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Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste 
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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
PILLAR NUMBER FIVE Occupational Hierarchy: The Jatis and the Mudsill
What long term effects on a culture result from being relegated to the lowest career rungs for many generations?


One obvious effect is the reduced cultural value on education. Since education is unlikely to lead to economic opportunities, the talk about it would have a decidedly different flavor. It's easily imagined that talk of a stepping stone to a better life is missing, and talk of putting on airs is what remains. That tension is present in higher castes, but the hopeful side weighs much more heavily.

And education is the keystone of an arch. On one side is the way children are raised, with more consciousness of learning to do things properly and fit into cultured ways. On the other is the chatter that goes on around careers. Who set himself up in a practice and made it work. Whose extended family understands cars because so-and-so is good with them, and found opportunities in repair or sales or whatever.

Nobel prize-winner Kenneth Arrow published, late in life, an analysis of ethnic differences in achievement that found that the entire difference in average earnings by groups could be explained by supposing that one's opportunities are mainly influenced by the earnings of the people you have contact with. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Arrow and his co-author modeled this in terms of hearing about job opportunities, but you can imagine much denser sets of cultural understandings that influence the likelihood that a person will capitalize on the opportunities available.

That's just the Whig side of the matter, looking at the economic waste of human potential. It doesn't even get into the stress of humiliation and trauma that goes with people trying to cope with being actively suppressed. With knowing that your great-uncle was a gifted musician but was hauled off to a chain gang for getting drunk one night. Or that your older brother is good with numbers but was told by the teacher that math was a waste of time for someone of his color.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Excellent point - it makes sense that education would be devalued if one is blocked from career rewards. The bottom caste was also totally blocked from education for many generations. Once education became available, poor quality education has been used as a tool to keep that caste in place. Consider how primary education is funded in the US - through property taxes. How much additional money is automatically raised in areas with higher real estate values than average? Wealthier areas also easily raise additional funds for schools. Areas with low real estate values never catch up to the average.

I expect education may become more devalued overall since it is now out of reach except for wealthy families. It is not realistic to raise a family if you have $50K to $120K in education debt on top of housing and all other costs. Children from families that can fund that amount per child can go to college; it's no longer worth it for the average family. Unpaid internships are a gateway to certain careers, yet another block to those not from wealthy families.

"Education used to be a way out of poverty, not a path into it."
- Sarah Kendzior



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
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Making enslaved people perform on command also reinforced their subjugation. They were made to sing despite their exhaustion or the agonies from a recent flogging or risk further punishment. Forced good cheer became a weapon of submission to assuage the guilt of the dominant caste and further humiliate the enslaved. If they were in chains and happy, how could anyone say that they were being mistreated? Merriment, even if extracted from a whip, was seen as essential to confirm that the caste structure was sound, that all was well, that everyone accepted, even embraced their station in the hierarchy.
p. 136

Hadn't realized that - even the slave merriment that Southerners used to claim as evidence was "extracted from a whip."



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
PILLAR NUMBER SIX
Dehumanization and Stigma

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Dehumanization is a standard component in the manufacture of an out-group against which to pit an in-group, and it is a monumental task. It is a war against truth, against what the eye can see and what the heart could feel if allowed to do so on its own.

...Dehumanize the group, and you have completed the work of dehumanizing any single person within it.

...Dehumanization distances not only the out-group from the in-group, but those in the in-group from their own humanity. It makes slaves to groupthink of everyone in the hierarchy. A caste system relies on dehumanization to lock the marginalized outside of the norms of humanity so that any action against them is seen as reasonable.

As in war, so in caste systems. Please compare and contrast dehumanization in the three caste systems under discussion as well as dehumanizing caricatures deployed during war.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Harry Marks wrote:
One obvious effect is the reduced cultural value on education. Since education is unlikely to lead to economic opportunities, the talk about it would have a decidedly different flavor. It's easily imagined that talk of a stepping stone to a better life is missing, and talk of putting on airs is what remains. That tension is present in higher castes, but the hopeful side weighs much more heavily.

