on other lists. Perhaps Akhilesh Jha, Vikrant Shah, 'Ven. Tantra'
(whoever that may be) a.o. can follow that example and go in
search of a more gullible audience. Then all this stupid, militant,
revanchist talk about 'threats to Indian culture', 'historical injustice'
etc. may soon stop here altogether.

Robert Zydenbos
Institut für Indologie und Iranistik
Universität München

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