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Pitfalls of stereotyping and objectifying people

September 9, 2008
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The violence against against Christians in Orissa after the murder of the Swami Laxmananda Saraswati (who was opposed to Christian missionary activity) is intolerable. I don’t want to go into who killed the Swami (the police say it’s the Naxals but the perpetrators of the violence insist it’s the “Christians”) and nor do I have any sympathy for those who perpetrate violence, whether mental or physical.  In any case at a rational level we all know that nothing justifies revenge against innocent people.

These tribal communities lived in peace before religion arrived on the scene…and some say it is the relative affluence and educational levels of the converted Christians (better access to schools and support of the church) that has infuriated the ‘Hindus.” But the actual reasons for the divide go beyond this, reasons which are not just social but also religious and political.

Religious violence is not new to India, nor is mob violence, (often aided and abetted by political groups). Such behavior is not restricted to India…in fact it is the dark side of human nature. Only the law can keep it in check, which it doesn’t, not in India.

All of us are guilty
We may not pick up an axe and hack someone to death, we may not burn someone’s house down or threaten someone to re-convert at the point of a knife…but aren’t we all guilty of group hatred and group prejudice? Once strong negative images of a particular community and/or a group takes control of our minds, the foray into verbal or physical violence is just the next step. Some people are not physically violent themselves but are happy if someone does the dirty work for them. Or at best, they turn a blind eye.

This “revenge” mentality against groups is widespread. When the earthquake hit China, there were people who said China deserved it because of its activities in Tibet. Sharon Stone’s comment on this issue was widely publicized, but I am sure others secretly felt this too.  And no, I don’t think cine stars as a group felt this way. Recently I heard someone say something similarly sick about the devastation caused in Bihar due to the river Kosi changing course. Hundreds and thousands of people have lost their homes and many have died…it is a colossal tragedy but people feel indifferent because it is poor Bihar! Then there are people who want the whole of West Bengal to suffer because of a few misguided politicians. They feel that if the Tatas pull out of Bengal, the state “deserves” it. Tomorrow if something bad happens in Maharashtra I know there will be people who will say “they” deserve it because “they” want outsiders out.

There are those who deliberately shut their minds to the fact that extreme actions are usually undertaken by a minority. And at times the minority of the minority! Those who fall victim to negative stereotypes are prejudiced to start with (with a strong “us” and “them” attitude) and also insecure I think. Painting whole communities and groups with the same brush is a matter of relief for them, an outlet for their anger. Not being a psychologist I cannot lay down all the reasons, but I think ego also has something to do with it.

Negative stereotyping is dangerous
This “us” and “them” attitude, seeing people as group members (not as an individuals) is deeply ingrained into human psyche. So wired is it into our genes that I am sure it must have helped us in our cave man days. Stereotyping people certainly makes it easier to handle the “other” and it certainly has its advantages. By definition, stereotyping is:

…a simplified and/or standardized conception or image with specific meaning, often held in common by people about another group

Those who have “suffered” due to the action of a member or two of the “other” community often allow their simmering hatred (which has been dormant since childhood) to spill on to all other individuals of that particular group. Any untoward incident (the assassination of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati is an example) can result in large-scale violence in which normally law abiding citizens could partcipate or condone. The fact that they know that they will never be persecuted by the law helps a great deal. While stereotyping in itself may not be bad, acting upon one’s stereotype is another matter altogether. As a psychologist puts it:

Stereotypes do not tell us how to behave or treat other people (or groups of people)… Stereotypes tell us what groups of people tend to be or do in general; they do not tell us how we ought to treat them.

We know that in India nothing happens to those who break the law when part of a mob. And this in a country where there are plenty of different cultural groups…enough fodder for political parties to stir up trouble by creating fear and insecurity and increasing the threat perception of their vote bank. What is tragic is that ordinary people fall victims to it, not just the bigots. The bigots just lead the pack.

