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Andhra: The Baahubali State

As if Mahakal himself had decided to suddenly anoint Andhra cinema with national (and international renown) back-to-back, we follow up our article on Phalke Award winner K.Viswanath garu with an article on the topic of the hour: Baahubali 2.

At first glance, some may groan saying “yet another Baahubali 2 review”. But this is no review.

Many may balk at this title for many reasons. They may say that Baahubali originally refers to Gomatesvara in Karnataka. Be that as it may, for the foreseeable future the name will mean the Baahubali of Amarendra and Mahendra, not of Rishabhadeva.

Others may say that Baahubali belongs to all Telugus. True, but by that token it also now belongs to all Indians. Further, the word Andhra doesn’t just refer to new Andhra Pradesh state, but also old Andhra desa, and by association, the old undivided State of Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, Telanganites need not fear. Unless you consider urdu your state language and mother tongue, and shamefully idolise turk aristocracy (like this jester) rather than native Telugus , the Andhra-Telugu-Telugu States association will remain.

Finally, many of you may ask why this title at all. After all, a dime a dozen Baahubali 2 reviews have already been written (some ripping off in part or whole our Baahubali 1 review from 2015 ). In addition, why should discussion revert to that of only Andhra and Telugus at the very moment all of India (and a good chunk of the World given box office collections) is agog in Baahubali-mania? But it is in fact this precise reason that we must talk about this now.  Long time readers would recall our article about how to Rebrand Andhra. This is the ideal point in time to rebrand our state in earnest.

From lead actors, to producers, to composers, to the man of the hour (the director himself), this was an Andhra movie. Yes, it featured talent from South India (as well as honorary South Indian, and real life Sindhi Tamannah Bhatia), yes the cinematographer Senthil did a splendid job. But this was an Andhra project from its very conception by K.V.Vijayendra Prasad (father of director S.S. Rajamouli). The composer Keeravani is also a Telugu, and even Ramya Krishna married to a Telugu. That is why it’s important to acknowledge BB2 as an Andhra production as well as a presentation of Indic culture.

This is India’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Image result for crouching tiger hidden dragon

True, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was more poetry than popcorn. Yes, it managed to preserve an art house mystique that from the tone and mood, the saga of Sivagami clearly was not interested in. Sure, Baahubali is more Lord of the Rings than Hero. But as usual, our nitpickers and pedantic pseudo-pundits miss the point. Baahubali is the vehicle for Indian Culture that Crouching Tiger was for Chinese culture.

Like many of you, I too had many Punjabi friends growing up (and still have many), and respect their culture and admire them for their ability to keep the Punjabi brand trendy and accessible. And yet, despite the declaration of the Punjabification of India, the South has risen again. Rather than Punjabi-led (and Pak-jabi purchased) Bollywood, it is Andhra’s Tollywood that has produced a Pan-India movie with global appeal. Those of you old enough to remember Chinese hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon from 17 years ago, would remember how after a long lull since the days of Bruce Lee, the Culture of China became trendy again in the West and the rest. It was the first true introduction of mass China cinema to the American masses (By the Chinese, for the World). Baahubali 2 also managed to achieve this balance of high culture for the masses. True, CTHD was more restrained in both special effects and acting while Baahubali was more in the mould of that typical Telugu taste for the scientifically impossible.

But then again, what better represents the Indian character than that? Why did this film strike a chord even with countries featuring our mortal enemies? It’s because rather than looking down upon the masses and their taste for the physics defying, it takes them in like Amarendra took in his subjects and brings them along for his ride and reign.

Why are Telugu films so logic-defying in their heroes’ action (and Chiranjeevi’s films so age-defying in their ammudu-kummudu romances)? It’s because the average Telugu not only imagines his way to victory but emotes his way through life. Of course the coconut trees could double for catapults and trebuchets, the fan emotionally connects with the hero so much, his hero must have done that!

Satyajit Ray gave an introduction  for Indian Cinema to perfumed audiences, but Baahubali is the Brand that represents Indian culture (and Andhra’s in particular) on a grand cinematic scale. For those seeking to characterise Indian culture like this or like that, all one need do is show one clip of Devasena or Sivagami to understand how real Indian culture treats women—like Divine Shaktis. Indeed, it has a lesson on how to behave for not only Modern Girls, but also Modern Boys. It also has a lesson for future filmmakers & lyricists on writing real Romance with better Romantic dialogues than the current college cliche crop.

Ang Lee’s epic, and Ang Lee himself, have gone on to achieve a place in Global Cinema that Rajamouli’s epic, and Rajamouli himself, will soon come within grasp of. Whether it and he achieve it is contingent upon whether they not only stay true to telling our stories, but also stay true to themselves.

Nitpickers again will assert that Baahubali won’t sweep into the Oscar’s like CTHD or even get the same US Collections, but it need not. The simple fact that it placed 1st on Thursday night at the US Box office and finished a close 3rd for the weekend (and ahead of a Tom Hanks movie), only goes to show how much of a splash it made without the US mass advertising that Crouching Tiger had. Moreover, it also sheds spotlight on the irony of Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone trading in her star status for a bit part in the Fast and the Furious Franchise while fellow Kannadiga Anushka Shetty played the lead actress in an Indian movie that also finished in the US Box Office top 3. Self-respect should be non-negotiable. If you have to pick Anushka, better Shetty than Sharma.

Is Baahubali “a mania”?—perhaps. But those whining about it are obviously manic (depressives) and certainly certifiable. So rather than carp and cavil about them, brush the dirt off your shoulder and enjoy the songs instead.

Mahishmati Odyssey from Madhya Pradesh to Andhra

Why was this story about Mahishmati Samrajyam (in modern Madhya Pradesh) and Kunthala rajya (in Karnataka), a Telugu story at all? Well, one need only start with the Palnati Veera Charitra. That epic by Kavi Sarvabhauma Srinatha has not for nothing, been dubbed the Andhra Kurukshetra. The Kalachuris were an intrinsic part of this epic, and through them, the Mahishmati/Haihaya connection to Andhra even more obvious. And for the self-proclaimed history savants, there was even a Bijjala deva ruler among the Kalyani Kalachuris, and Kalachuri Gangeyadeva was one of the commanders in the expeditions of Indic kings against the Ghaznavids.  In any event, Mahishmati through the PVC has a natural place in the Andhra psyche for our own reason.

Should a remake of this movie be done? Can any actor ever feel the shoes of Naata-Nayaka NTR? Maybe, maybe not. But ultimately, the answer will hinge on aesthetics.

Aesthetics

For the paint-by-numbers pedants, criticism always devolves to a mere formula. They remind me of this scene from Dead Poets Society, writing textbooks which graphically analyse the effect of poetry.

Similarly, they ignore the obvious fact that aesthetics is not simply mere rasa. The full translation of aesthetics is rasalankara. That is, the beautiful presentation of sentiment. Baahubali succeeded at veera rasa  for the very reason Manam succeeded at vatsalya: They both had resonance. Contrary to purists asserting aesthetics is mere rasa—to simply reduce this vast concept of aesthetics to only sentiment does injustice to both Bharata muni (author of the original 8 rasas) as well as Anandavardhana and his Dhvanyaloka: Dhvani is resonance, and is considered by many to be the most important consideration for excellent literature, and by extension, excellent cinema. Rasa is generated not only by bhavas and vibhavas, but is made effective by dhvani. If something has resonance, it captures our attention and even imagination.

Like the lifeless beauty of the princess of Pataliputra, paint-by-numbers pedants are flawed in their conception of life and literature. It does not matter if on-paper rasa is easily identifiable, or even if the ancillary bhavas create the necessary rasa, the key question is whether they resonate with artist and audience alike. That is the true test of the power of Art. Why can the same person enjoy both Citizen Kane and Rocky IV? Why is it that individuals can be fans of both Toshiro Mifune and Brahmanandam? It is because these all resonate, albeit in different ways.

As for the question of Saastriya (the true definition of classicism): the issue is not whether the director of Baahubali is steeped in Dhvanyaloka or Kavya-mimamsa or Natya Sastra. The issue is the letter of the law versus the spirit of the culture. Much like the same band of murkhapanditas who believe “beef in vedas” based on questionable interpretation of sastra, paint-by-numbers pedantic pundits can’t move an inch or write a letter without the letter of law guiding them. That is the importance of studying not only the letter of the law but the spirit behind it, whether in Natya or in Dharma.

Perhaps rather than paint-by-numbers, connect-the-dots would be more their speed.

Further, merely repeating the same old themes and stories is not a true sign of creativity. What sets Rajamouli (and Vijayendra Prasad) apart, is that they took inspiration from our Itihaasa-Purana and created something new. Some of the self-same nitpicking critics have attempted to fault the Koduri clan for historical ambiguity. Others have have made comparisons to Maya Bazaar calling them both mythology. But Baahubali’s genre is historical fantasy. In contrast, Maya Bazaar is a putative presentation of Purana.

Purana after all is Divine in conception. And the Vedas themselves, as we know, are apaurusheya. This is the danger of having nastika charvakas, cacophonous casteists, and avowed atheists anoint themselves as acharyas—they refuse to acknowledge that the authors of these divine texts and canons are in fact merely recipients. Mahadev is the author, we are just his keyboards. Srisaila Sri Rajamouli on the other hand, is divinely inspired, and authored these films in honour of Mahadev.

The effects of the two films (Maya Bazaar and Baahubali) may be similar (connected with elite and mass audiences alike, created interest in our epic heritage and ancient history), but their immediate purposes are different. Further attempts to undercut Rajamouli through forced comparisons with K.Viswanath are also maladroit malevolence by malevolents. K.Viswanath gaaru was bringing high culture in the form of art cinema to the masses. There is an element of realism in his films. In contrast, Rajamouli is elevating mass cinema to the heights of high culture. Unless you honestly believe that Baahubali was flying a swan ship in the air, it’s quite clear many pedantic poseurs fail in basic analogies.

It is inapposite to seek out such juxtapositions. Baahubali is not Saahityam, as it is clearly Chalanachitram. But if it has to fit into a literary genre, it is neither Itihaasa-Purana nor Kavya. It is in fact Katha—specifically Nidarsana Katha. Like the Panchatantra it gives stories for the edification and entertainment of viewers. Was there actually a blue jackal? Did the kingdom of crows fight a war with the kingdom of owls? Did four murkhapanditas manage to return a lion to life? The point of nidarsana katha is not whether it stretches credulity (even within certain super-natural assumptions), rather, it is about educating and elevating audiences about topics relevant to life, especially life lived wisely.

Baahubali provided us with examples (the core purpose of nidarsana katha) from which to examine our own lives (Dharma vs Bandhutva, Love vs Duty, Duty vs Law) and gave us figures, most of whom were flawed, but all of whom aspired to some archetype and ended up exemplifying it.  Baahubali is neither Itihaasa-Purana nor Mahakavya nor even Kaavya for that matter—how could it be? But inapposite and inapropos comparisons are appropriate for those who live secret lives of the inappropriate.

What Andhra (and India) now needs are Brand Ambassadors who have actually proven through action  how to revive and reimagine the Samskruthi of Andhra & Bharatavarsha.

Andhra Brand  Ambassadors

Rajamouli, Prabhas, and Rana will be Brand Ambassadors for Andhra for the foreseeable future. Indeed, any neta worth his salt will absolutely deploy these great talents. Rana for his Pan-India glamour, Prabhas for his compelling screen presence and everyman likeability, and Rajamouli for his consistently proven ability to conceive grand visions and implement them on record-breaking scale. Unlike a certain phony “Hollywood-returned” actress who pretends she can’t speak Telugu, all three Tollywood talents are proud speakers of their mother tongue. Indeed, one of the reasons why this film succeeded so well is because it didn’t just feature models who were dubbed (to Tamannah’s credit she was one of the first North actresses to learn Telugu, and neighbouring state Anushka is a natural). As we discussed in the aesthetics section, this is the precise point in time when non-Telugus are taking interest in our maathru bhasha, so Telugus must properly present it. This leads to the next point:

We Are All Andhra Brand Ambassadors Now

Yes, that’s right. Time to spit out that half-chewed pesarattu, wipe your mouth, tuck in your shirt, stand up straight, and start behaving like you represent a language group with a proud cultural and imperial history. Upgrade your tastes, improve your etiquette and manners, and be excellent cultural guides to our Indian brothers and sisters now taking an interest in the Telugu states and their official language.

