Monday 24 October 2011

Floating bodies and floods

“Oh, you have floods every year with millions of refugees.” “In India, dead bodies float in the rivers.” “How can you talk about democracy when your military has massacred Kashmiris every day for the last 70 years.” “You don’t work at all because all you are interested in is the next life.”

We have to hear things like this all the time in France. Well, they are true, aren’t they? That depends on what you mean by truth. If you ask whether these things happen, then the answer is that they do. India has floods, there are often reports of dead bodies in sacred rivers, and of killings, rape, and torture by the armed forces in Kashmir. And rebirth is a part of Hinduism.

However, if truth means anecdotal evidence or representations of some larger truth, then where do these facts fit? Do they explain India? If there is more to a country of 1.1 billion than ugliness and irrationality. (I cannot understand why rebirth is irrational while heaven and hell are sane – but then I’m an atheist.)  Why do Westerners and Arabs go on and on about how backward and ugly India is to Indians who are their equals in every way? Does it never strike them that if all that there was to India was poverty and depravity, the Indians they are talking to couldn’t have existed?

Will a Frenchman believe that all Americans are 7-foot-tall? If not, why does he believe that all girls in India are destroyed in the foetus? More interestingly, what does he get by believing it?