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Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste 
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 Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste

Please use this thread for discussing Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste.



Mon Dec 21, 2020 3:04 pm
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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
In this section Eight Pillars of Caste are described succinctly. I find these pillars to be the vertebrae of the book, see if you agree.

PILLAR NUMBER ONE
Divine Will and the Laws of Nature

Quote:
From lowest to highest, bottom to top: The Shudra, the feet, the servant, the bearer of burdens. The Vaishya, the thighs, the engine, the merchant, the trader. The Kshatriya, the arms, the warrior, the protector, the ruler. And above them all, the Brahmin, the head, the mouth, the philosopher, the sage, the priest, the one nearest to the gods.

“The Brahmin is by Law the lord of this whole creation,” according to the Laws of Manu. “It is by the kindness of the Brahmin that other people eat.”

Unmentioned among the original four varnas were those deemed so low that they were beneath even the feet of the Shudra. They were living out the afflicted karma of the past, they were not to be touched and some not even to be seen. Their very shadow was a pollutant. They were outside of the caste system and thus outcastes. These were the Untouchables who would later come to be known as Dalits, the subordinate caste of India.

This is how Manu, the all-knowing, describes the proper order of the "Laws of all the social classes as well as those born in between." In India the caste system has a Divine origin.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Quote:
In the words of the sacred text of the Western world, the Old Testament, there had been a Great Flood. The windows of heaven had opened, along with the fountains of the deep, and all of humankind was said to have descended from the three sons of the patriarch Noah. By divine instruction, they survived the floodwaters in an ark, for more than forty days and forty nights, and thereafter, Noah became a man of the soil. His sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who would become the progenitors of all humanity.

One season, Noah planted a vineyard, and he later drank of the wine of the fruit of the vineyard. The wine overtook him, and he lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, who would become the father of a son, Canaan, happened into the tent and saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders. They walked backward into the tent and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned in the other direction so that they would not see their father unclothed. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what Ham had done, he cursed Ham’s son, Canaan, and the generations to follow, saying, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.

The caste system in America also has a religious basis. I have heard religious folks use "the offspring of Ham" as an explanation or justification for racist inequities, etc.
Quote:
The United States and India would become, respectively, the oldest and the largest democracies in human history, both built on caste systems undergirded by their reading of the sacred texts of their respective cultures. In both countries, the subordinate castes were consigned to the bottom, seen as deserving of their debasement, owing to the sins of the past.

...And so we have what could be called the first pillar of caste, Divine Will and the Laws of Nature, the first of the organizing principles inherent in any caste system.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
I see a couple of problems in this first pillar. The first is a technical problem in her description of Noah's ark. The forty days and nights highlighted in the quote above refers to the amount of time it took for rain to flood the earth. Noah, his family, and all those animals actually spent a little over a year on the ark!

The second problem is the author does not describe a religious basis for the Nazi caste system. I think Himmler was developing a religion based on Norse gods etc. but the war terminated those supernatural revelations. Perhaps 12 years just wasn't enough time for that accelerated caste system to develop a religious basis.

  • Since the Nazi caste system did not have a religious basis is Divine Will a pillar of caste systems or not?
  • As we're painfully aware, faith - in contrast to science - can be impervious to evidence. Discuss this feature of dogma, where, unlike hypotheses and theories, religious statements can be permanent.
  • India has attempted to reform the caste system for many decades. They may have weakened but not destroyed bias against the Dalits. But what chance is there for real systemic change in the face of ancient dogma?
  • America has also been attempting to improve race relations for many decades with some success. But again what chance is there for fundamental systemic change when underlying attitudes have roots in the Bible?
  • In the first post above, the Lord Manu states "It is by the kindness of the Brahmin that other people eat." Do you find a parallel in the American capitalist system? "Makers" create jobs, trickle wealth downward, and fight against "takers." No one ever got a job from a poor person, so we should revere the dominant caste.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
[*] Since the Nazi caste system did not have a religious basis is Divine Will a pillar of caste systems or not?
Nazism did have a quasi-religious basis, although this was not coherently explained. The swastika became a religious symbol of German tribal unity. The Nazi use of the old “Gott Mit Uns” (God With Us) slogan (if just on military belt buckles) served to assert absolute moral legitimacy and a mandate from heaven for their program.