We have come a long way from the triumphal declarations of “the Punjabification of India”, and “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. Andhra’s hour is here, and it’s time we got our act together for the big show. Our Tamilian brothers, God bless ‘em, have long managed to convince every Bharatiya north of the Vindhya that only Tamizh was spoken “in Dravidian states”.  Despite the boorish CNN18 anchor’s attempt to claim Baahubali for the Land of Temples & Bharatanatyam, this is an Andhra production and must be asserted as such. But at the same time, trading insults with them and others, or mocking others making a genuine attempt to learn and respect, is not the way to represent your Telugu Thalli. So here are a few pointers on how to ditch your gabbar singh handbook on etiquette and embrace your inner Amarendra (or Devasena).

1.Be gracious, but keep your self-respect. When people take an interest in showing respect to your culture & language, show good upbringing by being respectful. No, you don’t need to fall all over yourself to return praise in unseemly hyperbole. Just return the compliment proportionately and ask them if they need any help learning the language or have questions about the culture.

2.Learn about your Culture! If you were ever wondering why we invested so much time in a site on Andhra culture, now you know why it’s useful, at least  in one scenario. Do you want to be embarrassed at your own ignorance of heritage when your friends from the North finally stop asking what the difference is between Telugu and Tamil? Take the time to read not only our blog posts but our pages,  on Culture and Science and other Topics. Learn now so you don’t look foolish later.

3.Stop being caste crabs. It’s fine to take a small measure of pride in one’s heritage, family, and jati, but come on guys, it’s starting to get ridiculous. I won’t even dignify that Telugu Whatsapp forward that was doing the rounds on twitter trying to bring down Baahubali—but give me a break. Know when to put aside your competition and to show some class by letting someone else enjoy the spotlight in representing our state. There is plenty of blame to go around on the casteism front (UC, OBC, BC, SC, and Hi-C). Show some class, and represent your state with some respectability.

Don’t complain—up your game and treat it as a challenge to show your talent, rather than bring out the worst of your boorishness. Know when to slide out of your caste identity and slide into your Andhra identity, or more importantly the even greater Indian identity, rather than waking up and going to bed with the name of your caste on your lips. Look at it as a high standard to live up to, rather than a mythos that you must prevent reality from popping.

4.Clean up your act! Yes, everyone wants to have fun, and we all need to let loose some times. Sure, you have “worked hard to get job in phoreign”, but the time has come for Andhras to start showing they are serious people. You are not a five year old anymore—so stop dressing, looking, and behaving like one. If you can’t think beyond your caste, you can’t bring up your state to greater heights. If Punjabis, and Bengalis, and Gujaratis have all succeeded to varying degrees for as long as they have, it is because they could think of the common interest.

True, there have been double-edged swords to all of these, all of which will be discussed at a later time, but it’s also important to appreciate what others have done well. Punjabis represented themselves very well and in aesthetically pleasing ways for many years. Bengalis single-handedly managed to appropriate the entire state of Odisha and its cultural heritage into their mythos. And Gujaratis garba-raas’d their way into our hearts and into the PM gaadi. Instead of looking like village rustics, all of them made it a point (to varying degrees of success) to establish themselves and their states as an upscale brand. It is time we did the same.

Instead of waxing poetic over the myriad virtues (“let me count the ways”)  of the Andhra mess dining concept, upgrade your thinking and tastes and start understanding the need to establish Andhra as an haute cuisine. If Madhur Jaffrey could find a way to market irredeemably dessicate Gujarati food as ‘haute vegetarian”, surely given our equity, there’s plenty more we can do with ours. Ditch the biryani and haleem , and bring out the best pulaos and kooras our region has to offer. Enough “vahrevah”. Time for the “ati uttam”. To create new classics, take inspiration from the old ones.

Conclusion

There has been a lot of noise on the topic of Baahubali 2, most of which masqueraded as separating the signal from the noise. Perhaps the most signal mediocrity came in the form of this article, which touched on two aspects which had not been explored to date.

Point 1 is the most obvious and laughable. This is the thesis about how Baahubali is detrimental to cinema because it embodies and promotes “feudal” values. Yet the self-same cognitive defective who compiled this pointed to Lord of the Rings (LOTR) as an example of good fantasy cinema. Our vidusaka-samalochaka apparently didn’t have the basic knowledge or logic to realize that LOTR literally had 1 movie in the Series called “Return of the King”. This is what happens with suited simulacra, whether it is from the left or the right—only foreign feudalism is to be feted, not native Kshatriyas who have their people’s interests at heart. Rai Bahadurs and Gunga Dins on the other hand have no problem doing paimenbos to the pardesi. It is why they are forever searching for connections to outside royalty to serve as courtiers to and legitimize it with asinine, vedavirodhaka theories like AIT.

The second point is more relevant to our Telugu states in particular. It underscores the general fear that anti-India types have to Telugu unity, and even the Andhra name. As we have asserted elsewhere, there should be no place for separatist sedition among the scions of the Satavahanas, yet at the same time, why the great fear for a little trans-Telugu states pride? Why has even the Andhra word (which in fact represents all Telugus, not just those from the Coast) been so vilified?

 It is because Andhra has historically been a bulwark of Dharma. From the Satavahanas to the Kakatiyas to the Musunuri Nayaks to the Reddi Rajas to even the Vijayanagara Empire and the Polygars—Andhra’s contribution from all castes to fighting foreign invasion is undeniable. What has made it all the more potent has been the general decentralised Dharma which it has practiced, which empowered not only clergy/royalty/mercantile elite, but even the lower aristocracy (gentry) and masses alike. It is this power of popular religion, which has given everyone, even the masses a stake.

 Art house high culture cinema can be cordoned off and contained—but what happens when mass cinema aspires to high culture?—that is the real danger for desh drohis. It is this paradigm that has made Andhra, Andhra culture, and Andhra cinema most potent. When even non-Telugus (North or South) have looked to united Andhra as a beacon of Indic Civilizational revival, desh drohis are doubling down on their Andhra hate—only this time the truth tumbled out. Telugu unity is the great fear, not only for neo-nizam nitwits, but breaking India brigadiers as well. Left wing movements misguide masses and exploit them while Right wing movements have contempt for them—it is only a truly decentralised Dharma paksha that causes poco-pomo popinjays to soil their pj’s. And that is why the united Andhra culture (across the Telugu states) causes such trepidation. After all you, heard the fear not from here, but out of the mouth of babes:

No movie represented the power of popular, participatory religion (rather than cloistered ritualism) than Baahubali. Only the difference between Andhra and The Chindu’s TN or Bahubali and what passes for “haute culture” in the sepoy brigades is that Bahubali doesn’t reject the priesthood, but only puts it in its proper place. While bollywood berates Brahmins and kollywood militates against them, tollywood has been at harmony with brahmins (with rare exception). Dharma destroys Dronas and Duryodhanas alike. This is the danger of casteism, whether from upper caste or lower caste.

The innocent Brahmin just trying to make his way in the world is caught between this vice of inveterate caste hatred from others or indecent eugenics obsession from within. Baahubali 1 and 2 represent a 3rd way and we see Brahmins neither sidelined nor self-aggrandising —but merely permitted to play their traditional role not only as priests but as keepers of knowledge, advisers of aristocrats, and preservers of truth.

DMK thugs see near constant power politics and neo-Dronas exploit them—it is neither foreign philosophy nor foreign-concocted Aryan Invasion Theory, but Dharma itself which is the true protection for Brahmin and non-Brahmin alike.

Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha.

That all this was conceived, promoted, and produced by a pro-Hindu, but non-brahmin community praising the virtues of another varna known as kshatriya is what made this movie and this Andhra Aikya Alochana so dangerous to the drohis of Bharata Desa. That is the power of popular religion—everyone has an active stake. That is the power of Baahubali, all castes, classes, and communities are brought along for the ride. And that is why united Andhra is the Baahubali state.

Is Baahubali a permanent characterisation? No—think of it as a temporary marketing campaign to improve Andhra’s image. Are we planning on ditching our previously planned marketing plan for AP?—No. Andhra is still the land of Satavahana Emperors, Rani Rudhrama Devi, Musunuri Nayaks, Prolaya Vema ReddiAnnamacharya, Tenali Ramakrishna, Krishna Deva Raya (yes, Kannadigas and Tulus we have a claim), Thyagaraja, Pingali Venkayya, NT Rama Rao and many, many more…

…But Baahubali is the masthead for Andhra for the foreseeable future.

So next time someone asks you which state you’re from, tell them Andhra: The Baahubali State.

Jai Mahishmati!

Jai Amaravati!

 

Gautamiputra Film & Video

SatakarniPoster

By now, most of you know about the fantastic new film by Krish on Gautamiputra Satakarni. Starring Balayya himself, and set to release in 2017, it promises to be an outstanding follow up to our current stretch of Telugu Historical & Fantasy Blockbusters.

While Magadheera was first to the mark, it is Baahubali that inaugurated the current run, with a solid follow up in Rudhramadevi. Of course, Kanche too is in the same league, though it was more modern history and less sandals & swords.

But Gautamiputra Satakarni promises all that and so much more. Without a doubt, the greatest ruler among the Ancient Andhras, he was an Emperor par Excellence, Defender of Dharma, and destroyer of the Sakas (Scythians) and Pahlavas (Parthians). With his rule stretching as far East as Pataliputra and well into Rajasthan in the North, he was the greatest Indian ruler of his era.

And yet, there has been so little written or filmed about him…til now. It may be a long wait for the NBK blockbuster, but an NRI and proud Andhraite has painstakingly put together a lovely movie based on the popular history behind the Satavahanas.

The talented Bhavani Chowdhary gaaru has filmed and edited a nice video summarising the Satavahana king for the mamidi manishi. 

source: http://bhavanichowdhary33.blogspot.com

Here is the inspiration behind it in her own words:

Video is made to catch attention of many lay readers (as a blogger I know how difficult is that ) thanks to the curiosity due to NBK film. It was painful to see many scoops, teasers, versions around but none with historical facts. Wondering and failing to fit this in a blog of  less than 700 words, I attempted to do a small clip using picasa.
It consumed 4 days from story, script, cinematography, background music, editing and all…thanks to Moviemaker that made a simple blogger—a movie maker…Music and editing was THE painful part.
It was made for an all-India audience, as Gautamiputra was Emperor of 4 states at that time. I am an NRI ,but heart & soul with my Motherland.

She also recently published a slideshow based on it over at Speaking Tree. You can  read her original post and follow her on her personal blog.

Enjoy the video and let us and her know what you think below!


Disclaimer: This video represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

The Cultural Resonance of Baahubali

Baahubali

The scores are in, the box office has reported, and the people have spoken: Baahubali-The Beginning is a box office behemoth. S.S. Rajamouli’s smash hit is truly a magnum opus that has swept all of India, South and North of the Vindhya. Indeed, much ink has already marked the proverbial paper, and a number of columns, cookie cutter top tens, and well-penned essays have made their mark. What’s more, long derided regional Telugu cinema is no longer seen as merely a source for remakes, but as even foreigners note, is a source of jealousy for Bollywood insiders. As Krishnarjun gaaru has written, the industry itself has the potential to go back to its golden age 3-5 decades ago, with classics such as Maya Bazaar and Missamma.

Nevertheless, while ACP typically analyzes movies long after the glitz and glamour of a premiere has passed, there is something special about this film that has come to underscore the present zeitgeist. As such, this post is not our standard cinematic analysis, or a fine study of symbology, or even a well-crafted commentary on the industry’s future. Rather it is about understanding the cultural resonance of Baahubali and why it’s relevant and indeed a revelation at this place and at this time. We have sought to do this with ** No Spoilers** for those of you who have yet to see it.

First, a Rejoinder

Despite all the acclaim— not only in the Telugu rashtras or even just Bharata desa, but also globally—sour grapes from the standard set has been increasing from dribble to a deluge. The bitter wine they swill is in the hopes of poisoning the popular opinion. As such, a rejoinder is in order.