I might not be understanding your point, because I want to read "likely" instead of "unlikely."



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
PILLAR NUMBER SIX
Dehumanization and Stigma

Quote:
Dehumanization is a standard component in the manufacture of an out-group against which to pit an in-group, and it is a monumental task. It is a war against truth, against what the eye can see and what the heart could feel if allowed to do so on its own.

...Dehumanize the group, and you have completed the work of dehumanizing any single person within it.

...Dehumanization distances not only the out-group from the in-group, but those in the in-group from their own humanity. It makes slaves to groupthink of everyone in the hierarchy. A caste system relies on dehumanization to lock the marginalized outside of the norms of humanity so that any action against them is seen as reasonable.

As in war, so in caste systems. Please compare and contrast dehumanization in the three caste systems under discussion as well as dehumanizing caricatures deployed during war.

A caste system like India's, so far as I know a unique one, seems to operate with dehumanization at the bottom rung, but above that it appears to exploit the idea that society sorts itself into categories of quality, categories that endure across generations. Does karma hold out the hope that in the next life one can be rewarded with a higher assignment?

I'd like to know, just by the way, if India's system was, or is now, really national in reach. Are there regions where it applies less strongly, as we could say for the U.S. (at least historically)?

The maybe-too-obvious difference between India and the other two caste systems is the reliance on race in the latter. On the surface, those appear to have two tiers, people whose humanity is recognized and those whose isn't. Dehumanizing caricatures are important for maintaining the separation, with the difference from wartime situations being that, with caste, only the side in power gets to do the caricaturing, whereas in war both sides have the power to engage in that. Rebels and Yankees, Hutus and Tutsis.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
DWill wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
One obvious effect is the reduced cultural value on education. Since education is unlikely to lead to economic opportunities, the talk about it would have a decidedly different flavor. It's easily imagined that talk of a stepping stone to a better life is missing, and talk of putting on airs is what remains. That tension is present in higher castes, but the hopeful side weighs much more heavily.

I might not be understanding your point, because I want to read "likely" instead of "unlikely."

Harry was talking about education for slaves. Learning to read might lead to slaves becoming house slaves rather than field slaves, as I recall we discussed in Uncle Tom's Cabin. But even that does not constitute much of an economic opportunity, since the Uncle Tom house slave still remains a chattel with no rights of ownership of anything.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
DWill wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
One obvious effect is the reduced cultural value on education. Since education is unlikely to lead to economic opportunities, the talk about it would have a decidedly different flavor. .

I might not be understanding your point, because I want to read "likely" instead of "unlikely."

There are certainly cases in which people of color benefited from education, including higher education. But caste normally meant they could not expect the kind of return on the investment that White folk earned. As recently as the 70s the standard result in studies of human capital was that earnings rise with education, but at a much lower rate for Black and Hispanic earners. Law degrees were not going to lead to lucrative corporate jobs, medical degrees, if they could be had, were unlikely to lead to high income jobs serving the wealthy White communities. Insurance sales and real estate sales and auto sales and most other jobs that leverage skill with education were essentially closed to Black applicants except to serve the Black community, which was, of course, poor.

We have an image that education is the ticket out of the working class, and to some extent it worked that way for African-Americans as well (provided they lived in Black neighborhoods in cities, where they would not be lynched for being uppity), but out of the working class did not mean into the middle class until at least the 1980s.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry was talking about education for slaves. Learning to read might lead to slaves becoming house slaves rather than field slaves, as I recall we discussed in Uncle Tom's Cabin. But even that does not constitute much of an economic opportunity, since the Uncle Tom house slave still remains a chattel with no rights of ownership of anything.