(Photo credits: Orissa photo is from topnews.com and flood photo is from national geographic news)

Related Reading: Strike, agitate and paralyze, that’s becoming a way of life!
Gujjar violence of 2007
Violent mobs should pay
Comparision of violent crime in the world
Poor people to Police ratio
Dalit violence in Maharashtra after Ambedkar’s statue damaged in Kanpur
Fake mob attack by political party

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53 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2008 7:45 pm

    we are all united indeed,
    we hate each other mutually.
    It is no more my country,
    everyone is hungry,
    to see the other deceased.
    One mouth lesser to feed,
    it is the survival of your creed.
    every action and deed,
    are purposefully levied,
    into sowing the seed-
    of hatred and communal greed.

  2. Den Relojo permalink
    September 9, 2008 7:51 pm

    Streotyping and discrimination are indeed global diseases. We should learn to realize that differences should not make any difference at all.

  3. September 9, 2008 8:15 pm

    first of all the guy who found the word relegion must be kicked hard..
    and yes we all are guilty.. we all are perverts relating things that are purely coincidental…

    We know that in India nothing happens to those who break the law when part of a mob. And this in a country where there are plenty of different cultural groups…enough fodder for political parties to stir up trouble by creating fear and insecurity and increasing the threat perception of their vote bank. What is tragic is that ordinary people fall victims to it
    how true…
    how sad

  4. September 9, 2008 8:21 pm

    Nita,

    Recent events be it violence in Orissa, anti- outsider debate in Maharashtra, Tata-Singur case, secessionists in Kashmir all events point to the growing intolerance among people.

    On one hand there is a lot of talk about economic growth and our unique democractic structure, on the other certain groups are perpetrating violence in the name of religion and cultural identities.

    The fact is, an Indian is turning against an Indian.

    Priyanka Chauhan

  5. September 9, 2008 8:24 pm

    Very neatly explained…except that I don’t think …/There are those who deliberately shut their minds to the fact that extreme actions are usually undertaken by a minority/
    I think people actually believe that the whole group is a homogeneous, that all Muslims are violent, all Hindus are tolerant, all Christians are trying to convert…it seems to be working very well for our Politicians!
    I am getting a hopeless feeling about this country’s future…it seems we really are doomed to fight with other, divided into tiny states, each with their own armies.
    Is there any hope?

  6. September 9, 2008 9:25 pm

    I think the right to live and choose freely has been long forgotten… It’s sad, but it’s true… You’re absolutely right when you say we’re all guilty… I am ashamed of myself when I think of all the times I had racist thoughts and thoughts of discrimination… Everyone has these… Sigh…

    And as for Sharon Stone’s comments, I think she was just looking for publicity!😀

  7. lallopallo permalink
    September 9, 2008 9:56 pm

    If Sharon Stone said that China was paying because they deserved it due to Tibet, I must say she is sick ..and so are all those who said or thought similar when Bihar floods came..
    And, yes, you are right about stereotyping..it’s the ugly truth of our times..

  8. September 9, 2008 10:13 pm

    How about *positive* stereotypes of people and communities? Are those OK?🙂

  9. September 10, 2008 12:34 am

    A powerful essay, Nita! I think once again your sharp mind has seen to the root of a problem.

    I agree this “us versus them” attitude probably has some genetic basis — and probably once had survival value.

    But then, the appendix has a genetic basis and once had survival value. No longer! And no longer does this “us versus them” have survival value.

    In fact, in an age of nuclear weapons when it is actually possible to destroy all human life on this planet, “us versus them” might well be the antithesis of an instinct with survival value.

    Thank you for an inspiring post!

  10. September 10, 2008 2:04 am

    I would agree with the fact that religion is often the cause of problems between people. I think Sharon Stone did not say that with a revenge mentality when it came to China/Earthquake/Tibet, I sort of felt it too when the earthquake happened. China is paying for its karma. Surely if you do not believe in that it is one thing but for someone who does it is very real.

