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Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions 
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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
geo wrote:
LanDroid wrote:
Are we indeed the only three?

I suspect every society has some sort of regimentation that under a microscope would look like caste. Perhaps the castes in India, Nazi Germany and America are only extreme forms of a kind of class structure that exists almost everywhere. Although i've heard that pirate society was strictly egalitarian.

Just picked up Clavell's "Shogun" and it discusses "caste" directly, in connection with samurai, peasants and others. The Japanese version did not seem impenetrable, and, from this unreliable source I infer that people moved between castes on occasion. I think you are right that there must have been "occupational" hierarchies in most societies, and those are likely to be the basis of caste since the skills must somehow be passed on and family was a major transmission mechanism.

geo wrote:
I suspect many would not see the systemic racism in America as a form of caste. It probably boils down to semantics.
Well, that equation seems to me to be Wilkerson's point. Whether it is 100 percent accurate is beside the point of whether it gives us insight, both analytical and moral.



Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:43 pm
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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
LanDroid wrote:
Quote:
In debating “how to institutionalize racism in the Third Reich,” wrote the Yale legal historian James Q. Whitman, “they began by asking how the Americans did it.”
p. 78

Quote:
The Nazis had been especially taken with the militant race theories of two widely known American eugenicists, Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant. Both were men of privilege, born and raised in the North and educated in the Ivy League. Both built their now discredited reputations on hate ideology that devised a crude ranking of European “stock,”
The connection to Nazi ideology makes this book valuable all by itself. I think that America underwent a rude awakening when they took in the horrors of the death camps. The integration of the Armed Forces by Truman and the keynote speech on behalf of civil rights at the 1948 Democratic Convention by Hubert Humphrey, promoted by Truman and the cause of the Dixiecrat walkout led by Thurman that almost caused "Dewey Beats Truman", are the landmarks that began the unwinding of the Jim Crow system. I have to believe that the honorable service by African-Americans and the revelations of Nazi horrors must both have contributed to Truman insisting on doing the right thing. Eisenhower also backed the end of segregation, appointing Earl Warren to the Supreme Court and enforcing the integration ordered in Brown v. Board of Education.

Quote:
By the time that Hitler rose to power, the United States “was not just a country with racism,” Whitman, the Yale legal scholar, wrote. “It was the leading racist jurisdiction—so much so that even Nazi Germany looked to America for inspiration.” The Nazis recognized the parallels even if many Americans did not.
Sure, but the U.S. was hardly the only. I heard directly from a White Brazilian that Blacks would not currently be given positions of responsibility in Brazil. All of the New World was organized by racial categories, and El Indio was still reviled and despised by seemingly enlightened folks at least until the 1980s. The elite status of Chinese immigrant communities in Malaysia, Indonesia, and to some extent Thailand and the Philippines, is a source of much tension to the present day.

Quote:
While the Nazis praised “the American commitment to legislating racial purity,” they could not abide “the unforgiving hardness” under which “ ‘an American man or woman who has even a drop of Negro blood in their veins’ counted as blacks,” Whitman wrote. “The one-drop rule was too harsh for the Nazis.”
p. 87

Germany still carries on an attachment to "German blood." The presence of an important German minority in Slovenia led directly to Helmut Kohl backing the Slovenian secession from Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War, which in turn triggered the bloody breakup of the Serbian dominance. There is an ongoing debate over whether German-speaking residents of other countries should be granted citizenship. This is a source of some tension with Poland, apparently.

In polite German society there was considerable intermarriage with Jews, and to insist on subjugation for "one drop" of Jewish blood would have compounded the decimation of the ranks of academic, business, artistic and medical communities, as we have some inkling from the diaspora who did manage to emigrate to Britain and the U.S. Their vicious policies were able to kill many major figures, and extort fortunes from many more, but to take on everyone with even a drop of Jewish blood might have been more than they thought they could pull off, or more than they had the stomach for (given the Aryan blood that was also present).



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To read, or not to read...

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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
CHAPTER NINE
The Evil of Silence

Quote:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” Bonhoeffer once said of bystanders. “God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

This chapter begins with a rain of ash settling on a town north of Berlin, outside the concentration camp known as Sachsenhausen.
Quote:
There was no denying the slaughter and torment on the other side of the barbed wire. The fruit of evil fell upon villagers like snow dust. They were covered in evil, and some were good parents and capable spouses, and yet they did nothing to stop the evil, which had now grown too big for one person to stop, and thus no one person was complicit, and yet everyone was complicit.

The author goes on to describe in detail six lynchings in America, one witnessed by a 14 year old Henry Fonda.
Quote:
Lynchings were part carnival, part torture chamber, and attracted thousands of onlookers who collectively became accomplices to public sadism. Photographers were tipped off in advance and installed portable printing presses at the lynching sites to sell to lynchers and onlookers like photographers at a prom. They made postcards out of the gelatin prints for people to send to their loved ones.

You can see some of these photos in an exhibit called Without Sanctuary that traveled America and has been published in a book.

The chapter title seems ironic in contrasting the German and American experiences. Germans seemed to know, but not outwardly acknowledge what was going on in the concentration camps. But America celebrated lynchings.
Why was there such a difference regarding silence between the two cultures?
Perhaps something to do with Government officials enacting the atrocities in Germany whereas lynchings were done by extra-judicial mobs?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
LanDroid wrote:
The chapter title seems ironic in contrasting the German and American experiences. Germans seemed to know, but not outwardly acknowledge what was going on in the concentration camps. But America celebrated lynchings.
Why was there such a difference regarding silence between the two cultures?
Perhaps something to do with Government officials enacting the atrocities in Germany whereas lynchings were done by extra-judicial mobs?