I took Landroid's question to be about generational effects left over from the times when caste systems were enforced, meaning we are more interested in Jim Crow times than all the way back to slavery. It's an interesting question and one that White people often have no awareness of. If, as the question pointed out, your options were mainly field hand or house help, where is the incentive to get an education? Those who did often became preachers or teachers in low-pay jobs serving low-pay clients.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
DWill wrote:
I'd like to know, just by the way, if India's system was, or is now, really national in reach. Are there regions where it applies less strongly, as we could say for the U.S. (at least historically)?

I have some passing acquaintance due to studying development economics and knowing some Dalit advocates during my years in Geneva. There are more backward areas (Bihar and Orissa get mentioned often) where caste is more likely to be enforced and violating endogamy can still get you killed. There are more prosperous areas (Punjab, with a highly influential Sikh community that rejects caste, gets mentioned most often) where caste is not much more interesting than ethnic background among Whites in the U.S. - a conversation topic more than a life-determining status.

The real issue is post-secondary education, where parents will bribe, cheat and pay money they don't have for tutoring to get their kids admitted, and the reserved spots for the "scheduled castes" were getting to be hot button issues in the 90s and played a heavy role in bringing the BJP (Modi's party) to power. The parents from the English-educated middle class built up tremendous resentment against students from the countryside, with obviously inferior education, getting admitted ahead of their kids.

The middle class in India is larger than the population of the U.S. The number of driver's licenses and cars, for example, is comparable to the total in the U.S. But the other 3/4 of the population competes for the jobs available in the modern sector. In very much the same way as in the U.S., the privileged are willing to (grudgingly) accept "fair" competition, where they know their advantages will get their kids in the doors to the good jobs, but any hint that they face discrimination can bring out Mama Bear behavior.

And then there is politics. In Bihar and Orissa the leaders of the Dalit castes often get the votes to be elected and then carefully manage how much they allot of government jobs, fertilizer subsidies and the like to poor people. Too little and they don't get re-elected, too much and the power structures turn against them and they don't get re-elected. This ought to sound familiar.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Harry Marks wrote:
. . . I took Landroid's question to be about generational effects left over from the times when caste systems were enforced, meaning we are more interested in Jim Crow times than all the way back to slavery. It's an interesting question and one that White people often have no awareness of. If, as the question pointed out, your options were mainly field hand or house help, where is the incentive to get an education? Those who did often became preachers or teachers in low-pay jobs serving low-pay clients.

This is something I wonder about (See bolded part). I think we can easily accept Wilkerson's argument that there is a caste system in America, one that arose from slavery and continued into the Jim Crowe era. But we have never set out, per se, to create a caste system, correct? It was never the end goal. It just happened as an outcome of a multitude of factors. Perhaps it could be argued that slavery in the New World was an economic necessity and we have engaged in a lot of cognitive dissonance ever since to justify our actions. "All men are created equal" according to The Declaration of Independence. And, yet even through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era, we seem to resist this notion or selectively apply it only to the upper caste (which in our case means white people). What makes us do that? I suspect Wilkerson will address this at some point. It just seems that we are missing something in this analysis of castes. I guess what I'm suggesting is that the social sciences only give us a partial answer. Perhaps the bigger picture can be provided through evolutionary psychology?


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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
geo wrote:
But we have never set out, per se, to create a caste system, correct? It was never the end goal. It just happened as an outcome of a multitude of factors.
I think this is right, but it is not wrong to talk about it as something that was created. I think there was unintentional cooperation between those who thought of themselves doing the right thing and those who simply took advantage of the opportunities created by human instincts.

But there is a distinction to be drawn between the feeling of "rightness" that goes with ruling over "others" and the feeling of rightness that goes with establishing justice. The former is an after-the-fact justification for the realities of power, and a response to the instinct of contempt for those who lose. It creates something like what the Marxists call "false consciousness" which in the extreme case looks like Stockholm Syndrome - a kind of avatar of the self that allies itself with power and so with violence, and in doing so knows itself to be betraying the inherent dignity of the self.