    Let me just say this and I have said it once at vinods blog. As long as we humans keep dividing things in to negative and positive, good or bad or just keep indulging in duality we are going to keep suffering. Christians/Hindus is just duality as well. My understanding of the matter is based upon how I see the world. Yours is based on how you see it, the rioters see it differently. Its just how it is.

  11. September 10, 2008 7:03 am

    Nita, have you been reading some Advaita philosophy, by any chance?🙂

  12. September 10, 2008 7:37 am

    Vishesh, Den, Arvind, Priyanka, Nikhil, Lallopallo, thanks for your thoughts.

    Indian Homemaker, perhaps you are right, but don’t you also think that it is matter of intelligence as well? I mean, a highly intelligent person will know at some level that the group quality does not apply to individuals.

    Paul, you have taken my post and given an even sharper take on it! You are dead right! This us and them attitude can destroy all of us today!!

    Amit, I guess even positive stereotyping can have it’s pitfalls!🙂 One can be cheated! And about advaita or whatever, I don’t understand what that is! I did try to google it after your comment and too complicated for a simple soul like me!

    Odzer,
    true she said it was karma, but doesn’t the philosophy of karma mean that “for every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful.”

  13. September 10, 2008 10:32 am

    Neeta Came back to add, I really like this post and would like to add one more thing, this ‘us and them’ attitude is so strong that if we think it will end at religion we are being very optimistic, once we sort ourselves according to our religions, we will start bickering over castes and sub castes, sects and various gods (Shaivaites & Vaishvanavees/Shia &Sunni/Catholics & Protestants)…nothing will bring peaceful coexistence except the realization that an individual does not necessarily represent a group at all. The root cause of all the unhappiness and intolerance IS stereotyping indeed…you are absolutely right.
    And these lines are scary because they are so true. //Once strong negative images of a particular community and/or a group takes control of our minds, the foray into verbal or physical violence is just the next step. Some people are not physically violent themselves but are happy if someone does the dirty work for them. Or at best, they turn a blind eye.//

  14. hoku permalink
    September 10, 2008 10:36 am

    Priyanka@ I don’t understand how Singur is a case of growing intolerance among people. Please don’t mix Singur with other cases. I would also request you not to form opinion based only on the English News Papers and Electronic Media. Have you gone through the contract between TATA and WB government.
    Nita@ good article.

  15. September 10, 2008 10:42 am

    Categorising or slotting people by race, religion, caste, gender, region, education, careers, economic prosperity, food habits, sartorial sense and a million similar criteria is a normal way of making sense of wordly complexities.

    The human brain tries to simplify such complexities. You have rightly pointed that this attribute is hard wired in us.

    Things get out of hand when problems or inadequacies are attributed to any group.

    When you analyse carefully, you realise that many such violent flare-ups happen in areas plagued by poverty, lack of development, lack of opportunity, extreme prejudice or continuous political mis-handling.

    In an era when access to information is easy, a sense of fairness in resource allocation and a sensitive administration is extremely important.

    It is very easy to whip up passions about discrimination and you can have a million angry persons (feeling deprived) ready to carry the flag.
    A person with an empty belly is more likely to be swayed by such rhetoric than one who is gainfully employed and is fortunate to sleep after a meal.

  16. chirax permalink
    September 10, 2008 10:58 am

    Us, and them – PF

    “And after all were only ordinary men.
    Me, and you.
    God only knows its noz what we would choose to do.
    Forward he cried from the rear
    And the front rank died.
    And the general sat and the lines on the map
    Moved from side to side.
    Black and blue
    And who knows which is which and who is who.
    Up and down.
    But in the end its only round and round.
    Havent you heard its a battle of words
    The poster bearer cried.
    Listen son, said the man with the gun
    Theres room for you inside.”

    Nita, Everywhere on earth people identify them selves in a group people from US say they are from NJ or NYC. But when they face a problem they are all Americans!!! We on the other hand are still living with a primitive mind set of making small small group and then when there is a point where we have to stand up for something, we all prefer the easy way, yes, partially due to the fact that system is corrupt and we can be bullied by anyone. But don’t you think its high time we understand if we won’t stand up for something we’ll fall for everything.

