Saturday 6 November 2010

They drink urine and burn widows. No wonder they are so poor

In an article Possessions and the Extended Self Russell W. Belk writes, “Another example, perhaps repugnant to Western observers, is the drinking of the urine of Vedic priests to partake of the psychogenic properties of the Amanita muscaria mushroom that these priests ritually consume (Wasson 1972).” In the same article, he writes, “Until outlawed 100 years ago in India, the wife, as ‘property’ of a deceased husband, was expected to join him in death (Bordewich 1986).”

The first sentence implies that Eastern observers may not find the drinking of urine repugnant. Anyway, a little searching shows that Wasson’s conclusion was probably based on a single line, one that merely said that if you drank much soma (And scholars are far from anonymous what soma was), you urinated a lot. The drinking of urine was Wasson’s conjecture. (I invite you to Google the topic. It’s easy.)

And while I don’t know where Bordewich got his data from, I am quite sure it wasn’t from any sane source. The burning of widows accounted for a minuscule number of deaths when it was legal; and it was outlawed in British India in 1823, not 100 years ago (Belk’s article came out in 1988). To say that sati or widow burning was ‘expected’ is to say that white Americans were expected to lynch blacks (I do not mean anything derogatory by ‘white’ or ‘black’) every time they had an unsolved rape on their hands. Neither lynching nor sati was fiction; but that did not make either routine. Anyway, Bordewich wrote in The Atlantic, which is not an academic journal. 

Academics are supposed to be looking for the truth, but when it comes to darkies, who cares? If these people are so poor, ignorant and corrupt, can they be humans like us? No, they must be absolutely irrigational and abnormal. Of course, we need not bother if they outnumber us 3:1 or 4:1 and, hence, whatever they do should to be the norm, not what we do.   

I believe open racism is easier to deal with that this sort of bigotry, which comes out routinely in mainstream media and even in academic literature. Well-meaning Westerners may not recognise the problem: one hardly expects professors, journalists and columnists to be racists, and Easterners dare not write against the pillars of society. For if they do, they show how insecure they are, how afraid of ‘losing face’.

Anyway, I would very much like to do research on this topic, to show if this racism can be objectively exposed, at least as far as academic articles and books go.   


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