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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
My veterinarian father always spoke up for hybrid vigor in dogs. The healthiest dogs were the mutts. Humans have been largely unaware that exogamy would promote the highest degree of hybrid health in children. Even if they'd known, they'd prefer to keep their illusions of having some special identity to preserve. Endogamy enabled them to do that.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
PILLAR NUMBER FOUR
Purity versus Pollution

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The fourth pillar of caste rests upon the fundamental belief in the purity of the dominant caste and the fear of pollution from the castes deemed beneath it. Over the centuries, the dominant caste has taken extreme measures to protect its sanctity from the perceived taint of the lower castes. Both India and the United States at the zenith of their respective caste systems, and the short-lived but heinous regime of the Nazis, raised the obsession with purity to a high, if absurdist, art.

I think this is where a light bulb went on for me. I knew about separate and unequal, but purity and pollution? Just think back to all those photos you've seen of segregated facilities. Aha! Of course, it's so obvious!

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Here's a contemporary twist on purity and pollution.

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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
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In some parts of India, the lowest-caste people were to remain a certain number of paces from any dominant-caste person while walking out in public—somewhere between twelve and ninety-six steps away, depending on the castes in question. They had to wear bells to alert those deemed above them so as not to pollute them with their presence. A person in the lowest subcastes in the Maratha region had to “drag a thorny branch with him to wipe out his footprints” and prostrate himself on the ground if a Brahmin passed, so that his “foul shadow might not defile the holy Brahmin.”

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In Germany, the Nazis banned Jewish residents from stepping onto the beaches at the Jews’ own summer homes, as at Wannsee, a resort suburb of Berlin, and at public pools in the Reich. “They believed the entire pool would be polluted by immersion in it of a Jewish body,” Jean-Paul Sartre once observed.

In the United States, the subordinate caste was quarantined in every sphere of life, made untouchable on American terms, for most of the country’s history and well into the twentieth century.

...In southern courtrooms, even the word of God was segregated. There were two separate Bibles—one for blacks and one for whites—to swear to tell the truth on. The same sacred object could not be touched by hands of different races.



Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:10 pm
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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
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What 'Drained Pool' Politics Costs America

“The American landscape was once graced with resplendent public swimming pools, some big enough to hold thousands of swimmers at a time,” writes Heather McGhee in her new book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” These pools were the pride of their communities, monuments to what public investment could do. But they were, in many places, whites-only. Then came the desegregation orders. The pools would need to be open to everyone. But these communities found a loophole. They could close them for everyone. Drain them. Fill them with concrete. Shutter their parks departments entirely. And so they did.

...Drained-pool politics — if “they” can also have it, then no one can — helps explain why America still doesn’t have a truly universal health care system, a child care system, a decent social safety net.

Ezra Klein
2/16/2021
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/16/opin ... cghee.html


I expect there was also a strong element of purity and pollution in closing these pools. I recall as a kid the pool would close at 10 minutes 'til the hour when only adults could swim. At the top of the hour kids would sit down around the edge of the pool and we would kick our feet as chlorine was poured into the water to spread it around. I expect this was a ritual hangover from when blacks were permitted to swim separately for only 10 minutes per hour, dunno if it's true, just a strong suspicion.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
The Sanctity of Water

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The waters and shorelines of nature were forbidden to the subordinate castes if the dominant caste so desired. Well into the twentieth century, African-Americans were banned from white beaches and lakes and pools, both north and south, lest they pollute them, just as Dalits were forbidden from the waters of the Brahmins, and Jews from Aryan waters in the Third Reich. This was a sacred principle in the United States well into the second half of the twentieth century, and the dominant caste went to great lengths to enforce it.

In the early 1950s, when Cincinnati agreed under pressure to allow black swimmers into some of its public pools, whites threw nails and broken glass into the water to keep them out.

Hey, that's where I'm from... I wonder if that happened at Sunlite Pool, a gigantic 2 acre water system that has been open for 90 years.