    Politicians are well, Politicians. People stop the prejudice based on religion and cast.

  17. hoku permalink
    September 10, 2008 11:01 am

    Mavin @ agree fully with the first part. Stereotyping is hardwired and we categorize and club similar things in brain to keep things simple. But your assertion “When you analyse carefully, you realise that many such violent flare-ups happen in areas plagued by poverty, lack of development, lack of opportunity, extreme prejudice or continuous political mis-handling.” may always not be true. For example Gujarat is one of our most advanced state but we have seen one of the worst case of religious hatred over there.

  18. hoku permalink
    September 10, 2008 11:08 am

    chirax@ I think this is also a type of stereotyping Americans are better and we are bad in everything. Indians do stand as united at the time of crisis. There are innumerable such occasions. Freedom struggle would be a good example.
    I think in USA diversity is not as much as we have. Most of them after all speak same language and have same religion.

  19. September 10, 2008 11:21 am

    I can not say about how she defines karma but when that event had occurred my thoughts were mainly on the aspect of cause and effect. Karma for me is “mechanical or automatic”. Invading a country may of course not be described as “skillful”. Of course a lot of Tibetan people suffered too in that earthquake and the invasion of Tibet itself is as much a cause of Karma. Many Tibetans actually say that about their own nation, I am not sure why the Chinese were so offended by it. May be their guilty conscious is finally catching up with them.

  20. September 10, 2008 11:56 am

    I would have said education could make a change, if i had not seen educated people themselves act stupid.

    More Rationalists in the public domain please….

    BTW
    china had an earthquake because they treated Tibetans bad???😕

  21. Guqin permalink
    September 10, 2008 12:01 pm

    //If Sharon Stone said that China was paying because they deserved it due to Tibet, I must say she is sick …//

    //when it came to China/Earthquake/Tibet, I sort of felt it too when the earthquake happened. China is paying for its karma. // etc.

    What is really sick is the shameless lyings of the western media of the Tibet reports, and then the vulgar version of spirituality revealed here by Stone.

    If we Chinese were that bad, then I must admit that Stone was at least logically right in someway. Yet the fact is, in 50 years, Beijing raised the average life span of Tibetans from about 35 to about 70, and almost doubled the population (by about 1.8) (this is not to deny the Cultural Revolution and some other brutality by the goverment, but they were nation-wide, not intended for Tibetans alone, and they should be measured objectively but exagerated)…yet the west raised the theory of genocide…But that doesn’t really hit me (once you see the baseness of a person, you won’t be bothered by his opinions any more), what hits me is that other nations belive the west…Buddism says, harming others in words is another form of killing. The west’s media has added this to the west’s “debts”

    In fact, I “wish” Ms. Stone’s vulgar version of Buddhism is truthful, since then at least people have something to worry about before they commit crimes. But I must hope that Stone and her people should be ready when the same effect takes on the west regarding all its doings on Africans, natives of America, Australia and countless of others (including India). The Whole U.S.A., Canada, Australia… are the real Tibets, aren’t they?too.

    Forgive me, Nita, I feel a strong disgust in bringing this up again. But if some day you learn the facts, you will understand my anger here. But more, you will be shocked by the moral standard of the intellectual west.

    Going back to the origianl topic. In the past few months during the China bashing of the west, I think I have gained an important insight that, when common people look at a thing, they try to find themselves in it. The world is only their mirror. The terms the west used to bash China are all from their own history: Nazism, slavery, human and cultural genocides etc. And this phenonmenon can happen in a reversed manner as well. For instance, a native American discribed a country to me, all the time I thought he was talking about U.S., only at the end, I found out he meant China since he believed Han people in China “must be” like white people in America, and Tibetans “must be” like native Americans. But by doing that people are IMPERSONALIZING the object. (In this case, this native American said a lot of ill things about Han people as a group, and all these ill things reflected what a native American could say to a white man.) Once the object is impersonalized, they no more have sympathy for it….And I must addmit that I myself to a certain degree feel similarly about white people too since all the events in the last half a year (besides the media, most “free Tibet” protesters in the west are white people, Only some are real Tibetans, and very few other minorities.) : Are all white people some what hypocritial? But in my case, it stays a rather surface question but a seeking or wishing of active “revenge”.