Almost two weeks in, the knives are now out courtesy the usual suspects: “Idea of India” indoctrinues (copyright pending for portmanteau), Dubai-gang ghulams of bollywood, and assorted sordid-sickulars of all sorts are now slashing at this movie, after a proverbial puissant punch to the solar plexus. Gasping for breath, these pill-popping, phillim-hopping philistines have the gall to tear down this movie by hook or by crook. The “un-original” charges (Tarzan this, Lord of the Rings that) are particularly asinine, especially coming from bollywood. After all, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay drew from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, which drew from John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, which ultimately drew from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. It’s invariable that inspiration here and there may come from different sources–the question is breathing new life, new vision, and new context into them, and weaving them into a unique piece. Baahubali has accomplished this to the shame of Bollywood.

As these intellectual imps impotently shriek and wailed “animal film!”, “symbolic molestation!”, “misogyny!”, they tried every trick in the book, first saying they “don’t review south movies”—but hey check out this no name flick from our sworn enemy), then they ridiculed looks  or even the very idea of a big hit “from south”, finally they began throwing mud through specious Freudian analyses and crackpot conclusions about tribal relations. In short:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Setting aside their ignorance about the Kalakeyas in the Mahabharata (yet another example of what happens when you don’t know your own epics), the question isn’t whether Bharatvarsha, the land of Rama’s friend Guha, Pratap’s friends among the Bhils, or Rani Durgavati’s own in-laws, treated its tribals well, but what happened to the tribes of Europe? Bharat respected the tribal way of life, and even saw its merits by encouraging vana prastha (forest life) for retired kings and other elites.

In any event, the body blow from Baahubali had left them in a week-long stupor that they are only now gurgling back from. Left with little other than Bajrangi Bhaijan to salve their wounds, they have united around this flick touting everything from “sentiment & emotion!” to “profitability” (a.k.a. the Sonam Kapoor defence)—poor dears. And yet, why this movie and why such mendacity? After all, Magadheera showed a native Bharatiya kingdom in a complimentary fashion. It too balanced CGI and Story with dramatic action and theatric performances. Those who point to a display of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) in positive light, forget the Kala Bhairava Statue that served as the sentinel of cinematic climax. No, the reason why Bahubaali-The Beginning, this movie, at this time, has stirred up a hornet’s nest of hate, is because it is true cinematic splendour celebrating Dharma.

Despite the laughable claims about Bajrangi Bhaijan touting an emotive ideal, while Baahubali did not, it’s quite clear that this movie was refulgent with an ideal. Dharma, in all its myriad forms, in all its numerous nuances, is immanent throughout this Sistine chapel in celluloid. And unlike that metaphor, the fact that Rajamouli’s Masterpiece drew on native Indic forms (architecture harkens to Angkor, Amaravati, and Avanti) , native Indic fashion (Tamannah’s transformative couture is more the ancient standard), Indic names (Avantika, Baahubali), Indic Sacred History (Rishabhadeva’s sons are an overarching influence), and Indic Geography (Mahismati was the capital of Kartaveerya Arjuna), only roiled our stealth regressive royyalu (that’s Telugu for “shrimp”, btw) further. That it was able to do this by bringing Bharatiyas of all panths (religions) in to enjoy the ride and make them feel a part of the experience, was the last straw.

Dharmic Culture

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In a way, it’s almost poetic that a movie so redolent in Dharma Culture was distributed and promoted by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions. Though obviously written, produced, directed, and lead acted by Telugus, this multi-starrer provided a tale and experience to which all Bharatiyas could relate.

We saw a dharmic society in action. From artistry and architecture to the traditional sastras and functioning of statecraft, it was an image of an India that once was. True, it was balanced by elements of fantasy and drew directly from the Puranas, via the Kalakeyas. But we also a saw a version of how our ancestors lived and the principles that drove them: patriotism, loyalty, self-sacrifice, motherhood, love, and above all Dharma.

What’s more, it was an image of not just how the elites might have lived, but the commoners as well.  We see how villagers and elites coexisted honorably. Albeit underneath a fantastic and fantastical waterfall, it was a portrait nonetheless of the idylls of rural and even forest life. It too was replete with Dharma–not the philosophical or intellectual dharma,but the everyday dharma, the common dharma. Society may have different classes, but if the elites behave properly and with humility and a sense of social duty, then society is at harmony. The Brahmanas we see on film present a living memory of such great yet humble men.

In a snub to faux animal welfare activists (who think eating fish is inhumane, but are miraculously pro-beef), a version of Jallikattu is presented as a martial pass time. What’s more we even see an internal rebuttal regarding animal sacrifice. A Right hand Tantra riposte of the Left hand is given, demonstrating that Dharma offers alternatives internally to such practices in the name of Kulacara.

We see shakti in action, with numerous strong roles played by numerous women. Rather than mere chattel, our women, our queens , commanded respect, and Shakti balanced her counterpart. We see glimpses of love and even a version of Gandharva Vivaha, where lovers came together through choice. Rather than merely loving and leaving, it was union of souls. That it was indeed marriage was emblematic when the obligation of the girl also become the obligation of the boy. As such, more than anything else, it was duty, and in particular, Kshatriya duty, that truly made its mark on screen.

The Kshatriya Ideal

Magadheera was certainly a cinematic benchmark, but Baahubali is a cultural phenomenon.  The title role is not a common soldier, but a Kshatriya incarnate. As ‘The One with Strong Arms‘ he fights not only with his weapons and fists, but also with his wits. Indeed, we see that the true Kshatriya, the true King, is the one who protects his people and has their interests at heart. What’s more, this embodiment of Kshatriyata was not merely limited to men. We see a true Kshatrani in action, in conjunction with many strong and even warrior women. Ramya Krishnan alone deserves applause for her compelling and moving performance. In many ways it is she who presents the fulcrum of the film. Not only checking ambition within herself and her own family, she asserts that the true Kshatriya is not a usurper, but executes his duty to the ruling house loyally. Indeed, she provides a firm feminine rebuke to pig-headed male ambition.

The great Kshatriya vamsas of old not only had great power but expectations of great responsibility. The Kshatriya ideal of balancing education, training, statecraft, wealth, and power is the need of the hour. Rote-memorization and blind application of and training in the sastras will not win the Kurukshetra. It is for this reason that adhyatmic and laukik knowledge were separated. Adhyatmic vidya is verily the soul of our tradition. But due to the high minded principles it inspires, it requires protection from evil via laukika vidya.

Therefore, Kshatriyas were the natural leaders of society. They had an understanding of and respect for the adhyatmic principles, but the pragmatism to recognize the era of falsehoold that we live in, and the improvisation it requires. Hence, the true Kshatriya is not a hot-blooded, hot-head who loses his temper in blind anger, but is a strong willed defender of truth, by whatever means necessary. Varnashrama dharma certainly has degenerated in the past millennium into arrogant and brainless casteism from all ranks, and surely has its issues, but when properly conceived, it is one of balance. A society with an over-sized head, cannot be supported by the rest of its body. The true brahmanas of yore understood that as the teachers and philosophers of society, material living was not for them, and neither sought power nor wealth nor demanded sycophancy or undue influence. The true brahmana after all, is without ego. They also understood the limits of the brahmana varna, and as Parashurama corrected the imbalance of Kshatriyas crossing their limits, so too did Bhagavan Rama correct it with Ravana, and ironically, Parashurama himself.

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Rama punishes Parashurama for ahankar from merit

The traditional partnership of Kshatriyas and Brahmanas is today mired in predation or pretentiousness. Those who aspire to those ideals must remember that Maharishi Veda Vyasa’s own son, the brahmana Suka deva, completed his education under the Rajarishi Janaka. Thus, while Kshatriyas were the natural political leaders and brahmanas the natural spiritual leaders, both required elements of the other to properly conduct their duties.

Competence is not mere aptitude or ability. After all, potential energy exists even in still water. Competence is being good at what you do. Ability too has varying degrees, but competence means you have sufficient ability for the job—not merely on the basis of natural talent, or studies, or even training, but due to habit of improvisation and adaptation confirmed through practical experience.

The sastras afford us with guidance, but it is the job of the general, the job of the Raja to not only learn and understand knowledge, but apply and improvise it. This is not done in the gurukul or ashram, but on the battle map or field of battle. After all, the tactics used by Chhatrapati Shivaji were evolved by Maharana Pratap—who had no Samarth Ramdas.

Ranjit, Shivaji aur Pratap

Therefore, leadership in society requires balance. Of the spiritual with the practical, of the traditional with the necessary, of the brahmana with the kshatriya. That this movie was able to present the kshatriya spirit, the aristocratic ethos, without ridiculing Adarsh liberal’s favourite punching bag–Brahmins–is only fuel for the fire of indigestion they’ve been suffering since July 10th. That is what Baahubali presented–and oh so very artistically at that.

Artistic Highlights

From its waterfalls to its mountains to its maps, this film is pure artistic splendour. The cinematography is truly outstanding and world-beating, and all elements of cinema, from the visual and auditory to the dramatic and literary are in sound balance. A complete movie, it serves as a grand canvas for not only fantasy, but indeed, on-screen poetry.

One of the more interesting aspects wasn’t the research into our Puranas or even the dress and architecture of the ancients, but the subtle inclusion of our classical literature’s approach to drama. Though perhaps not noticeable to our non-Andhra friends, the dialogue features different forms of Telugu, based on orders of society–a practice commonly used by the ancients. Thus, we see literary forms of the language ( granthikam ), along with dialectal ( mandalikam ) and colloquial ( janapadam ).

We are also given a vision of fashion and femininity that is nevertheless strong and full of Shakti. Traditional designs are forms are presented in a manner that is sensuous but not titillating.

Sorry, no Salwar Kameez here

Even rati bhava is treated with delicacy in a restrained manner. The artificial is blended with the natural, rather than challenging it. It is not the conquest of nature by man, but the harmony of man and woman with nature.

In short, this movie is a marriage of tradition and tastefulness, form and function, masculine and feminine, elite and common, ancient and modern, art and technology.

Inflection point for the Industry?

Long time readers may recall our early pieces on the Telugu film industry (tollywood no longer) bemoaning the state of the sector. Ironically, one of them actually touched on film and kshatriyata. Rather than being merely seen as an object for derision, it has an opportunity again to rise to its early heights in the 50s and 60s. From kitsch, are we truly seeing a return to art? One hopes that the smashing success of the film will ensure at least a few movies that at least aspire to such a level, even if they do not scale such Himalayan heights. The upcoming release of Rudhramadevi affords an opportunity. Indeed, Baahubali served as an exquisite launch vehicle for Anushka Shetty to a national audience. Whether Gunasekhar is ultimately able to balance CGI with cinematic depth and action with taste, remains to be seen. We remain hopeful.

A Riposte to the “Idea of India” & The Breakthrough of Bharat

This movie was nothing short of a riposte to the ineluctable “Idea of India”–hence its resonance with all classes. This colossus of a success has shown that cheap laughs, titillation and tawdriness, and the apotheosis of all things non-native, no longer need be the way to box office success, or more importantly, cinema and culture.

Above all, was the sense of belonging to a common society that truly resonated. This wasn’t just a Telugu movie about Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, but an Indian movie about India. The India that once was. What’s more, rather than attempting to pass for Persians or Syrians, the lead actor looked like he might actually be one of them–Indians. Full credit to Prabhas for the physique he developed to give a vision of a royal hero that actually looked like the people. A reality underscored by his own real life pedigree. Rana brought the glamour, but the heart and soul of kingship was played by the first lead.

Indeed, our brothers and sisters in the North have long been deprived of cultural expression of native high culture courtesy Bollywood. They have been taught and even expected to see themselves as part of that spectrum rather than the subcontinent’s as a whole. This movie changed all that. Perhaps nothing emphasized that more when Katappa’s native Indic khadga smashed the prized Persian sword. This scene was fitting not only in an artistic rejoinder to the Idea of India brigade, but in an historical and technological one as well. The famed wootz steel (ukku) ingots of India were what made the finest blades of the era. Indeed, the historical Andhra desa was distinguished for its khandas, and made the Kakatiya kingdom all the more splendrous.