The idea of the German conquest of the world was invested by Hitler with a spiritual purpose through the concept of the Aryan master race. The moral fervour of Nazism viewed Hitler as a messiah figure, with the racial caste analysis from Mein Kampf as a core teaching.

Belief in divine will is essential to sustain caste beliefs, presenting a supernatural explanation of social hierarchy with a moral justification that drives political mobilisation.
LanDroid wrote:
[*] As we're painfully aware, faith - in contrast to science - can be impervious to evidence. Discuss this feature of dogma, where, unlike hypotheses and theories, religious statements can be permanent.
The perviosity of faith to evidence is a complex and slow process. While faith is highly conservative, with ingrained suspicion about external ideas, it also has a tectonic quality, like continental drift, enabling sudden and total transformation over long enough periods of time.

Evidence serves to gradually corrode old certainties of faith, generation by generation. Things accepted without question two generations ago are now widely rejected. Nothing is permanent in religion, despite assertions to the contrary.

The Biblical concept of covenant illustrates this process of religious change. The covenant of Moses was based on the ethic of revenge, but Jesus Christ proposed in his Sermon on the Mount to change this to an ethic of forgiveness. This tectonic evolution of morality reflected the underlying economic and social drivers as the societies became larger and more integrated, with Christianity seeing the need to undermine the tribal moral basis of the Roman Empire.

Social integration is now becoming global, indicating the need for a new covenant to again update religious morality. My view is that Christianity contains the seeds of this with the idea of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which I interpret against the cosmology of the dawn of the Age of Aquarius as a time when caste-based thinking will be recognised as obsolete and immoral.

Another aspect of this new covenant will be that all religious claims will be assessed on a scientific basis, with the result that everything in the Bible that lacks external attestation will be recognised as primarily mythological, not historical.
LanDroid wrote:
[*] India has attempted to reform the caste system for many decades. They may have weakened but not destroyed bias against the Dalits. But what chance is there for real systemic change in the face of ancient dogma?
Ancient dogma is constantly reinterpreted to serve the needs of emerging conditions. An example from India is that the idea of the Day of Brahma as lasting four billion years has been challenged as failing to see that the ancient texts spoke in terms of thousands of years, not billions. Dogma tends to get encrusted by instinctive sentiment, but the purpose of religious enlightenment is to show that human evolution requires the use of our mind to suppress evil instincts.

Adaptation to global civilization requires that old instinctive sentiments have to be replaced by rational ethics of love and truth.
LanDroid wrote:
[*] America has also been attempting to improve race relations for many decades with some success. But again what chance is there for fundamental systemic change when underlying attitudes have roots in the Bible?

The Biblical roots of racism are in the revenge covenant of Moses, not the forgiveness covenant of Christ, and served as a primary justification for modern colonial conquest. Old Testament books such as Judges proclaim that God demands genocide as a moral imperative. The genocidal morality of the Jewish effort to attain exclusive ownership of Palestine served the early needs of hierarchical monotheist patriarchy, but is not compatible with teachings of Christ such as the imperative to treat the least of the world as though they were Christ.

Such anomalies within faith traditions are slow to surface, like earthquakes, but once they do emerge they can immediately transform the terrain of debate with a thorough paradigm shift. This transformation of consciousness depends on the emergence of teachers with ability to explain a new coherent paradigm, since the existence of contradictions in an old paradigm can be ignored while there is nothing better to replace it.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
I wonder, regarding Hindu religion, if the gods or scripture are ever invoked in opposition to the caste system. Can one be a good Hindu and opposed to caste? This is at least possible, judging from the American history of abolitionism, which had a wide base in Christianity. From what Robert has said, it makes sense that William Lloyd Garrison, for example, would find himself justifying his anti-slavery and anti-government beliefs in terms of his faith and to claim that such belief was Bible-based. We've seen how flexible a document the Bible can be, which is largely because of, as Robert says, the sequel it includes. I think it's less likely that Hinduism could do double duty, but I don't know for certain. With the U.S., it might be a quandary: was religion brought in largely to justify an economic arrangement, or was religion a primary force enabling the establishment of the institution? The common answer seems to be wiggling out by choosing both a and b.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
I'm certainly no expert, but I'd venture to say there is little hope for reform of the caste system within the Hindu religion. In Chapter 3, the author discusses Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Dalit who rose to such prominence as to be considered the chief architect of the constitution of India. Wilkerson described him as "the Martin Luther King of India." However, he converted to Buddhism and led the Dalit Buddhist Movement. So much for reform within Hinduism?