    My other observation is that, people are amazingly forgiving for themselves but inddifferent for others. Take the Stone case, she didn’t seem to recall the history of her own people, and gave no second thought how Chinese would feel (especially the families of the victims). And she didn’t even remind herself of 9/11 or Katrina of New Orleans (what did black people do to deserve this?).

  22. Guqin permalink
    September 10, 2008 12:12 pm

    //I am not sure why the Chinese were so offended by it. May be their guilty conscious is finally catching up with them.//

    Just saw the above by Odzer. I think his comment demonstrates a point in my last comment: He is looking for himself (ie. his own ready-made thoughts about China) in a China case like looking into a mirror.

  23. September 10, 2008 12:18 pm

    @ E.H. : No China did not have an earthquake because they treated Tibetans bad. If you think that it is quite simplistic of you.

    If it is not A, it does not automatically mean it is B. Many so called rationalists are just living in their own alice in wonderland.

  24. September 10, 2008 2:19 pm

    We have over thousand castes, and yes we still discriminate people on its basis. I know that may be our generation(atleast some) may not be discriminating people on the basis of religion or caste. But we do have that in out blood. Might take some generations to wear off.

  25. September 10, 2008 2:49 pm

    @odzer,

    it was just a funny comment….easy.

    of course. i know everything is not binary.

    its tough for rationalists in this enlightened all-knowing world.

  26. chirax permalink
    September 10, 2008 2:50 pm

    @Hoku, Pl. Read this you might get the pun there ….http://thetoptenme.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/why-indians-have-funny-accent-or-do-they/

  27. September 10, 2008 3:33 pm

    Excellent post Nita. Its just sad how people just like “labeling” others!! Do they ever wonder if they are being labeled too?

  28. September 10, 2008 4:35 pm

    @Hoku

    Re: Gujarat – I guess “extreme prejudice” or “political mishandling” should apply.

    You could also call Gujarat a “spontaneous explosion of anger” or a “state sponsored pogrom” depending on which side of the table you are on. Both sides have vociferous supporters and their own analysis of the situation.

  29. September 10, 2008 4:38 pm

    A bit late..but still..🙂

    A few of my responses are to comments here. So apologies if things are a bit mixed up.

    First of all, stereotyping (positive or negative) is an inseparable part of our life (the quote by the psychologist you provided being a good key). So I don’t think looking at it as a vestige is a good idea. We are incapable of processing the huge amounts of information we receive daily. Stereotypes make this processing simpler for us. Thus the belief that progress(of all sorts) might free us of stereotypes is, I guess, a stereotype in itself. 🙂

    As the post most ably demonstrates, stereotypes and violence are closely connected. One point I would like to emphasize is not just the absence of effective response by the state but also the feeling on the part of the people that they do not have any agency when it comes to the state(in other words, the disconnect people feel). This can be either the disconnect of fear(the state is prejudiced against us) or a more aggressive disconnect(the state is incapable of or too weak to take up our concerns). It is often this sentiment that provides the fertile ground for the action on stereotypes.

  30. September 10, 2008 4:49 pm

    As for earthquakes and their “karmic” connection to our sins, the story has some desi aspects as well..the famous Gandhi-Tagore debate.

    This post provides some insight into the details of the debate
    🙂

  31. September 10, 2008 4:58 pm

    Very nice post Nita. We have only ourselves to blame for categorizing people as Castes. The lower castes were converted to Christianity easily – Vulnerable and deprived off rights. If we didn’t have any kind of division among us, we would not have stereotyping. Sometimes making jokes with stereotypes also goes over the board and tastes bitter. People should stop doing that too.