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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
The Hierarchy of Trace Amounts: Griffes, Marabons, and Sangmelees
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Louisiana had a law on the books as recently as 1983 setting the boundary at “one-thirty-second Negro blood.” Louisiana culture went to great specificity, not so unlike the Indian Laws of Manu, in delineating the various subcastes, based on the estimated percentage of African “blood.” There was griffe (three-fourths black), marabon (five-eighths black), mulatto (one-half), quadroon (one-fourth), octaroon (one-eighth), sextaroon (one-sixteenth), demi-meamelouc (one-thirty-second), and sangmelee (one-sixty-fourth). The latter categories, as twenty-first-century genetic testing has now shown, would encompass millions of Americans now classified as Caucasian. All of these categories bear witness to a historic American, dominant-caste preoccupation with race and caste purity.

Compare and contrast this with the system in South Africa that oh so horrified Americans before apartheid broke down.
Quote:
This was a punitive model of racial superiority as opposed to the South African model, which rewarded those with any proximity to whiteness and created an official mid-caste of colored people as a buffer between black and white. South Africa granted privileges on a graded scale based on how much European blood was thought to be coursing through one’s veins, seeing “white” blood as a cleansing antiseptic to that of lowlier groups in the purity-pollution paradigm. Both were forms of white supremacy crafted to fit the demographics of each country. South Africa’s white minority had an incentive to grow its power and numbers by granting honorary whiteness to those deemed close enough. The white majority in the United States had no such incentive and, in fact, benefited by elevating itself and holding those fewer in number apart and beneath them to serve as their subordinates.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
The Trials of the Middle Castes: The Race to Get Under the White Tent
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By extending the dream of dominion over the land and all others in it to anyone who could meet the definition of white, the American caste system became an all-or-nothing gambit for the top rung. Which is why, when Ybor City, Florida, began segregating its streetcars in 1905, Cubans, who had been uncertain as to how they would be classified, were relieved and overjoyed “to discover that they were allowed to sit in the white section.”

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...an immigrant from the dominant caste of India sought to make common cause with his upper-caste counterparts in America when his application for citizenship made it to the Supreme Court. Bhagat Singh Thind argued that he was Caucasian, Aryan in fact, descended from the same stock as Europeans, given that it was widely held that Aryans migrated south to India and formed that country’s upper caste. It could be said that he had a more rightful claim to being Caucasian than the people judging him. After all, the Caucasus Mountains were next to Iran and closer to neighboring India than to western Europe. The Court did not agree and rejected Thind’s quest for citizenship in 1923. “It may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity,” wrote the Court, “but the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today.”

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A Japanese novelist once noted that, on paper anyway, it was a single apostrophe that stood between rejection and citizenship for a Japanese Ohara versus an Irish O’Hara.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
Quote:
...Drained-pool politics — if “they” can also have it, then no one can — helps explain why America still doesn’t have a truly universal health care system, a child care system, a decent social safety net.
Ezra Klein

It's a fascinating case. I think the "pollution" dynamics of caste are an example of the way symbolism works in practice. It is one of a number of psychological mechanisms that reinforce a caste system (Eight pillars? Okay) and, like some of the others, is based on what one might call motivated perception. What I mean by that is that there is no knowledge base behind it, but there is a vague sense that "disease" might be spread by contact. So when a person of the low castes is present to, or observable by, the dominant caste, any faults and dangers are likely to be noticed.

Having been set up by the "lore" of caste, these perceptions reinforce the sense of importance of avoidance. And so the most obnoxious and noticeable individuals tend to dominate the perceptions and interpretations of those benefiting from caste. So that means the privilege that goes with being in the dominant caste, the sense that what "we" have can be threatened, is an extra reinforcer, and a complex of dynamic systems converges.

Needless to say these may have had some relevance and reason in a world of poverty. It has been observed that the culture of the Greeks was built on slavery, and in a similar way the upper castes have, to some extent, preserved the values of "civilization" on the backs of the lower castes. Such values were self-reinforcing as a social order, but the need for them may have passed away without the perpetuaters of caste having taken notice, since much of the process was not linked through reason but blindly perpetuated because it seemed sensible.