As such it almost forces the one who finds rightness in power to project their personal vulnerability onto the others degraded by lack of power. Slow-motion scapegoating ensues.

geo wrote:
Perhaps it could be argued that slavery in the New World was an economic necessity and we have engaged in a lot of cognitive dissonance ever since to justify our actions.
I'm not comfortable with the word "necessity" here. Slavery was a common practice in the Old World and the ancient Americas, because forcing others into service was the primary mode of creating large-scale human institutions. Invasion and conquest of land was likewise the primary means of expanding one's tribe at the expense of the competition. But to label that "necessity" implies there was no serious alternative. I think it is fair to label both the Enlightenment and Christianity as projects to find alternatives. I would not want to repudiate those aspirations.

But the cognitive dissonance is exactly the point of the book. The Archie Bunkers of the world still find themselves unable to believe in anything except the rightness of their privilege created by violence. It easily finds justifications: the others are dirty, they are lazy, they are treacherous, they are duplicitous, they can't be trusted. Life is a struggle and a person's first duty is to win the struggle. But against this is a perception that to endorse such a principle is to betray one's own fundamental worth. The principle of universality of justice cannot be rejected without creating cognitive dissonance at a foundational level of relation to life. Other lies follow, and so this elaborate compulsion corrupts our relation to reality itself.

geo wrote:
"All men are created equal" according to The Declaration of Independence. And, yet even through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era, we seem to resist this notion or selectively apply it only to the upper caste (which in our case means white people). What makes us do that?
Isn't it interesting? People are quite capable of asserting the right to justice on their own behalf while refusing it to those they are not obligated to consider (as Jesus observed about mercy). The Stockholm Syndrome of buying into power penetrates into our ways of interpreting reality to the point at which our sense of "us" determines who is worthy of reciprocity of relationship.

To digest this properly we should consider a version that we may be on the wrong side of. Most of us are willing to exclude beef cattle, pets and other animals from our sense of reciprocity. But is there any more to that than a power relation? The Native American custom of giving thanks to the prey for its sacrifice is an attempt to heal that rip, and to reintegrate the self.

Isn't it interesting that from the beginning of the Enlightenment, as from its roots in Aristotle, equality was declared for men, not for persons? And it was not even worthy of mention that servants (i.e. slaves) were not in the created state of equality.
geo wrote:
It just seems that we are missing something in this analysis of castes. I guess what I'm suggesting is that the social sciences only give us a partial answer. Perhaps the bigger picture can be provided through evolutionary psychology?
It tells us something interesting about the flexibility and adaptability of the structures in the human mind. One reason I am not very comfortable appealing to evolutionary psychology is that it often pretends to give determinative outcomes and implacable forces, when in fact all it can tell us about is pressures, tendencies, possibilities and probabilities.

As Kierkegaard said, life can only be lived forward, but can only be understood backward. In order for our life to be lived with meaning, we have to decide whether our understandings, including understanding of what is just and moral, are determinative. If not, then we have accepted a fundamental nihilism. But the choice between meaning and nihilism is a different way of relating to truth than understanding is.

Being able to explain the way people behave is a different process from deciding about commitments and values. Our understanding of why things go the way they do becomes part of the mental structures of our engagement, our living forward. But they cannot overcome the loss that we suffer if we choose nihilism, one species of which is to buy into the Stockholm Syndrome of supposedly determinative "scientific" principles which are not at all absolute.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Geo wrote:
But we have never set out, per se, to create a caste system, correct? It was never the end goal. It just happened as an outcome of a multitude of factors. Perhaps it could be argued that slavery in the New World was an economic necessity and we have engaged in a lot of cognitive dissonance ever since to justify our actions.

My understanding is a different sequence. The caste system came first - the underlying philosophy that a few are in power, that some are not deserving and must be starved of resources, that separation is required to prevent contamination. Harry Marks mentioned this goes back at least to Aristotle, but even further with the bible. With those ancient cultural influences, it becomes easier to enslave or to exterminate. Think of it this way: Would you keep a person as a slave under your boot without such ideas in your head?