  32. September 10, 2008 5:52 pm

    Indianhomemaker, true India has a lot of sub-groups…but stereotypes about women for example are also very irritating!

    Hoku, Nova, thanks.

    Mavin, as you said, there are more insidious types of stereotypes in all societies and these stereotypes are often reinforced in childhood.

    Chirax,
    identification is one thing, but striking that delicate balance another. Being a positive thinking person myself, I prefer to believe positive stereotypes rather than negative. If I am proved wrong, at least it means I have given that person a chance! Not that I haven’t ever believed a negative stereotype about others, I certainly have, but thankfully managed to get out of it in time, before it became cast in stone.

    Odzer, Karma is a beautiful concept of Buddhism (although I don’t believe in it) because as Gugin pointed out, if Karma existed we wouldn’t really have any evil left on earth. But that is just my own lack of belief…but in any case, whether someone believes in Karma or not, it is very insensitive and wrong to utter the kind of words that Sharon Stone did. We may have a fleeting thought about some people we have a grievance about, but controlling it is preferable. Because as you said, Karma is not revenge. It’s a consequence of one’s actions which is supposed to be automatic.

    E.H., the word “rationalist” is itself a label and scares me!🙂

    Gugin, you are always welcome to share your views here, you know that so no need to apologize! I see your point ofcourse about the pot calling the kettle black. About objectification of others, yes we are all guilty of it, the main thing is to be conscious of it.

    Xylene, every culture has it’s own groupism, they have their groups and they stereotype too. We just have more obvious and strongly etched stereotypes in India. Probably we can’t identify their groups.

    Prasanth, your comment is not at all mixed up. As you said, a stereotype leads to a disconnect with other people. We tend to reject them without bothering to know them. Talking of negative stereotypes ofcourse. We have all been victims of it too…I know I have.

    Dineshbabu, yes some stereotypes tend to give bitter feelings to those who are the stereotyped. All of us hate to be stereotyped, we long to tell people that we are not what we seem, that we are not like what people mistake “our kind” to be…but often this falls on deaf ears.

  33. David permalink
    September 10, 2008 6:57 pm

    I find it slightly less than humerous that every comment on Nita’s article is a form of stereotype themselves. Every opinion made against one person, or group of people was based on some type of label, often taught to us through traditional beliefs of one’s background. After all, isn’t everything we think and do borrowed – our names, our clothes, our beliefs? Individualism is a rather difficult task to accomplish, given the forces of the universe, and the natural order of things.

    The topic of religion is, in my opinion, a man-made term to distinguish, and, dare I say, seperate humanity for the very purpose of producing conflict. This is an old trick of the human mind – to break the whole conscience into levels that work against each other. The ego, and super ego are manifestations of the sub-conscience, in which often works hard to hide an inward negativity.
    When people associate themselves with a group, or even an event, the ego proudly boasts its opinions against the other.

    Frankly, I find some of the comments here a little offensive, and without basis. Personally, I admire things in every race, creed and gender – this does not justify my absolute belief in any one of them.

    Religion, to me, is a bad word. It establishes the very troubles we find in the “mob mentality”, producing violence. In every spiritual belief there is one common factor we all tend to distort – there is a Supreme Being, and there is us. The split personality falls on us, as the Supreme Being is Infallible. Ths can be simply demonstrated by our actions during a natural disaster, such as the earthquake in China. Who are we to say why an earthquake occurred? This is unwise thinking, as only the Heavens know. Even science can only tell us how it occurred, not why.

    When we as a human race come together, and utilize our whole minds by surpassing our subconcience to reach True existance, then we can progress rapidly. Anger and violence is born of selfish pride, and only begets more anger and violence. Peace, and unity is the only answer in any crisis.