I believe, as an economist, that we live in a positive-sum world ruled by zero-sum cultural constructions. The struggle for land and other key resources was the age-old determinant of power, and the importance of knowledge as a self-perpetuating generator of well-being went almost unnoticed until the 19th Century. So those who thought they understood the ways of power perpetuated ways of thinking that required contempt for outside groups in order to justify dominance over those groups.

And thus we have Archie Bunker and the Pool Drainers (probably will never catch on as the name for a rock band, but you never know). One question in my mind is what ways of thinking would pry this mindset away from its misguided attachment to privilege and help people learn to think win-win. In the Western states, where caste never had quite the hold on people that it does in the East and Midwest, those who didn't want to swim with people of color just didn't get to swim in public pools. And for those growing up with that mindset, their parents telling them that they couldn't swim in public pools would have seemed antiquated and bigoted, as they watched their friends invite people who were not so barbaric.

But if the culture is on the other side of the tipping point, is there a way to help Pool Drainers see that they are cutting off their nose to spite their face?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Harry Marks wrote:
It is one of a number of psychological mechanisms that reinforce a caste system (Eight pillars? Okay) and, like some of the others, is based on what one might call motivated perception. What I mean by that is that there is no knowledge base behind it, but there is a vague sense that "disease" might be spread by contact. So when a person of the low castes is present to, or observable by, the dominant caste, any faults and dangers are likely to be noticed.


Wilkerson's pillars are interesting in a pedantic sort of way. They describe what a caste looks like, but perhaps don't do much to illuminate the psychological motivations behind them—these powerful mostly subconscious feelings involved in creating (and maintaining) a caste system. Harry is right that there's no empirical knowledge base to support the idea that blacks in swimming pools pose some kind of pollution danger. It's sheer lunacy and yet not obvious to those living in such a system. It's easier to wonder about India's caste system and how people can justify the requirement for undercastes to walk so many steps behind an uppercase.

In particular, Wilkerson's fourth pillar—purity/pollution is familiar to us who read Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind. One of Haidt's moral foundations is Sanctity/Degradation, which is shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. We tend to think of disgust as an emotion, apart from reason, but I believe Haidt would argue that disgust is more of an intuition that happens mostly beneath the surface. The elephant responds to such intuitions, making it difficult for our drivers, no matter how enlightened they are. That metaphor applies to an individual, but I suppose it can be used to describe society as well.

So much of what Harry says in the preceding post makes a lot of sense in that respect. It may seem elitist or arrogant to suppose that some of us are "woke" enough to see that America does have a caste, even if it's racist understructure is well hidden. And that some of us may be more attuned to the wrongness of racial attitudes that allow this caste to persist. Maybe all it takes to convince the Pool Drainers is to encourage an open mind and a willingness to see what is right in front of us. I know for me, reading Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crowe was a real eye-opener.

There was a news story in the NYTimes recently about the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany and other places in Europe. This is the same old problem, recurring again and again in our history, just like those toxins in the permafrost alluded to in the first chapter.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Defining Purity and the Constancy of the Bottom Rung
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As the middle castes pressed for admittance to the rungs above them, what was consistent was the absolute exclusion of the “polluting” lowest caste. African-Americans were not just not citizens, they were, like their Dalit counterparts in India, forced outside the social contract.

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Throughout the United States, sundown laws forbade them from being seen in white towns and neighborhoods after sunset, or risk assault or lynching.
p. 128

James Loewen has investigated sundown towns extensively. You can check out his book and data base here.
https://sundown.tougaloo.edu/sundowntowns.php

BookTalk discussed Loewen's book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
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Untouchables were not allowed inside Hindu temples, and black Mormons in America, by way of example, were not allowed inside the temples of the religion they followed and could not become priests until 1978. ... To this day, Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour in America.

Quote:
An African-American man who managed to become an architect during the nineteenth century had to train himself “to read architectural blueprints upside down,” wrote the scholar Charles W. Mills, “because he knew white clients would be made uncomfortable by having him on the same side of the desk as themselves.”