Make no mistake, this was an original movie. Ostensibly, the fairy tale jibes will lead to the obvious Lord of the Rings, Tolkien comparisons. After all, suited simulacra can never see anything beyond the western. But what these indoctrinated ingénues forget was that Tolkien himself drew on Norse and biblical mythology to create one for the English. S.S. Rajamouli had no such need. He was able to draw on the incredible fountain of Classical Indic Literature, with all its epics, sophistication, beauty, and nava rasas, and use his talent, vision, and entrepreneurial courage, to bring them to life and make them relevant to the times. So let the pop-psychologists, Freudian hacks, Lutyens insiders, foreign sympathisers, and serial slanderers run their ignorant mouths…We, the native public, the real public, know the real reason behind The Cultural Resonance of Baahubali.

Predictably ignorant of the native Literary canon, serial rudaali, PK pablum peddler, and apochryphal activist Aamir Khan is said to have remarked after watching Inceptionwe [Bollywood] can’t even think at that level [Hollywood]”. Perhaps Bollywood can’t think at that level, PK, but Bahubaali has shown that Bharatiyas– real Bharatiyas–certainly can.

 Jai Mahishmati!

References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/telugu-scholars-see-need-for-comprehensive-dictionary/article7121325.ece

Culture: The Cure for Stupidity

There is an old and ancient saying that  you can’t fix stupid or “you can’t cure stupidity”. We disagree.

Concluding our Series on Indian Stupidity, is our fifth and final  piece Culture: The Cure for Stupidity. It further investigates the consciousness and behaviours of the Indian people. While culture is partly about celebrating our heritage and traditions, it is also about understanding what we need to improve and even correct in a changing world.

Long time readers would have previously read Are We A Serious People, Indians are Talkers not Doers, Unrepentant Stupidity, and Origins of Indian Stupidity. Busy professionals and those of you reading on twitter would have seen our series of tweets on Self Improvement for Bharatiyas, which you can refer to now as a summary of our points on Indian Stupidity.

In our preceding Post, we identified the following as the elements of Indian Stupidity: Attention Deficit Disorder, Missing the Woods for the Trees, Rote Memorization, Status Obsession,Sentimentality, Sore-loserness, Inability to Shut up, Action vs Reaction, & Lack of Focus resulting from Loss of Culture.

This Post will focus on the last element, Culture.

What is Culture

Culture can mean many things to many people. To the average deracinated Indian or clueless foreigner for example, Indian culture means “caste, curry, cows” or at best, Bollywood.  To others it may mean only the arts, dress, festivals and rituals of a people. The textbook definition of culture however is as follows:

Culture or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

In fact, the literal Latin word means “cultivated” or refined, which incidentally, is the precise meaning of Sanskrit and Sanskriti. Refinement, not only in song and dance, or food and painting, but in thinking and above all, action. Indeed, the dictionary definition is:

the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action

Action. The very thing our modern Bharatiya bolna babus are infamous for being incapable of. This is because they have conflicting interests and motivations, rather than a common virtue, a common Dharma, a common culture. Naysayers may protest saying, “What do you mean they don’t have culture?! They know Ghalib and ghazals!“. But that is not the sum total of culture nor even the culture of the entire Civilization.

Arts are the Alankara (ornament) of culture, not culture itself. They provide medium for the expression of timeless values that give meaning to life. It is not restricted to a panth (religion), but transcends it, and connects relative with relative, neighbour with neighbour, and Bharatiya to Bharatiya. It is for this reason we have stressed Bharatiya dharma, as dharma transcends religion. Your religion is your own business, but praja dharma (the dharma of citizens) is common to all.

Why it is the Cure

Introduction_to_clinical_cultural_competence

Culture teaches behaviour, Culture teach etiquette, Culture teaches good conduct, Culture teaches history, Culture teaches classics, and above all, Culture teaches Wisdom. And as has been taught since the time of the ancients, Knowledge is Not Wisdom.

Because our Dharmic culture, our Bharatiya Sanskriti, teaches these things, it counters stupidity by providing a reference point for the very ability of judgment stupid people lack. As the stupid person has a deficiency in judgment, culture instills in him or her the compass to navigate through his or her problems and through life itself.

Stepping Stones to Dharma:

Sabyata (civility), Saujanya (etiquette), Maryada (propriety), Acara (Good Conduct)

Pillars of Dharma:

Tapasya (Ascetism), Saucha (Cleanliness), Krupa (Mercy), Satya (Truth)

Definition of Dharma:

Dharma is the protection & upholding of the righteous order Rta as expressed by Satya

Culture is critical as maps may change, but the cardinal directions do not. It is precisely why the distinction is made between Sanatana Dharma and Yuga Dharma. The principles are timeless, but the rules will have to adapt to time, place, and manner. What is appropriate in one era (Satya Harishchandra) may not be in another (Yudhisthira). It is this very flexibility of Dharma that Krishna expounded on the field of the Kurus. The principle of protecting truth via dharma is superior to the rules of civility, etiquette, propriety, and good conduct. This is because dharma is the fountain of all of these, and while it can survive without them, they cannot survive without it. Without Dharma, a so-called “civilised society” may look outwardly polite and gentlemanly, but inwardly be brutish and barbaric.

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As defined above via the Latin root, the cultured person, is the cultivated person. To use the time-worn platitude, as the land left fallow does not produce fruit, so too does the untilled mind remain a fruitless existence. Indeed, a rootless person, is like a flower in the wind, blowing in whichever direction the winds of fashionability or pop culture take him or her without the benefits of…

The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.

And that is precisely the problem. This generation has failed to pass on the language, material, objects, rituals, institutions, and art to the next generation–not to mention, failed to teach their value. In the quest to ace exams, get seats in engineering, and get jobs in IT companies, a generation of rootless individuals has been produced. Macaulay’s great task has been completed. Because the sum of their attitudes, customs, and beliefs are no longer distinguishable from European, American, Arab, or even Persian views the fashionable winds of Bollywood and NCERT lead them to believe, they have become alienated from each other and themselves.

Many may argue that destruction of our attitudes and beliefs is indeed desirable, as caste and gender issues will then be discarded. But is that really the case? Even “militant” atheist and avowed secular modernist Richard Dawkins described himself as a “cultural Christian”. And all this despite the legacy of inquisition, burning women at the stake, slavery and even more unmentionable crimes that plague various churches to this day. Christianity and European civilization are given the benefits of the doubt and ample time to allegedly reform, but time’s up for the turban-wallahs? Why the exception for Indic Civilization?

America can have its “Freedom“, Europe can have its “Human Rights” (or “Christian Love“…they’re still deciding…), Persia can have its “Adab“, and China can have its “Tianxia“, but India must be denied its “Dharma“?

Others argue that this is a “brahminical conspiracy” to impose uniformity on their [ineluctable] “Idea of India”. But that is precisely why we have stressed Dharmic Culture as the foundation, because if there is an Idea of India it is Dharma, and even dyed-in-the-wool “secularists” like Romila Thapar have realized this. Dharma is an idea and ideal that transcends the modern definition of Hinduism and extends to at least 3 other modern religions, not to mention various other nastika doctrines, and the ideal of Saamanya Dharma transcends the narrow strictures of caste and creed. It is the principle that binds couples, families, communities, and the country together.

So no wonder our “baboos” have been unable to concertedly act in unison and have this shared basis for social action. The anglicized baboo is clashing with the arabized baboo who is clashing with the “brahminist” baboo who is clashing with the persianized baboo, all while the youth start dreaming of being something else entirely. This is what happens when India and Indic Civilization is denied its Dharma. No wonder its denizens have a “deficiency in judgment”–what civilizational basis does our cultural schizophrenic have to judge the proper course of social action?

Countries must become strong, yes, and adapt their values to the present era, sure, but they must not forget who they are or discard their identities wholesale in the name of progress and modernity.

Nevertheless, the naysayers may still shake their head in pseudo-secular stubbornness, so let us conduct a closer examination of how being shorn of Sanskriti causes stupidity.

How Loss of Culture Causes Stupidity
  1. Habitual Binary Thinking
  2. Lack of Emotional Awareness
  3. Low Threshold for Tolerance
  4. Lack of Shame
  5. Inferiority Complex
  6. Received Wisdom: AKA Policy Over Principles
  7. Inability to Problem Solve
  8. Act First, Think Later
  9. Preoccupation with the Mundane

Habitual Binary Thinking

Hot-Cold, Up-Down, Left-Right, Ascetic or Hedonist, Primitive or Modern, Parochial or Global, Secular or Communal, Capitalist or Socialist, Cool or Lame. Loss of culture first and foremost leads to simplistic binary thinking, and in the process, gives us a severely limited understanding of Right vs Wrong.

Typically these dichotomies are driven by heuristics. Like so many mice in a maze, rootless individuals are taught only by shocks that indicate their progress to the cheese. Shock-No shock, Yes-No, With me-Against me, Friend-Enemy. Limited binary thinking leads to unexamined heuristics.

Such a society also leads to extremes in gender roles. Men are expected to be hyper-masculine and women hyper-feminine (usually a euphemism for hyper-sexual). But look up the reputation of the Sacred Band of Thebes and Amazons to understand what uni-dimensional gender constructs create.

It is why our Indian heroes…our real Indian heroes…our great Kings and Emperors were not either 1 dimensional blocks of testosterone or milquetoast, emasculated savants of the arts, but possessed both manliness and cultural refinement: the bow in one arm and the lute in the other . Therefore, in raising children, the question is not boxing or book-reading, kalari or karnatic, vaana or veena, but both.

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Maharajadiraja, Samrat Samudra Gupta with veena & vaana

Even our heroines weren’t uni-dimensional damsels in distress. They were (and are) strong women with minds of their own (from Sita and Savitri to Upakosa and Ubhaya Bharati). Indic Civilization valued not only the matchless beauty of our women but also the peerlessness of their brains and the timelessness of their values.

It was, and is, also not a society that shied away from female sexuality; rather, it celebrated it. One need only read a verse of Kalidasa to see this. Indeed, it only recognized that kama was appropriate based on time/place/manner per one’s Dharma. But while binary thinkers only see sexually-liberated vs prude, Dharmic thinkers are context sensitive.

Dharma is subtle, and so, it recognizes changes in situations, and circumstances, that make absolute rigid rules difficult–and so, it stresses principles instead.

Lack of Emotional Awareness

Our average Indian plain and simply lacks emotional awareness.

A creature of pure sentiment, he laughs when he is happy, tears up when he is emotional, complains when he is hungry, and becomes pusillanimous when he is fearful. Rather than keeping his wits together and asking what is the proper course of action in his long term interests, his sentiment of the moment dictates his action, which is duly rationalized later. When internal conflict isn’t delayed or minimized, what society can cohesively tackle its issues? When individuals can’t manage their emotions, how can they keep their friends and allies, let alone deal with their enemies and problems?

Without stepping outside of one’s self to evaluate our own behaviors dispassionately, how do we know if a course-correction is required? How can we judge whether we were right or wrong? We can’t, hence deficiency in judgment being the near text book definition of stupidity.

Low Threshold for Tolerance

With the lack culture comes lack of patience. And with that, comes a low threshold for tolerance. Tolerance of pain, opinions, fear, odds, and even scale of work ahead.

Like bipolar children, the decultured individual begins to respond to incentive in a manner similar to Palvov’s proverbial dog. As such, not only internal impulse, but external stimulus drives behaviour, rather than judgment.

Lack of Shame

This is one of the few areas where India has not been completely transformed for the worse…yet. The words “kuch tho sharam karo” still have some meaning. And so, we will have to turn to avante-garde America for illustration.

From Paris Hilton, to the Kardashians to the proliferation of reality tv, the death of shame has been documented in detail by Western societies.

America in particular, for a period, decried the demise of self-respect. But the birth pangs of the 2000s have led to the terrible two’s of the 2010s. Shame simply no longer exists in vast areas of societal interchange, and attention has become the invaluable currency of ingénues.

Leave aside our Bindaas Big Boss shows, the wholesale Bollywood mainstreaming of Sunny Leone has and will lead to the death of shame in India as well.