    This was my very first WordPress reading, and my first comment. Nita – excellent thoughts. Overall, the comments made here were very heartfelt.

    Personal note to Guqin: I am a US citizen, born and raised. As you may have surmised, I am not an intellectual, yet a compassionate person. Someone here stated that americans think, act and live as one. Nothing is further from the truth, as the diversity of our country has made me more friends of Chinese, Indian, Korean, African, Arabian, Pakastani and many others, all of whom share my compassion for human life. Not everyone here has poor opinions, and the media plainly exaggerates for profits. Good and evil are a mixed solution worldwide, like the salt in the ocean’s waters – don’t put down its taste without experiencing the beauty of its whole existance.

  34. September 10, 2008 7:09 pm

    @hoku…electronic and print media only helps in shaping up our opinion. as for contract…vl u elaborate on that.

  35. September 10, 2008 9:25 pm

    Stereotyping is a typical feature of all forms of collectivism. The collectivist, who wants to identify only groups, and not individuals, finds it necessary and convenient to ascribe common characteristics to groups: “Muslims are crazy”, “Brahmans are cunning”, or such crap…..

  36. Amit permalink
    September 10, 2008 9:55 pm

    Or, some self-ascribed characteristics like “Objectivists/Rationalists are brilliant.”😉 😀
    (just kidding)

  37. September 10, 2008 10:42 pm

    @ nita🙂 Unfortunately it can’t be avoided. find it very tough.

    is asking to “stop and think” too much to ask?
    my goD !!!

  38. September 10, 2008 10:46 pm

    Stereotyping is really sadistic..It discourages people to start belonging to the odd broup as they are already labelled so..

  39. September 10, 2008 10:53 pm

    @ guquin : I have no ready made thoughts on China. I am saying this only on the basis of my experiences in occupied Tibet and in dealing with Tibetans in India.

    Karma is just a belief that many people have and they do attribute bad/good tidings to their past. Is it simplistic or even naive, perhaps. However if you look deeply it has nothing to do with good or bad. It simply exists.As for improving the life of Tibetans, the Tibetans did not ask Beijing to come in and improve life for them, they had a way of life before the chinese came in. Whether the chinese like that way or not is another question.

  40. September 10, 2008 11:03 pm

    David, thank you for your comment. It is indeed an honour that you left your first comment on wp on this blog! And to me too religion is a bad word.😦

    Rdoc, all these big words scare me!🙂

    E.H. You mean only “rationalists” think?🙂

    Nimmi, I guess some labels have negative meanings and none of us like to get those labels…but frankly I don’t like any kind of label slapped on me.

  41. Guqin permalink
    September 11, 2008 2:26 am

    To David,

    Sorry for having made you feel that way. You seemed like a compassionate person. I will be frank with you:

    I live in San Francisco (for years, though not a U.S. citizen). I think you overestimated the diversity of people’s mind in this nation. The diversity is very much on the surface. People here are evenly brain-washed but without knowing it. And the dishonesty of the media has a great deal to do with it (This is really the most shocking experience I have ever had). Let me provide a small example here: PBS (supposed to be aducational, objective) had a program in Xingjiang (largely Islamic part of China). The reporter chose a Han truck driver who was edvidently un-educated and could hardly speak properly. “Do you want to marry a Muslam girl?” The reporter asked. “No…” “Why not?” “Since I can’t eat pork anymore if I marry an Muslam girl…” “How so?” “Erh…they are people descended from pigs…” (He was refering to the Islamic literature, but saying it in a uneducated way) And the reporter was a so called “Chinese-American” which made the interview look more truthful…You see, David, how people here would think of Han people (another trick of the media here is to make people think only Han people are Chinese. I wonder if they dare to say that only native americans (or white people in a reversed case) are americans) after viewing that kind of programs? To my observation and experience, people here don’t have eccess to unfiltered ideology in a massive scale (which un-does the availability of some useful informations). (The other example would be the reporting on the Riot in Tibet this years. You can check out some sites by western tourists, and anti-cnn.com is a good one to begin with (if still around, got hacked before)). And the ignorance and arrogance of average people here act like the best censor. (If you speak for Beijing the slightest, you are brain-washed or a Commie spy). American people must wake up to this horrible fact. I dare say that American people are 10 times more brain washed than Chinese people. If a Chinese lacks information, he is aware of it. If an American is manipulated, he thinks his thoughts are the result of objective broadcasting and his own independent thinking.