There is some flexibility with upper and middle castes, but not the lowest or out-caste.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
geo wrote:
In particular, Wilkerson's fourth pillar—purity/pollution is familiar to us who read Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind. One of Haidt's moral foundations is Sanctity/Degradation, which is shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. We tend to think of disgust as an emotion, apart from reason, but I believe Haidt would argue that disgust is more of an intuition that happens mostly beneath the surface. The elephant responds to such intuitions, making it difficult for our drivers, no matter how enlightened they are. That metaphor applies to an individual, but I suppose it can be used to describe society as well.

I thought of Haidt, too, geo. I recalled that it was in India that he first understood that the palette of morality could be more diverse in other cultures than in our WEIRD example of culture. Many things were moralized in India that we in America don't consider matters of morality at all, along the lines of purity and divinity. I went back to check, and Haidt doesn't specifically mention caste in India. He does emphasize the subordinate role of women and of course servants, which to an extent he came to accept. Why? Because, he says, he liked the people who hosted him, so his elephant naturally leaned toward favoring their customs. He could see, also, that the Indian social system created community for Indians in a way he feels is impossible in cultures whose focus is individual autonomy. Now it's official government policy to loosen the hold of the caste system, but it's understandable, in a human-nature sort of way, that Indians might still feel that their society had cohesion that Westernization might threaten. When we talk about caste, whether in India or in other places, is it all about power, or are there other human drives that figure in? That there might be doesn't mean that such systems are to be excused. For example, an American could use the social-cohesion reason to excuse the ways things were in the old days--"We treated our blacks well and everybody got along"--but mostly we're not buying that now.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
DWill wrote:
. . . an American could use the social-cohesion reason to excuse the ways things were in the old days--"We treated our blacks well and everybody got along"--but mostly we're not buying that now.

I'm reminded of Ursula leGuin's story, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. In the story, Omelas is a utopian city, where everybody seems happy. But the ugly truth is that the city's prosperity depends on the perpetual misery of a single child, locked in squalor in a dungeon beneath the city. Those who learn the truth are horrified, of course, but most get used to the idea that a scapegoat is needed, that the happiness of the many outweighs the needs of the one. It's easy to look away.

Apparently the story is based on a thought experiment by William James.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ones_ ... rom_Omelas

On a bright note, it does seem that many Americans are willing to confront our ugly history. I like to think we are slowly reaching critical mass. As Harry said earlier, the notion that we need a bottom rung is highly questionable. Who wants to live in a society where some of its citizens are arbitrarily treated unkindly anyway?


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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
Geo wrote:
On a bright note, it does seem that many Americans are willing to confront our ugly history. I like to think we are slowly reaching critical mass. As Harry said earlier, the notion that we need a bottom rung is highly questionable. Who wants to live in a society where some of its citizens are arbitrarily treated unkindly anyway?

Well I hope you are correct, but hang on and be aware an upcoming chapter in this book is titled "Backlash." :shock:



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Post Re: Caste: Part 3 - The Eight Pillars of Caste
PILLAR NUMBER FIVE
Occupational Hierarchy: The Jatis and the Mudsill

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When a house is being built, the single most important piece of the framework is the first wood beam hammered into place to anchor the foundation. That piece is called the mudsill, the sill plate that runs along the base of a house and bears the weight of the entire structure above it. The studs and subfloors, the ceilings and windows, the doors and roofing, all the components that make it a house, are built on top of the mudsill. In a caste system, the mudsill is the bottom caste that everything else rests upon.

Quote:
Therein, he identified the economic purpose of a hierarchy to begin with, that is, to ensure that the tasks necessary for a society to function get handled whether or not people wish to do them, in this case, by being born to the disfavored sill plate.

In the Indian caste system, an infinitely more elaborate hierarchy, the subcaste, or jati, to which a person was born established the occupation their family fulfilled, from cleaners of latrines to priests in the temples. Those born to families who collected refuse or tanned the hides of animals or handled the dead were seen as the most polluted and lowest in the hierarchy, untouchable due to the dreaded and thankless though necessary task they were presumably born to fulfill.

Quote:
In 1890, “85 percent of black men and 96 percent of black women were employed in just two occupational categories,” wrote the sociologist Stephen Steinberg, “agriculture and domestic or personal service.”

What long term effects on a culture result from being relegated to the lowest career rungs for many generations?



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