And this is not a broadside only at ladies. Men too have been and are subject to this. Slowly but surely, their sense of responsibility has been diminished. Many no longer take care of their parents, leave aside supporting the children they sire out of wedlock. The entire purpose of marriage has been diminished from the joining of two souls and the foundation of family, to a notch on the bedpost of life.

Of course, this doesn’t mean being a repressed person for repression now can lead to eruption later. Rather, it means finding balance between prudery and prurience. If one chooses the path to asceticism, it should only be through guidance and with yogic balance. As Lord Krishna says, one who represses is lying to himself. The key is awareness and management. That is why Grihastha ashrama (being a householder/family man/woman)is prescribed for most people, as sanyasa is very difficult, especially in the prime of one’s life. It also means have a sense of self-respect and a sense of shame. Without shame, we end up looking like buffoons.

Gullible Buffoonery      

Read one article, and our morons and moronis think they are educated. One word of praise, and they gush with bollywood sentiment. Release motivated media campaigns, and they think foreigners have no agenda when “they are showing us the mirror”…

They are showing us the mindset?—of what? Some criminals and the unscrupulous lawyers using any tactic to win a case? Is this a uniquely Indian thing? The question our gullible, Rang de Basanti watching, college going buffoons should ask is whether the same mirror and media campaigns are there for these same societies.

These youthful yutzes proclaim “oh don’t be stubborn, don’t just recite statistics”. But statistics matter, not your personal anecdotes. There are even statistics for under-reporting. If you don’t take even those seriously, who then is being stubbornly illogical?

Using foreigners to settle your own scores is the time tested tactic for self-destruction, and emblematic of gullible buffoonery. This is because people who share a culture know they have less reason to suspect the intentions of the other towards their society. In fact, True Romans were considered to be those who were suspicious of foreigners. This doesn’t mean paranoia or xenophobia, but merely healthy self-respect and societal regard. After all, a fellow citizen has a duty to your society, a foreigner does not.

As we have written previously, rather than spending years understanding an area—the bits and pieces of received wisdom are congealed to create a walking moron of heuristics. Instead of firmly establishing views on logic—logic is contorted to fit the view. And the frenetic, even nervous, energy is fired off in a machine gun burst of buffoonery.

This is compounded by obsession with global perception rather than national principle. Perceptions are important, but perception is not reality. When you are driven by perceptions rather than principles, you become putty for pop-culture. Driven by fashionability, you feel that anything you have or do that is not trendy is inferior.

Inferiority Complex

Many people often suffer from inferiority complex. They feel whatever they have, whatever they eat, or wherever they come from is not as good as certain parts of the world. As we said above, youth may even want to become something else entirely. Accents are faked, even sports affiliations are affected, all in the name of trying to fit in somewhere else. What these poor pathetic souls don’t realize is that the in group they are trying to join is laughing at that the self-declared affiliations, even if they are polite to your face. There is nothing more pathetic than a wannabe.

In fact, rumors have it that the entire reason Nehru affixed the undeserved “Pandit” as an honorific was because he was jealous of Shri Ambedkar’s academic accomplishments. As such, even superiority complexes are very frequently (though not always) the product of an inferiority complex. .

It also causes people to debate to oblivion. Debate in its intended form is about discerning the truth. That is the literal meaning of Dialectics. While competitive debate, vad-vivad, is a great skill to develop, it must be done using logic, nyaya/tarka, and with the understanding that arguments must be logical. But this is what debate has become today.

As a result, our decultured Indians are unwitting chumps in a game that requires high confidence and high emotional awareness and high threshold for tolerance. Being angry, losing one’s self-control, unleashing a flurry of f-words is not the way to win the audience. In fact, rather than revealing the truth about the topic, it only reveals the truth about one’s self being a coddled little mama’s boy.

Mummy Approved Egos

It is not for nothing Mothers are referred to as the first guru. Thus, our inferiority complexed individuals are overly dependent not only their mothers’ received wisdom, but their approval as well. “But Mama said” becomes their byword.  A mother’s authority is not to tyrannize or train to do tricks like a poodle, but to teach how to think and relate to the world. Her child, boy or girl, should be armed with principles and given advice that can be adapted to time and place. A mother should also not smother her child so much that he cannot take criticism, or not have his views challenged. A slight or even an insult, should not set him off into a wild rage.

Mummy approved egos place premiums on received wisdom

Received Wisdom: AKA Policy over Principles

Better known as the Gyaani complex, received wisdom and rote memorization is the modus operandi of our decultured person. It is in effect, hearsay. While their fellow decultured may decry, saying culture just imposes dogma, which is itself received wisdom, this is incorrect. Culture gives us principles so as to evaluate. Rather than a rigid rule book that is a one-size-its all for all time, it gives us principles and stories and practices to evaluate truth. Marxist minions may shriek “there is no truth, only perspective!“, but they are trained to deconstruct to oblivion. Rebels without a cause, relativism is their religion, hence truth isn’t accessible to them. When even Wikipedia emphatically asserts the need for a Neutral Point of View, how then could there not be truth? Of course there is, it may not be completely perceivable to mortal eyes, but logic, judgment, and patience eventually allows us to discover all or at least most of it.

But our sarvagyaanis aren’t concerned with truth or principles, they are concerned about policies. Whatever their guru-sishya paramapara has taught them, they shop around intensively, from soapbox to soapbox. That is received wisdom–not flexible principles for dealing with problems, but the same solutions for every problem. Binary thinking teaches them to respond only to whether a person supports or opposes their policy. “You are not for free-market capitalism?–Well you must be ya-gainest wealth and for socialism!“. “You are not absolute pro-choice, then you must be against women’s rights!”Thus, the decultured person is trained to think only in terms of policy, not principles. Nuance becomes neutered, and emotional screeds substitute for rational argument. This also leads to Personality Cults.

Personality Cults

One of the oft-frequent complaints of gurus throughout the ages was focus of sishyas on master rather than message. There is a proliferation on social media of would be saviours who specialize in reciting the mahavakyas of the adi acharyas of their paramparas, memorizing those lineages, and fan club ization of their personae. While there is absolutely nothing wrong in reverence or idol worship, idolization is problematic.

Idol Worship (Murthi Puja) is perfectly righteous in Dharma traditions. Idle Worship, however , is not.Karma, especially, thoughtful action, is critical.

Received wisdom may not even have the veneer of being wise. Simple even brainless pop culture trends drive fashionability rather than genuine merit. We saw it on TV so it must be cool, we heard it on the radio so it must be good, our peer group is doing it so it must be followed. While pop culture can in be fun, it cannot be a foundation. This is all the more when pop culture, even culture itself, has become commoditized. This makes high culture and a classical education all the more important, so that mores and morals can be separated from markets. Trendy thought leads to Group Think. Group Think, in turn, leads to Group Action. Therefore, such individuals become devotees of personality cults, rather than practitioners of problem solving.

app.hedgeye.com

Inability to Problem Solve

Our IIT grads and engineering batch may revolt in general at the very notion, but is it really so far from the truth? Sure, after many years of coaching centers they are trained to answer questions. They may even learn how to build rockets and put them into space based on prior scientific breakthrough. But the question is, do they know what to do when a completely new problem or multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary issue stares them in the face?

They may even be trained to analyze, but is this analysis to problem solve or analysis to paralysis? True problem-solving takes into mind that one cannot possibly know every fact in a situation. A degree of uncertainty will be required, as well as willingness to consider alternatives by stepping outside of the situation. Rather than viewing the world as mere functions, entire paradigms must be evaluated, and then reevaluated. That is the difference between merely getting an answer and solving a problem. That is the difference between tactical thinking and strategic thinking, which is at the heart of real world problem solving. Rather than viewing it through the tunnel vision of just engineering, just politics, just economics, or just philosophy, true problem solving attempts to understand the relationship from all those perspectives and determine the best outcome for an organization or society.

Act First, Think Later

When one has lost his or her culture, there is a pressure to act immediately. Rather than pay attention to social obligation or have basic etiquette, impulse becomes the driver. The immediate need to know what else is there or to chase after what we might be missing becomes more important than what we actually have.

This is precisely what happens when people lose their culture. No etiquette, no decency, no brains.

Preoccupation with the Mundane

The decultured person is easily drawn to the mundane and distracted by mere trinkets. Dwelling forever in the realm of the senses. Money, Lust, and Gluttony become the chief occupants of his or her life.

Because culture teaches values, because culture teaches delayed gratification, because culture teaches that there is more to life beyond animal impulses, the deracinated person becomes chiefly occupied even obsessed with mundane sense gratification. Relationships, careers, even life itself suffers under slavery to the senses. Ignorance becomes bliss.

 

How Culture Cures Stupidity

In our previous piece, we provided a Kant quote that defined it as the following: “Deficiency in judgment is properly that which is called stupidity”. As we’ve explained above, culture is the cure for stupidity as it provides a principled base for judgment drawing from the time-tested history and experience of a tradition and people.

So how does culture provide judgment?

  1. Holistic Thinking
  2. Emotional Management
  3. High Threshold for Tolerance
  4. Dignity, Honour and Respect
  5. Self-confidence
  6. Principles Prior to Policy
  7. Ability to Problem Solve
  8. Think First, Act Later
  9. Elevation rather than Debasing

Holistic Thinking

How did they beat you?

While the binary thinker is subject to Macaulay’s colonial attitudes demarcating x as inferior and y as superior, the holistic thinker does not view the world in zeros and ones. He or she doesn’t simply assume a circumstance for all time, but understands and evaluates…why?

Contrary to commie commentators, the Classical Indic Education is not merely about rote memorization but is about constant questioning. The Upanishads themselves are an exploration into the “why” and “how” and “what” of existence. The Classical Indic Education, whether self-driven &/or gurukul-based, ensures rootedness that does not substitute for, but should be combined with, modernity-derived knowledge. In doing so, one is equipped to critique the origins and originators of “modern” knowledge. Rather than mice in a maze or robots programmed to operate on command or poodles trained to jump through hoops, we begin to think independently, consider matters from all angles, and above all, keep our wits.

Emotional Management

When you are an holistic thinker, you begin to understand that you are not just an individual or a consumer in a market, but a member of a society.  This does not mean socialism or communism, because systems that overly concentrate or overly centralize at the national level, begin overtly interfering in families…even breaking them.

Holistic thinkers have internal discipline that comes not from the pain of lash, or fear of an exam result, but from commitment to an ideal. They recognize that a society is more than the sum of its parts. That relationships matter, families matter, communities matter, and that country matters. Rather than viewing nations as merely composed of individuals, such a person considers all these elements. Feeling a part of a society means not feeling alone either–yet another driver for sputtering hyper-activity and aimlessness. But above all, the holistic thinker has a ready arsenal of niti, lessons, that stem from his or her education.

While the great Sanskrit epics are a veritable storehouse of niti, it is the Panchatantra, with its pithy maxims, that is most accessible to even the common man-child. Silence is golden. Every dog has its day, Knowledge is not Wisdom, all these simple guides not only provide practical lessons to survive conflict in society, but reveal the universality of our tumultuous emotions…and how to manage them.

Every human being feels envy at some point, but culture provides the insight into being aware of one’s emotions and how to manage them by recalling such time tested lessons, which neutralize envy in favour of optimism for our own day yet to come. This emotional maturity, in turn, helps us deal with adversity, even in the most trying of situations.

High Threshold for Tolerance

Adversity not only tests a Man or Woman’s valour, but also a Man or Woman’s Dharma, a Man or Woman’s culture.  It is such adverse circumstances, where injustice is done, where relatives divide, where property or wealth is at stake, that a family, indeed a society, shows its culture.

It is the culture of Sri Rama  and the House of the Raghus that allowed them to bear the burden of not one but two tragedies. It was their Dharmic Culture, their sense of virtue, of right and wrong, that ensured that the rightful heir would ultimately, after all vows and promises were kept, be restored to his rightful throne. Rather than selfish individuals looking to maximize personal utility, they selflessly competed with one another in altruism, ensuring that Dharma, rather than matsya nyaya (big fish eats little fish) determined the best outcome for all.