Bhimrao Ambedkar even influenced Mahatma Gandhi's views on caste. It seems although Gandhi fought against untouchability, he supported the caste system in general to some extent.

But Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 and Ambedkar died in 1956. Are there any contemporary leaders of India seeking to completely dismantle the caste system? Is this feasible in the face of ancient religious beliefs?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Mr. Tulip wrote:
The Biblical roots of racism are in the revenge covenant of Moses, not the forgiveness covenant of Christ, and served as a primary justification for modern colonial conquest.

DWill wrote:
We've seen how flexible a document the Bible can be, which is largely because of, as Robert says, the sequel it includes.

We've gotten into it over this supposed split between the two testaments before and I don't really want to go there again, so I'll just say it's not as clean a break as you maintain. The Apostle Paul on more than one occasion admonishes slaves to obey their masters, "doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord" etc... In DWill's quote, I'd replace the word "flexible" with "contradictory." Christianity was used to enforce slavery and to fight against it. I cannot respect a religion that is ambivalent on that matter.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
Since the Nazi caste system did not have a religious basis is Divine Will a pillar of caste systems or not?


Maybe the Nazi system was something of an anomaly as castes go. But I’d also suggest there was a quasi-religious fervor in Nazi Germany, even if a sacred text wasn’t involved. We see something akin to it in the age of Trump. White Evangelicals and others see Trump as a sort of messiah; they see a battle unfolding in America between dark and light forces. There’s nothing very Christian about this cultish infatuation with Trump, and yet it remains a quasi-religious force.

There’s nothing very Christian about the concepts of Divine Will or the Great Chain of Being either, since both predate Christianity by centuries. And yet there's a religious component to them as well.

Ultimately I’m saying Nazi caste did have a “religious” basis, just not the Judeo-Christian or Hindu kind.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
PILLAR NUMBER TWO
Heritability


Quote:
“Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman should be slave or free,” the (Virginia General) Assembly decreed in 1662, “be it therefore enacted and declared by this present Grand Assembly, that all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother.”

...This new law allowed enslavers to claim the children of black women, the vast majority of whom were enslaved, as their property for life and for ensuing generations. It invited them to impregnate the women themselves if so inclined, the richer it would make them. It converted the black womb into a profit center and drew sharper lines around the subordinate caste, as neither mother nor child could make a claim against an upper-caste man, and no child springing from a black womb could escape condemnation to the lowest rung.

The second pillar states everyone is assigned a rank at birth; a status that cannot change. "In India, it was generally the father who passed his rank to his children." The England, children were also granted the status of the father. The Virginia decree described above broke this legal precedent with diabolical consequences.
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It is the fixed nature of caste that distinguishes it from class, a term to which it is often compared. Class is an altogether separate measure of one’s standing in a society, marked by level of education, income, and occupation, as well as the attendant characteristics, such as accent, taste, and manners, that flow from socioeconomic status. These can be acquired through hard work and ingenuity or lost through poor decisions or calamity. If you can act your way out of it, then it is class, not caste.

Ahaaa...that is clarifying...



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
The author decries enslavers profiting by impregnating slaves, so this may be the right place to reference one of the most scorching statements about American history I have ever read.

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You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument
The black people I come from were owned and raped by the white people I come from. Who dares to tell me to celebrate them?


I have rape-colored skin.

No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual.

Caroline Randall Williams
6/26/2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/opin ... acism.html


Image



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
I'm certainly no expert, but I'd venture to say there is little hope for reform of the caste system within the Hindu religion. In Chapter 3, the author discusses Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Dalit who rose to such prominence as to be considered the chief architect of the constitution of India. Wilkerson described him as "the Martin Luther King of India." However, he converted to Buddhism and led the Dalit Buddhist Movement. So much for reform within Hinduism?