Harry mentioned that learning about America's connection to Nazi ideology makes this book valuable all by itself. I would second that. I also had never heard about the practice of sending lynching postcards. This practice illustrates how entrenched Americans have been in maintaining caste lines of demarcation, without being fully conscious of it. As such, the Matrix metaphor seems increasingly fitting the more I delve into this book.

One of Michelle Alexander's main points in her book, The New Jim Crowe, was that the Civil Rights movement only forced attitudes of racism (and casteism) to go underground, become more hidden. In that sense we are a bipolar society. There has been a gradual change from the explicit racism of Jim Crowe to the subsumed attitudes of the present day. And yet there is no doubt that such racist attitudes remain very strong.

Wilkerson explains the hidden elements amazingly well in this passage:

Wilkerson wrote:
It is caste or rather the policing of and adherence to the caste system. It’s the autonomic, unconscious, reflexive response to expectations from a thousand imaging inputs and neurological societal downloads that affix people to certain roles based upon what they look like and what they historically have been assigned to or the characteristics and stereotypes by which they have been categorized. No ethnic or racial category is immune to the messaging we all receive about the hierarchy, and thus no one escapes its consequences. What some people call racism could be seen as merely one manifestation of the degree to which we have internalized the larger American caste system, a measure of how much we ascribe to it and how deeply we uphold it, act upon it, and enforce it, often unconsciously, in our daily lives.


As LanDroid said, lynchings of blacks were enacted in a mostly unofficial capacity in America. And that does seem to be the main difference between us and the Nazis. The Nazis were trying to make an official government policy out of something that grew quite organically from the ground up in America from the early 1600s on. That and the fact that many of the pillars of casteism have been enacted on a state by state basis, might explain why our caste system remains so insidious today.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
geo wrote:
As LanDroid said, lynchings of blacks were enacted in a mostly unofficial capacity in America. And that does seem to be the main difference between us and the Nazis. The Nazis were trying to make an official government policy out of something that grew quite organically from the ground up in America from the early 1600s on. That and the fact that many of the pillars of casteism have been enacted on a state by state basis, might explain why our caste system remains so insidious today.

Even though Hitler considered America to be degenerate, apparently he and the Nazis were open to the scientific credibility of U.S. policies that linked with the pseudo-science of eugenics. Then Germany took eugenics even farther than the U.S. had, leading to mass exterminations of not only Jews, but gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill and handicapped, and other misfit groups.

I watched the Amazon Prime series, "The Man in the High Castle," the alternate-reality series which was best when it explored the terrible tensions that Nazi beliefs in the primacy of Aryan blood and the race-harm of defective people, caused within families living in the American Reich. Maybe some have read the Philip K. Dick novel the show was based on. I haven't.

The idea that "blood" matters is perhaps at the basis of all of these theories about race. Since ancient times, people have believed that those of "noble" blood carry a whole different constitution within themselves, vs those of "low" blood. The difference can be wiped out in a single generation if cultural positions are reversed, but the persistent, false idea is that the high-born person carries qualities built up within him over centuries. Race concepts generalize the blood idea to very large groups to aid in winning struggles for power.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
DWill wrote:
The difference can be wiped out in a single generation if cultural positions are reversed, but the persistent, false idea is that the high-born person carries qualities built up within him over centuries.

It would appear that the difference can be wiped out in a week if cultural positions are reversed, according to the "blue eyes / brown eyes" exercise. Artificial, no doubt, but illuminating anyway.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Elliott



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
DWill wrote:
The idea that "blood" matters is perhaps at the basis of all of these theories about race. Since ancient times, people have believed that those of "noble" blood carry a whole different constitution within themselves, vs those of "low" blood. The difference can be wiped out in a single generation if cultural positions are reversed, but the persistent, false idea is that the high-born person carries qualities built up within him over centuries. Race concepts generalize the blood idea to very large groups to aid in winning struggles for power.

I know I keep coming back to this, but "blood" has rarely been arbitrary. Maybe in the city-states of Sumeria, but I doubt it. Maybe in Japan, but they were not such purists about hereditary merit. In ancient India, in Egypt at the time of King David, in Europe of the Middle Ages, in the Spanish New World, and I suspect lots more, the upper castes were from conquering people. If those people looked and spoke differently enough, they would resist the dissolution of the group into the conquered population. Any talk you ever hear of "degeneracy" should be filtered through that set of concepts.

Myths about the superior virtue of the conquering people are just wishful thinking. Some advantage, perhaps as slight as a temporary climate shift, allows them to conquer militarily and they cling to their power with mythologies of superiority. Genghis Khan was brilliant, but he could not solve the succession problem any better than the Romans or the Tudors.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
I’ve been following the discussions with interest and as usual you guys have been amazing.

I recently watched an old Chris Hitchens interview.

In the U.K. it is second nature to have an understanding of the “class” system. They simply are born into the arcane idea of that particular past overture.

Interestingly, in the U.S. it is the exact opposite. We have to be taught that there is indeed a class tier. This structure is subvert not overt.

Caste in America is clustering by economic viability. Disposable income is king. Vicarious consumption keeps one in the favored as long as one maintains the class line.

Caste requires that stringent “codes” are maintained within the social tier.

:) just thinking :)



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