Look at the supreme and peerless grace of Bhagvan Shri Ram, and the forbearance with which he accepted being disinherited in favour of his younger brother. Look at his unselfishness (and that of other family members) in thinking of the good of the family, the kingdom, and the fame of the Ikshvakus as a dynasty that always keeps its word. Sons have given up their lives to keep their father’s throne, but which other son has given up his own throne to keep his father’s vow? Such is the nobility of Rama and the refinement of his culture that he had this high threshold for tolerance.

Dignity, Honour and Respect

With a high threshold for tolerance, comes dignity, honour and respect. This comes not only from the regard people have for the unselfish and commendable conduct of individuals like Sri Rama, but also from the self-respect that comes from virtue.

Before our culturally confused pseudo-secularatti screech and holler in outrage, let them read what the author of The Social Contract and famous European Enlightenment thinker himself said. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that simplicity is better than complexity, but if we must have a sophisticated culture, let it celebrate virtue:

It is by following this example that the truly great monarch…drew from the very bosom of the arts and sciences…the dangerous trust of human knowledge…yet the sacred guardians of morals…

Those Academies also, which, in proposing prizes for literary merit, make choice of such subjects as are calculated to arouse the love of virtue in the heart of citizens…not only by agreeable exercises of the intellect, but also by useful instructions. p.92

Our globalized sepoy sophisticates may balk at the Indian’s dharma, but what will they say to the Frenchman’s virtue? “What is the need?”, they may ask “We have secularism, science, and…technology!” But here’s what Rousseau himself wrote:

We have physicists, geometricians, chemists, astronomers, poets, musicians, and painters in plenty; but we have no longer a citizen among us

Thus, it is love of virtue that leads a citizen to do his duty or give respect to another. After all, a gentleman behaves with courtesy to a Sita or Surpanakha alike, not because of what it says about them, but because of what it says about him. It is his sense of virtue, his sense of Dharma, that not only gives his respect to others, but commands respect from others, affirming his own confidence in self.

Self-confidence

Respect from society and self-respect lead to self-confidence. The poor hapless, deracinated Indian is subjected with mockery for not looking like a European or a Persian, given fairness creams to allegedly become lovelier, taught foreign language and history  rather than native ones, and told native traditions and sciences have no value. Is it any wonder he or she has an inferiority complex today? This is the result of alienation from culture.

Whenever someone insults you or your people (“dark”, “invaders”) culture teaches you to deflect those bullets (beauty in eye of beholder—some prefer less some prefer more pigment, Battle of Rajasthan, Vijayanagara, Marathas, Sikhs). This applies even in the case of gender “women are weak” (Vivekananda: “How are women weak? What man has the internal strength to give birth”[paraphrase]). That is the value of culture.

It also means being able to innovate and even adapt as being cultured doesn’t mean being hide-bound. One can be rooted and cosmopolitan at the same time–it is merely a question of prioritizing.

Principle Prior to Policy

The gyaani complex is one that is oft-complained about and is oft-analyzed; what is not oft-discussed, however, is the solution, and that is culture.

As we wrote above, received wisdom is the mantra of the gyaani. He touts his un-analysed assortment of heuristics and hearsay as the solution for every problem, and not only will he brook no opposition, he won’t even listen to opposing views. His “chankian” strategy is the silver bullet.

In contrast, culture in fact teaches to problem solve (study the history, study the nature, read the accounts of the ancients, adapt to the circumstances). Culture will also help us determine the difference between useful learning and pedantry. As Rousseau decried “We do not ask whether a book is useful, but whether it is well-written” (ibid). This is yet another problem with our gyaanis today. They are more keen on demonstrating their intellect, hence the IQ obsession, rather than doing something useful. In contrast, culture doesn’t emphasize poodle tricks on an exam, but competence and character. Unlike our sarvagyaanis, it recognizes that knowledge in one area doesn’t certify knowledge in another.

We must distinguish between our Kautilyas and our Mandana Mishras. Just because you read a book or two on philosophy doesn’t make you Adi Sankara, just because you read a book or two on history doesn’t make you Shivaji. Bloated egos must be put aside; ambition and tempers deflated for common good…or at the very least, personal prudence.

Binary thinking leads to inability to deal with significant grey areas and pervasive uncertainty. People don’t always show their hand. Shakunis don’t always reveal themselves to their Nephews, if at all. This is the value of the value of shut up. Big mouth know it all Indians live in the binary world of best friend-worst enemy. They need to focus on interests. Interests, values, objectives, tactics, strategy, and above, all, culture.

Because it helps us prioritize correctly, it also helps individuals and even groups to problem solve.

Ability to Problem Solve

Even the most skillful strategist cannot lead his team to success if it’s composed of  stupid, argumentative idiots. No matter how brilliant the strategy, a team of selfish, jealous, petty unthinking people cannot accomplish a major task. Thus to fix the stupid, one must rely not on strategy, or “reforms”, or laws, but culture.

Rote-memorizers cannot be senapatis. Sarvagyaanis cannot be sainiks. Logic, the School of Nyaya, must help us navigate this deep into the Kaliyug. It cannot just be recited without thinking, logical bases must guide the use and recitation of knowledge.

What’s more, simply because one has read the Arthashastra does not make him or her a master of politics and war. Just as vidya and buddhi are different, so too are vidya and karma (action). It is for this reason Dharmic society traditionally had separate vocations for especially brahmanas and kshatriyas. This is because just as fundamental science is not the same as applied science, so too is vidya different from karma.

Finally, culture teaches individuals to usefully apply their knowledge and to resolve conflict with humility. To non-profanely paraphrase a French saying: “[Crap] in a silk stocking is still [crap].” Mere expensive clothes or literary pedantry or even outward piety is not culture. And that is the case today in India. Not only with our nouveau elite, but with our paleo-elite as well. If the former behaves brutishly due to its “global” education and pseudo-secular attitudes, the latter behaves arrogantly due to puja, punya, or punaskara. Neither brutishness nor arrogance are good for society, nor for solving its problems. One leads to its unraveling or explosion, and the other by alienating non-elites, to implosion. Therefore, real culture places problem-solving above poseur pedantry.

Think First, Act Later

While the cultureless are driven by hyper-activity or a desire to embrace the fashionable, the cultured take a moment to reflect on the proper course of action and have the ability to follow through. This is why culture eats strategy for breakfast. An individual, a family, an organization, a society at harmony will have the ability to not only devise the right strategy and implement the right tactics, but have the cultural wherewithal to execute properly.

What’s more, a sound culture, has a strategic culture that teaches you to think about and reflect upon your actions. It will advise you on the importance of drawing from other sides as needed. As Rajiv Malhotra has re-popularized, Purva Paksha (studying the other wing or camp) is part of our culture. By properly studying the other side even before we open our mouth, we will know when to keep it closed.

Above all, it teaches you when not to act and how not to act. Rather than being driven by your senses or thoughts to the mundane, culture elevates you to act in accordance with the elevating.

Elevating instead of Debasing

Culture redirects from the mundane and commonplace to the complex and transcendental. Notice we didn’t say simple. In fact simple living is considered the ideal not only in our Dharmic tradition (we will touch on this in a future post), but in others such as the Daoist of China.

Some may argue by saying, “Vell, aren’t there societies with vulgar art and prurient poetry. Are you saying then that they don’t have culture?“. I’m saying such a culture has degenerated or perhaps was degenerate ab initio. Culture as we defined above means cultivation or refinement, not only of the arts, but also of behaviour. Ours is a culture where even the most animal of actions, sexual intercourse, is spiritual in its highest and most correct form. That is culture. Not one that reduces pleasure to selfish button pushing or chemical release, but that shares pleasures with one’s other half. Indeed, when done correctly, sex becomes about prioritizing the giving of pleasure rather than receiving…ultimately making the experience for both greater than the sum of parts. This is why society explicitly attaches sex with love. Because if you really love someone, their pleasure becomes more important than your own. It’s also why teleologically, it’s an act meant for two, and why monogamy is ultimately superior to polygamy.

A rancid culture is selfish, self-serving, and debasing. No act becomes unacceptable in the quest for pleasure. This is the danger of hedonism. Not because of where we start, but because of where we ultimately and even unintentionally end up.

Though by and large discredited as either debunked or derivative, Freudian Psychology remains relevant with respect to the theory of the Super Ego.

Id, Ego, Super-Ego

When we first experience animal urges in great strength—lust being the most infamous—it is often quenched with abandon. The less spiritually inclined among us may wonder “why would we ever want anything else”, “forget how, why should this even be resisted”. In effect, all other actions become merely ancillary in our central quest for this feeling, this rati bhava , this Id.

But the Ego reminds us that we have responsibilities if not consequences so that our other needs may be met. And the Super Ego provides us with a conscience. That voice that says, this may be good, even very good for a while, but ultimately it leads to bad. We ever so slowly grow to realize that prioritising the feeling (rather than enjoying it as a byproduct) turns it into a drug. As Swami Vivekananda replied to the question “What is poison?”—Anything in Excess.

Thus, physical pleasure is not poison, lust is. Tasty food is not the poison, gluttony is. Culture therefore teaches us to prioritize correctly. Love before sex (but certainly in conjunction with it). Nutrition before taste (but certainly in conjunction with it), Logic before sentiment (but certainly in conjunction with it), Duty before relational attachment (but certainly in conjunction with it), Public interest before self-interest (but certainly in conjunction with it), Civic pride before personal pride (but certainly in conjunction with it), and Social advancement before personal advancement (but certainly in conjunction with it).

The perceptive among you would quickly see how I have founded the above paragraph on our Dharmic caveats against the Arishadvargas (six enemies: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya) or better known in its variation as the Seven Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, anger, greed, pride, envy, sloth ).

Therefore, culture cannot just be rhetoric, but must be lived. This means more than just chest-thumping about theorized accomplishments of the past. It means understanding your heritage, who you are, where you came from, and why your family maintains certain customs, and why they matter. This is more than just about rites and rituals, but understanding the ideals and principles of your society that make life worth living, and your civilization worth protecting. That is the true value of Poetry, Philosophy, Art, Architecture, and Literature: to inspire the unselfish and virtuous in society.

If stupidity is the inability to prioritize, selfishness in many ways is about a refusal to prioritize (society above self).  That is the importance of dharma, not merely as a slogan or a convenient umbrella, not merely an excuse for self-glorifying pedantry or show of learning, but as a principle to be lived as part of a living culture. Thus, we once again come to culture as not only the glue for nations, but the nurturing soil that germinates virtuous sons and daughters, selfless leaders, and strong societies.

Conclusion

The pervasive problem of Indian Stupidity is one that will not disappear overnight. Indeed, it is one that will take as much individual effort as it will community consciousness. This multi-part series, this exegesis on stupidity is not one that was done to demoralize or to deride. Rather it was done to diagnose and cure the problem facing India and Indic Civilization today.

India may be developing materially, but it has and is declining culturally. As Rajiv Malhotra has communicated more incisively and passionately than anyone else, India’s pop culture has become a widespread consumer product, but its high culture has been derided, deconstructed, dishonestly labeled, and is in the process of being digested.

When a people do not know where they are from, how can they possibly know where they are going. Foreign colonial languages are touted as native “link” languages, because you see, it is better to have everyone under an equal slavery than have a first among equals. Because culture has been reduced to merely the arts, and increasingly, merely the crafts, India and indeed, large parts of the world, are active musically, artistically, gastronomically, and even poetically, but have declined culturally and spiritually.

The colonial meme of the 3 blind men of “hindoostan” has become the most appropriate description for the proponents of the neo-colonial “idea of India”. In the name of “composite culture” they subsume everything and in the process, reduce an ancient civilization to nothing. India is a multi-cultural civilization, but it is not a multi-civilizational civilization. How can it be? When people have no sense of respect for their own heritage and don’t even have a proper sense of their own identity, how can they possibly engage intelligently with the modern world?

Thus, rather than merely continuing in this recursive loop of retrograde behaviors, it is time to recognize the core origin of this stupidity: Loss of Culture, real culture. Dharma is the foundation and well-spring of our culture, and should be adapted to the needs of the present. It is not “modernity or tradition”, but both. It is not “pop or classical”, but both. It is not “cosmopolitan or rooted”, but both. And it is not development or dharma…but both. Only then, and then only, can Indian stupidity be cured.

The timeless truth of individuals, nations, even civilizations is that if you don’t know where you are from, you don’t know where you are going.