Bhimrao Ambedkar even influenced Mahatma Gandhi's views on caste. It seems although Gandhi fought against untouchability, he supported the caste system in general to some extent.

But Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 and Ambedkar died in 1956. Are there any contemporary leaders of India seeking to completely dismantle the caste system? Is this feasible in the face of ancient religious beliefs?

No, I don't think reform of caste within Hinduism is likely, either, although Modi is a strong Hindu who also wants India to modernize rapidly. I wondered whether that dynamic applies in India whereby the variety, inconsistency, or contradiction in a vast scripture can be used to create space for social change to occur, without the change having to be led by the religion. In other words, might religion at least get out of the way. One thing I remember well from the Robert Wright book we read here (I think it was The Evolution of God) is his central point: religions aren't only what their scriptures and leaders say they are. You have to view religions "on the ground" to talk about what they're doing in contemporary times. There might be movements in the religion that seem out of keeping with some scripture or with tradition, and I would be glad for it if the divergence makes possible humane reforms. Of course, divergence can go in the other direction. You can argue that this is what's happened to Islam.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
Mr. Tulip wrote:
The Biblical roots of racism are in the revenge covenant of Moses, not the forgiveness covenant of Christ, and served as a primary justification for modern colonial conquest.

DWill wrote:
We've seen how flexible a document the Bible can be, which is largely because of, as Robert says, the sequel it includes.

We've gotten into it over this supposed split between the two testaments before and I don't really want to go there again, so I'll just say it's not as clean a break as you maintain. The Apostle Paul on more than one occasion admonishes slaves to obey their masters, "doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord" etc... In DWill's quote, I'd replace the word "flexible" with "contradictory." Christianity was used to enforce slavery and to fight against it. I cannot respect a religion that is ambivalent on that matter.

Abolitionism comprised both freethinkers and Christians. The Christians struggled to wrest away the soul of their faith from the many who used the Bible to justify slavery. Obviously, the many were not mistaken that the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, gave support to the institution of slavery (although they didn't recognize that American chattel slavery was probably worse for its victims than was ancient slavery). The abolitionist Christians remained Christians, yes, exploiting a thread of New Testament theology that emphasized Christ's love for all peoples (Paul's statement is often quoted: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" ). Was this really consistent, though, overall, with scripture? Probably not, but countering the Bible-quoting slavery upholders with a different take on Christianity and slavery, was perhaps the most powerful tool available to the abolitionists. They were trying to make space within a Christian outlook for the abolition of slavery. Holy War against slavery was possible, as John Brown showed.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
PILLAR NUMBER THREE
Endogamy and the Control of Marriage and Mating


Quote:
Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific social group, caste, or ethnic group, rejecting those from others as unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogamy

I figured we'd get that definition out of the way first.

Quote:
The framers of the American caste system took steps, early in its founding, to keep the castes separate and to seal off the bloodlines of those assigned to the upper rung. This desire led to the third pillar of caste—endogamy, which means restricting marriage to people within the same caste. This is an ironclad foundation of any caste system, from ancient India, to the early American colonies, to the Nazi regime in Germany. Endogamy was brutally enforced in the United States for the vast majority of its history and did the spade work for current ethnic divisions.

Quote:
“Caste,” wrote Bhimrao Ambedkar, the father of the anti-caste movement in India, “means an artificial chopping off of the population into fixed and definite units, each one prevented from fusing into another through the custom of endogamy.” Thus, “in showing how endogamy is maintained,” he added, “we shall practically have proved the genesis and also the mechanism of Caste.”



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
There is quite a bit of endogamy outside of the caste system. I knew a Jewish father who refused to call his daughter in law by name; his son's wife was merely "The Shiksa." Many Greek mothers cry when their daughters do not marry "a nice Greek man." Etc. What other examples are you aware of?

But caste systems brought endogamy to a "whole 'nother" level.
Quote:
The protocol was strictly enforced against lower-caste men and upper-caste women, while upper-caste men, the people who wrote the laws, kept full and flagrant access to lower-caste women, whatever their age or marital status. In this way, the dominant gender of the dominant caste, in addition to controlling the livelihood and life chances of everyone beneath them, eliminated the competition for its own women and in fact for all women. For much of American history, dominant-caste men controlled who had access to whom for romantic liaisons and reproduction.



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