That's a good point on cognitive dissonance - there must have been an extraordinary amount of that going on. "Oh my, these slave babies cry just like mine do. Women scream under the whip just like I would. We don't give them enough food. Aren't we horrible people?" Then comes the resolution of this cognitive dissonance: "Oh wait, slaves are not human, they are beasts of burden created to serve me. Oh and listen to that (forced) singing and dancing! It's OK, whew!"



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Geo wrote:
"All men are created equal" according to The Declaration of Independence. And, yet even through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era, we seem to resist this notion or selectively apply it only to the upper caste (which in our case means white people). What makes us do that?

I mentioned before that I think one key to this puzzle is that the word "ALL" is a Caucasian code word. When Jefferson penned those words he owned slaves. He did not need to specify that "all" did not refer to blacks. He also did not need to clarify that women are excluded. Or non-property owners. Those exemptions to the word "all" were internalized so deeply by Americans that it took at least three amendments to the constitution to begin to rectify it.

However I believe the code word "ALL" is still active, meaning it applies only to the upper caste. For example when some bigots scream "ALL Lives Matter!" at Black Lives Matter protestors, they know the explicit meaning (denotation) sounds like it applies to everyone. But the bigots also subconsciously know the implicit meaning (connotation), given our history, is more like "MY life matters, YOUR lives certainly do NOT!" The protestors understand both meanings of the Caucasian code word and get the message. But ironically I expect the bigots are conscious only of the explicit meaning and mistakenly believe they are being more inclusive than the protestors.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
PILLAR NUMBER SEVEN
Terror as Enforcement, Cruelty as a Means of Control


Quote:
The only way to keep an entire group of sentient beings in an artificially fixed place, beneath all others and beneath their own talents, is with violence and terror, psychological and physical, to preempt resistance before it can be imagined. Evil asks little of the dominant caste other than to sit back and do nothing. All that it needs from bystanders is their silent complicity in the evil committed on their behalf, though a caste system will protect, and perhaps even reward, those who deign to join in the terror. Jews in Nazi-controlled Europe, African-Americans in the antebellum and Jim Crow South, and Dalits in India were all at the mercy of people who had been fed a diet of contempt and hate for them, and had incentive to try to prove their superiority by joining in or acquiescing to cruelties against their fellow humans.
p. 150



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Quote:
In Germany, the Nazis forced and strapped Jews and political prisoners onto a wooden board to be flogged for minor infractions like rolling cigarettes from leaves they gathered or killing rats to augment their bare rations. The captives were forced to count out each lash as it was inflicted upon them. The Nazis claimed a limit of twenty-five lashes, but would play mind games by claiming that the victim had not counted correctly, then extend the torture even longer. The Americans went to as many as four hundred lashes, torture that amounted to murder, with several men, growing exhausted from the physical exertion it required, taking turns with the whip.

When I was about 10 years old, I found a five foot long whip on my uncle's farm in rural Ohio. I started swinging it around overhead, then reversing the spin to produce a gloriously loud crack. Somehow the last one of those whip cracks landed square in the middle of my back. All of my thoracic muscles and diaphragm completely locked up. I could not breathe in or out one thimble of air. I had to lay down immediately and stare up at the sky so I didn't pass out. My eyes bugged out. Finally after probably 90 seconds that felt like half an hour watching the sky darkening there was a huge inrush of air and everything was OK after 5 or 6 breaths.

Now obviously that sting from a self-inflicted lash from a toy whip was nothing compared to what was delivered by expert slave drivers from an 18 foot whip that cut clear to the bone. But I still remember it clearly over 50 years later. I can't imagine what it would be like to endure 25 professional lashes and having to count them out. Let alone 400. Oh Lordy... Shiver...



The following user would like to thank LanDroid for this post:
DWill, Harry Marks
Sat Mar 13, 2021 8:58 pm
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