We have railroad, cannon and western clothing, but  we cannot forget who we are and where we come from

References:

  1. Malhotra, Rajiv. Sulekha. 2012. http://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/response-postmodernist-charge-essentialism/
  2. Malhotra, Rajiv. Sulekha. 2002. http://creative.sulekha.com/the-axis-of-neocolonialism_103313_blog
  3. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques.. The Social Contract and Discourses. BN. 2007
  4. http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-indias-english-obsession-must-end/20140626.htm
  5. http://www.niticentral.com/2014/06/28/revitalising-indian-languages-will-unlock-our-civilisational-genius-232436.html
  6. http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/art-culture/a-historical-sense
  7. http://www.niticentral.com/2014/07/19/english-medium-education-and-its-place-in-india-233720.html

 

Origins of Indian Stupidity

originsofstupidity
Immanuel Kant, keeping it real

Continuing our Series on “Are We a Serious People?”, is our Fourth Installment: Origins of Indian Stupidity.

In our previous piece we touched on how Lack of Focus was the Origin for this (and Action the cure for it); however, in order to accomplish successful inoculation, further examination is required.

Now, I’ve always liked Origin stories. Some of my favorite movies are The Godfather Part II, Star Trek the Reboot (Star Wars Episode I not so much), and Batman Begins.

This is not so much because chronology is important to me–although I do like going in chronological order–but rather, because it is important to understand what makes a person tick. Why does he or she behave that way? What turns a nice guy looking to make his way in the world into a ruthlessly efficient Gangster? What makes a man dedicate himself to an ideal and beat criminals into a pulp night after night…

And…what makes so many Indians so consistently stupid, so much of the time, and on so many platforms( both online and off)? Part of what ACP does is to restore the self-respect of our people and their pride in culture. But culture is not always about feeling good or resting on laurels. It’s also about understanding what we do right, what we do wrong, and what needs to change so we can meet the challenges ahead. This piece is not about any individual Indian. Rather, it is about the consistent bad habits, hyperactive thought processes, and ad-hoc approach to life that modern Indians across the board have picked up. To cure the disease, however, diagnosis alone is not sufficient. The Etiology must also be conducted. So here we begin our study of Indian Stupidity’s Origins.

Origins of Indian Stupidity

  1. Attention Deficit Disorder
  2. Missing the Woods for the Trees
  3. Rote Memorization
  4. Status Obsession
  5. Sentimentality
  6. Sore-loserness
  7. Inability to Shut up
  8. Action vs Reaction
  9. Lack of Focus resulting from Loss of Culture

ADD

Yes, I understand the correct medical terminology is ADHD, but Attention Deficit Disorder is now common parlance, and perfectly illustrates our point about Indian hyperactivity. “Not all Indians suffer from this” you may say–but not so fast. Even the relatively sharp and well-informed easily fall back into this habit given the zeitgeist. Action is good, and is certainly better than talk. But Action without judgment…ehh…not so much. Refusal to think before acting leads to consequences like this.

As they say, the definition of “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results”. This is the problem with ADD Indians. They don’t spend time actually thinking about the wisdom of what they are doing or what their ancestors did and why. They just do for it’s own sake, because they feel like it. They don’t understand that it is better to think and evaluate the consequences of action and then act, and sometimes, better to do nothing at all.

Instead, when they are not aimlessly talking, they react every time there is a provocation and don’t think about whether they are equipped or have sufficient team support to counter this. They don’t think about whether the adversary they are facing maybe well organized, and they don’t think about whether what they are doing even makes sense. Worst of all, because they don’t do these things, when they act, it is not with overwhelming force. Thus they tire quickly in the face of a deluge of facts and logic. Because they haven’t done their homework (on both the subject and their adversary) they may even devolve into flurry of insults. All these things are signs of ADD. It is this proclivity for hyperactivity that lays the foundation for the stupidity of Indians.

As is done in the Armed Forces, discipline is the cure for this. This is because it permits emotion control. Superior to emotion control is emotional awareness (why am I feeling this, is it right to have this emotion, is this emotional action correct?). More on that later.

 Missing the Woods for the Trees

Hyperactivity, in turn, contributes to missing the woods for the trees. This very common phrase is uncommonly or frankly very rarely understood by Indians. Indians love detail.  They live in detail. They may even live for detail. Virtually every Indian middle class home drilled the importance of “GK” (general knowledge). Thus Indians are obsessed about learning trivia (and winning Spelling Bees). Learning this trivia and amassing as much knowledge as possible became equivalent to victory itself! “I know this statistic! I know that factoid! I memorized entire plays!“. Ok, but how does this help you solve your problem? How do you deploy this knowledge to achieve your aim?

To not see the woods for the trees also means obsessing over the puppet rather than the puppet master. If someone rubs our Modern Indians the wrong way, then they will completely fixate on that person, rather than ask whether he is merely a disposable instrument and whether the shadyantra goes higher up.

To not see the woods for the trees also means getting wrapped up in petty squabbles and letting them ruin otherwise sound alliances. Indians are notorious for this, and Andhras most of all. Disagreements happen, arguments take place, but have the good sense to contain them and not air out grievances (especially petty ones) in public. At the very least, don’t air them out at critical or foundational moments. This is what happens when people rote memorize rather than critically think. They live by assumptions rather than logic. They don’t prioritize.

Memorizing facts and figures without understanding the greater overall picture allows people to live in their nice and neat little fantasies.  It just makes you feel good about your knowledge without solving your problem. The real world is about problem solving, not feeling good.

In over-emphasizing rote memorization of fact without understanding how all the pieces are related, or at least useful, our Modern Indians end up looking naive…even stupid.

Rote Memorization

Don’t get me wrong. Rote memorization per se, isn’t bad in and of itself. In fact, there are tremendous benefits to it. But Rote Memorization by itself cannot substitute for critical thinking. Critical thinking, or more specifically, Strategic Thinking, allows individuals to take the knowledge they’ve gained, and apply it effectively.

Unfortunately, too often among our Indians, we see this tendency to rely almost exclusively on received wisdom. Formulas, frameworks, and even whole texts are memorized, without taking the time to understand how the parts relate to each other. Information is merely regurgitated or frameworks applied as though they were one-size-fits all, rather than properly modifying them for their purpose. In effect, it’s the instinct of fitting a square peg into a round hole.

In any event, after reading a few books, getting a few degrees, finding a cushy job, our resident rote-memorizers believe they’ve found the key to the universe. Like salesmen, they peddle their single-serving solution, and combust into a paroxysm of pompous pronouncements if challenged. This is because what little knowledge they’ve acquired has in turn fed their ego, creating a false sense of status. He who is obsessed about status, cannot take it if his opinion is not taken, or taken seriously.

Status Obsession

Indians are obsessed with Status. “Who got into what school? Who got married first? Who drives what car? Who wears what clothes? Who has bigger house? Who has more money? Who can chant what mantra?”

From the moment they wake to the moment they sleep, Indians are driven by such thoughts. True, the notion of Keeping up with the Joneses is a common theme in many societies. The difference with Indians is the intensity of this competition. To paraphrase Sayre’s Law, “The status competition among the average Indian is high because the stakes are so low”.

What’s more, this fuels India’s credential culture and pursuit of false prestige. Degrees are equated to expertise and colleges with qualification. “Eh who are you to tell me, I went to IIT-IIM so I know what to do!” This in turn comes from Ahankar, False Ego, that our value or worth is determined by what we have, or what hoops we’ve jumped through rather than who we are.

While this ailment comes from materialism, it is germinated by the cult of Hero Worship in India. After all, the closer we are to our Hero, the more we can bask in his aura. This in turn leads to influence over others due to the reflected glory of other “IIT-IIM” graduates and the like. Correspondingly, if our hero of the moment fails to validate our sycophancy he may become an enemy.

So Indians, please stop this Hero-worship. It is alright to admire someone, it is good to be loyal to family/patrons, but personality-driven movements more often than not fizzle fast. Institution and Ideal driven revolutions are what stand the test of time. Stop obsessing about status and start thinking of societal needs. Heroes come and go. This is the natural order of the world. Worst of all, hero-worship leads to sycophancy premised on Sentimentality.

Sentimentality

Jayalalithaa sycophants wailing at her conviction, during their swearing in ceremony

Indians are suckers for sentiment. As we have said this over and over. A little flattery here, a song and dance there, and Indians easily become pawns in the hands of those who conspire against them.

Apologies again to our Tamilian friends, but I think the nature of state politics in TN is known to all–and as a well-wisher I do hope it changes–but we all know how a certain ideology has addled the common man there. Now, unlike Telugus, Tamilians at least have the wisdom to not engage in petty infighting as a regional passtime (there, I made it up to you guys). Nevertheless, excessive sentimentality leads to closed-mindedness, mob-mentality, brainless thinking, and feckless responses to problems. Sentiment is fine here and there to appreciate the beauty of life. But sentiment is not a solution.

This is not a uniquely South Indian phenomenon, though it might lead to its comical or even tragic extremes here due to film star worship. Congress supporters love to tell the story of how Nehru famously wept when Lata Mangeshkar sang “Ae Mere Watan ke Logon” after the 1962 War.  But what’s the point?! Would it not have been better to have been prepared, not get swept up in Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai sentiment, outwit Mao who was looking provoke war, or at least win the war through proper planning?

Obsession with sentiment further compounds hero-worship. This is the origin of the slavish sycophancy that the West used to (and still does) mock Indians (and other “Asiatics”) for.  I am increasingly of the opinion that this is not wholly without merit.

The cure for sycophancy is Self-Respect. The foundation for Self-respect is Leadership.

Leadership must be taught, but who teaches it? Oh yes, managers are trained to implement processes, nominal brahmins or kshatriyas by birth or colonial certification are taught to look down on others, but who teaches to lead? Therein lies the problem. Hierarchy obsessed hyperventilators who look only at pecking order and number of followers, not ability and merit, chase after passing fads and stars of the moment. False prestige rather than genuine logic and talent continues to be the driving motivations of various sections, even though dyed-in-the-wool Brahmin Kautilya himself plucked Chandragupta Maurya from relative insignificance to raise him to the throne. This is because the true Brahmana or Kshatriya is not swayed by sentiment or Moha, but by duty.

That is the danger of sentiment. Men of sentiment ultimately become Karnas, and “Men of Conscience” ultimately lead to Bhishmas. This brand of leadership ultimately leads to disasters

 

During the height of the UPA government,  a Chinese person commented the above about India’s Army. It truly is an Army of Lions and Paramvir Chakras, but the politicians leading it historically have, more often than not, been donkeys.

The Roman General Scipio Africanus (who defeated Hannibal at Zama) once had his bravery questioned by a subordinate–Scipio retorted “my mother gave birth to a general, not a soldier”.  Soldiers are taught to obey orders and managers to implement processes, but executives and generals are taught to lead. But if this is the sentiment of future generals today, how is leadership possible? The answer lies in establishing proper Thinking and proper Training. Without these things, “heroes” may fight very bravely but will die very quickly…

Inability to Shut up

Sentiment leads to over-animated and over-emotional behavior.

As we wrote previously, Indians are Talkers not Doers. This in turn means they don’t know the value of “Shut Up”. We touched on this point in our previous piece when we wrote that “Rather than analyzing what is being said, a continuous bout of verbal diarrhea is projected. Thus, to counter this stupidity, Indians first need to know the value of shutting up (no one does this better than the Chinese)”.

By Shutting up, they can then think through a situation. Hyperventilating achieves nothing. Panic leads to defeat. By thinking through the situation you can plan for what ever may happen if things go bad. Rather than reacting via instinct, you can act with intelligence. And if you lose, you can have the good sense to use your wits, and live to fight another day.

Sore-loserness

Indians are sore losers. That’s right, you heard me. This trait is so genetically ingrained that even our neighbor to the west reflects it (and they have much to be sore about).

Where does it come from? Many sources: Mummy-approved egos, inability to step out of comfort zones, reluctance to  cleverly banter (vs idly talk) . But the root of it all is lack of emphasis on Team Sports. Indians are taught how to study as individuals, not cooperate as part of a team. When fighting as an individual, it’s zero-sum, winner-take-all, tear the other “basterd” down, even if I may need him tomorrow.

In contrast, team sports not only teaches you how to cooperate and win alongside others, but builds character as well . This is why I have always been a fan of field hockey over cricket. That may be sacrilege, even blasphemy, in a nation of Kircket obsessed Sachin-bhakts, but it’s time someone took a stand. Whatever Mr. Tendulkar’s accomplishments, they were individual. For India to truly grow as a team, it must start turning to sports figures like Dhyan Chand. This is why, despite my biological aversion to SRK, I appreciated his role (and for once, his acting) in Chak De! India.

Selfishness

Some may ask why Selfishness by itself isn’t treated as a prong. This is because there are some extremely selfish, but extremely smart people in the world as well. That is why the stakes of Indian Stupidity are so high. You can be stupid. You can be selfish. But you can’t be both. The stupid but unselfish person will at least take advice from the wise and orders from his superiors. But the selfishly stupid person thinks only of his “conscience”–usually a mask for sentiment–hence the critique of the conscientiously stupid. It is also why, in the end, selfishness may influence stupidity–but it is not the catalyst for it.

There is a famous quote about how there is no greater a uniting force in the world than greed. So like jackals, thieves and schemers are quick to join forces and cooperate, however temporarily, then fight over the plunder later.

Action vs Reaction

Indians very often confuse action for reaction. They wait for an attack, and when it comes, they rely on instinct or [insert scripture sanctioned archaic custom here] to determine how to tackle their foe. But that is not action, that is reaction.

Action is the resulted of anticipating and thinking through your problem. Rather than  merely running like a hamster in a wheel when the mood or need strikes, it means something else entirely.

Hamster in a Wheel
Human in a Wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action requires first being aware one’s self. It means understanding who you are, what you face, and what you may be feeling (this is called emotional awareness). By questioning the logic of your own emotions, you won’t be subject to impulses. Next, one should be aware of one’s surroundings, i.e. gather intelligence. It involves analyzing whether one has the capacity to take on the challenge. Third, if capacity is lacking, it must be either acquired through training or R&D or through the acquisition of allies. Finally, rather than jumping headlong into a conflict, it means understanding when and where conflict should be entered in to. To do all this things do all this things involves understanding strategy and tactics.

Markaz i jahalat: Crassly Stupid. Babur at the Battle of Khanua is reputed to have made this remark. It is not because he didn’t admire the manliness and courage of Rajputs–he did. Rather, he recognized that they fought bravely and chivalrously, but not sensibly and tactically. It is not mardangi that wins wars, but strategy and circumstances, which are ultimately influenced by leadership. The Mughals won Khanua either with cavalry flank attacks or concentrated use of cannon fire (i.e. tactics/strategy). The Rajputs lost it, with frontal assaults that forgot the flanks. Merely attacking your enemy when you see him is not the way to victory. While all true patriots honor the sacrifice of Rana Sanga and the Rajput Confederacy he assembled, they should have known that even the most powerful of bears must use his wits when fighting a pack of wolves.

Lack of Focus results from Loss of Culture

Ultimately, as we discussed in our preceding piece, Indian Stupidity originates from Lack of Focus, and Lack of Focus ultimately results from Loss of culture.

Culture teaches behavior, Culture teach etiquette, Culture teaches good conduct, Culture teaches history, Culture teaches classics, and above all, Culture teaches Wisdom. And as has been taught since the time of the ancients, Knowledge is Not Wisdom.

The words Maryada, Saujanya, Acara, and Dharma have all been discussed and explained in this cultural portal. Don’t just read to know or read to brag, read to understand, apply, and improvise. These concepts will help Indians to focus this energy, thinking, and action towards what matters. Culture helps us prioritize, so we are not subject to the whims of our sentiments and impulses and the passing fads of our peers. Many of our patriotic people genuinely mean well. However, due to loss of culture and lack of cultural knowledge, they have lost focus, and thus, have been unable to cope with the modern world. We hope to help change that.

Solutions to Indian Stupidity

  1. Learn your Culture
  2. Don’t just be a fanboy…learn to apply..and Improvise
  3. Always have a Plan B
  4. Read Widely and Observe Carefully
  5. Understand the Importance of Pragmatism
  6. Work as a team, Dummy
  7. Throw away the Defeatist Mentality
  8. Learn to Take Constructive Criticism…and to have your Criticism Criticized
  9. Think Before you Act

Learn Your Culture

This means more than just chest-thumping about theorized accomplishments of the past. It means understanding your heritage, who you are, where you came from, and why you family maintains certain customs, and why they matter. This is more than just about rites and rituals, but understanding the ideals and principles of your society that make life worth living, and your civilization worth protecting. That is the true value of Poetry, Philosophy, Art, Architecture, and Literature.

Don’t just be a Fanboy…Learn to Apply..and Improvise

This prong is directly related to the point about how Indians are far too dependent on personality-driven movements, rather than institution or ideals. Gandhianism, Nehruvianism, Indira is India: All these notions fuel sentiment rather than sound thinking.

To build a strong country and protect it from external and internal threats, the focus of Indians must switch from their heroes/heroines of the moment to the common cause. They must not only apply what their teachers have created, but build upon the foundation and improvise as needed. Most importantly, they must also ask: If a leader should fall, who will take his place?

Always Have a Plan B

This is the danger of relying on Personality-drive movements. Great men fall, coincidences happen, stuff hits the fan. The question is, did you, and your society, have the good sense to think about a plan B? Naive Indians spend too much time studying the stars or relying on new friendships to shape their world view. Allies don’t shape interests, interests determine allies. And if things don’t work out they should have plan b. They need to understand that not every man God sends is a Godsend. Not every leader is an Avatar of Vishnu, and virtually no leader is infallible. Rather than sycophants, India needs lieutenants.

This also why one must not simply study the works of our hero or our Gurus. It is critical to read widely and observe carefully, both that which is favorable to us and that which is irritating to us.

Read Widely and Observe Carefully

When Trilochanapala, the last King of the Hindu Shahi dynasty was fighting in the hills of Himachal against Mahmud of Ghazni, he perched himself on the high ground and waited for reinforcements. He didn’t attack directly, but observed. The King of Kashmir sent reinforcements led by a favorite Captain, who had neither read widely, nor was familiar with the enemy. He haughtily laughed at Trilochanapala’s caution about the nature of Turk warfare and how it did not conform to the civilized rules of battle Indians were used to. However, our cocky commander went ahead and his unit was destroyed, while the Shahi Scion continued his fight with strategy and seriousness.

Now Trilochanapala did not ultimately succeed, because the odds were against him (sometimes that is the case), but at least he fought intelligently. And others, like King Vidhyadhara of Kalinjar (MP) were able to rollback and drive away Mahmud, because they fought with strategy and seriousness. Similarly, by observing carefully, doing the analysis, and striking when conditions were favorable (rather than rashly and blindly) the Marathas were able to defeat the Mughals in their 27 Year Liberation War.

That is why the greatest of commanders and leaders read widely. They don’t just read the flavor of the month or merely apply the time-worn custom, but read the situation and combine their knowledge with their observations. Indians must stop living on their opinions and assumptions and understanding the real world for what it really is. That means reading widely and studying your adversary. That is real intelligence.

Understand the Importance of Pragmatism

Idiot, loud mouth Indians need to stop behaving like children and start behaving like adults. This means putting your emotions and conceits to the side and focusing on what’s important and what works. This is called pragmatism. The most pragmatic people in the world today are the Chinese. Before them, the Americans. And most famously, it was the Romans. Pragmatism has no time for sentiment, it has no time for navel-gazing, and it has no time for obsolete custom. It plays to win and looks to what works.

Thus, Bharatiyas must learn to adapt what works from people around the world while keeping their essence: culture and heritage. As Virgil wrote: “It is right to learn, even from the enemy”. So start doing purva paksa and stop pontificating on how Indians shouldn’t do this or that. As Shivaji demonstrated, adopting Ganimi Kava (while observing the essentials of Dharma, i.e. respecting women, etc) where appropriate is the path to victory and civilizational defense.

That is why all the stupid idiots running around talking in bipolar terms of black and white, my side your side, enemy or friend are undoing their own cause without realizing it. They fail to see that we live in the Kali Age—and are deep in it (5116 years), and must therefore live in the grey. That means separating the essential from the ancillary. It means prioritizing principles we must absolutely keep while compromising on second or third order principles. Sri Krishna demonstrated this time and time again in the Mahabharata War, when small fibs were told in order to ensure that a woman’s honor was protected and vindicated.

Fundamentally, Dharma is about outcomes—not the same as fruits. Fruits only refer to benefits/rewards. Outcomes may not benefit us personally, but ultimately benefit society. Thus, the question before people is how to work for the best societal outcome.

This also means learning to work together.

Work as a Team, Dummy.

Indians are the absolute worst at working as a team. Each nimrod operates as a brainless puppet or thinks he’s an army of one, single-handedly equipped to defeat all the common adversaries. The moment he realizes either he, or his chosen hero of the moment can’t do it alone, despair overwhelms our fanboy. He must learn to work and win as a team. This means taking up team sports. This is the best antidote to the bipolarity of over-confident dummies vs defeatist complainers.

Throw away the Defeatist Mentality

When despair overwhelms our stupid idiots, then all is lost. The flagellation begins. He questions everything, from his fate, to his manhood, to everyone else. But that is not the way to face the challenges of life. Defeat doesn’t mean your adversary was right. It may just mean he was better prepared, or occasionally even that the cards were in his favor. And that is the point of this exercise. Between chest-thumping and self-flagellation is a veritable alphabet of options. The best is to study dispassionately what is happened, why it happened, and what can be done. Internalizing your enemies’ (and their traitor-accomplices’) insults and intellectually bankrupt conceits is not the way to victory or even self-improvement.

Your enemies don’t respect weakness, they respect only strength, and they show no mercy to those who beg. In fact, your pleading and defeatism only give them pleasure and confirm their lies, conceits, and invented superiority complexes. If your peers still aren’t convinced of the importance of soberly facing losses and doing triage, there is another solution.

In Telugu there is a saying: manishi k’okka maata, gedhu k’okka debba [a word for humans, a slap for buffalos]. Perhaps all Indians need a tight thappad across their faces to wake up and soberly face what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. It also will help them gain the maturity to take, give, and have criticism rejected.

Learn to Take Constructive Criticism…and to have your Criticism Criticized

When a liaison from the US Navy was interviewed after a long tour with his Indian counterparts, he was asked for his thoughts on the culture. He said “Indians are prickly”, meaning they are too thin-skinned. Not everyone who praises you is your friend, not everyone who criticizes you is your enemy. This is why Immanuel Kant wrote that stupidity is deficiency in judgment. Judgment is knowing what to do, what not to do, and when to do. Knowledge is merely knowing how to do something. Judgment helps you apply it.

Judgment also means knowing how to take criticism and not to get outraged at every passing remark. So our Indians must have the judgment to learn how to handle criticism, and also to do it privately. No one likes a traitor, not even the enemy traitors side with. So don’t air dirty laundry in public, but do critique yourself and your society.

Think before you Act

We all make typos from time to time, but for God’s sakes, will you people take at least two seconds to proof a tweet or a blog post. Again, this is where over-emotional hyperactivity frequently undoes dharmic causes.

Knowledge without strategy is fecklessness, Strategy without knowledge is foolery. Action without aim is witlessness, Talk without action is buffoonery.

What hope does your society have when the good people do nothing? Doing something doesn’t mean becoming a superhero. Working for change doesn’t mean becoming a vigilante. And changing views doesn’t mean talking without listening. All it means is making a positive contribution, however small, to the civilization that gave you so much and that protects those whom you love.

To cure Indians of themselves, they must first know themselves, know what faces them, and figure out a way, however small (whether it’s cataloging their heritage, correcting misinterpretations, writing articles, writing books, or building institutions ), to comprehensively act and cooperate against common threats. But to become the men and women they are capable of being, stupidity inspired action is not the way. Strategy is. But for strategy to be implemented, they must train themselves with seriousness, and dedicate themselves to the ideal that unites them with everything they hold dear: their family, their state, their country, and their culture.

References:

  1. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason
  2. Sandhu.2002