    I appologize for my saying on “white people”. When I saw those “free Tibet” protestors being mostly white (sometimes all white) spitting at my country in the ruddest and most uncultured way (it looked like they knew only two things: war and protest, never communication) while they couldn’t even pointed out where China was on the map, and while they had such a terrible history themselves, it is hard not to think of the term “hypocrisy” in general. But like I said, it is only a surface questioning impression, nothing like revengentful thoughts.

    To Odzer,
    Agree with you to the “change of way of life” part. But like I said, it was nation wide under the Communist revolution, not particularly aiming at Tibetans. And besides, I was pointing out the amazing lies of the “genocides” theory, which is something entirely different. Only after we make this clear, we can talk about Karma. Regarding your “experience”, I have mine too. A friend of mine is a Tibetan born and lived there, later moved to India and now in U.S., and he favors a politically independent Tibet as well. But that doesn’t mean he is into lying about “genocides” like the west or some other Tibetans who have never been to Tibet would like him to do. And that doesn’t mean he denied Beijing’s efforts in bettering the living conditions in Tibet (removing its traditional farmer-slavery system, better medical care, education oppotunities, supporting the arts…etc.).

    Also You should be more careful with the word “occupied” too. Tibet has been a part of China since Yuan dynasty, the Communist goverment only took more direct control (that doesn’t mean I agree to it, but neither that means Tibet is “occupied”. And of course, Tibetans still have the right to seek independence, but that shouldn’t be done by twisting history). In fact your “occupied” concept may apply better to some parts of India.

    On Karma
    I think it can be understood in a more natural way: it is the effect on the mind. For instance, a murderer looses his respect for life, and accordingly he can’t enjoy his own life anymore. Similarly, a rapist takes away possibility of Romance from himself (since he doesn’t respect women anymore). Closer observation can hardly fail this principle. And according to most spiritual traditions, the mind makes reality. And it is quite a co-incident (maybe not a co-incident at all) that modern physics says something similar. But that shouldn’t be understood trivially as earthquakes, winning the lottories etc. but more in the totality of the living environment. (That is, not just what kind of house you live in, but how people treat you in that house…)

    On the earthquake
    It may or may not be a result of Karma. China is thousands years old, over such a long period, even a good people’s small wrong doings can add up quite significantly (interesting enough, an American youth told me this.). If it is Karma, then it is probably for this reason, not Tibet. And like I said, one should look at how we Chinese treated each other in handling the quake, and how some friendly foreign communities reacted to it too (and Thank you, India), since, this can also be a part of our Karma.

  42. September 11, 2008 8:29 am

    @ Guquin : No indigenous Chinese have ever occupied Tibet. The only people to have influence over Tibet were Mongols. Had it been so the Tibetan culture would have reflected Chinese influence. Tibetans are culturally closer to India than China! Further The Government of India under the Empire signed a treaty with The Government of Tibet in 1914, commonly known as the Simla Agreement. As far as I know the UK also had a mission in Lhasa.There is conclusive proof of Tibet as a country in terms of Tibetan passports stamped with Indian, US and UK Visas, money, stamps etc. Most Tibetans will if asked to vote accept independence in a heartbeat in a referendum. Although I doubt China would want to try that. Yeah sure Tibet suffered under cultural revolution but it continues to do so till this day. If china has brought some cosmetic progress to Tibet, it is also stealing Tibetan resources. As for the use of the word occupied, in my eyes and views it is occupied. The Chinese I have seen in Tibet are as ill at ease there as they can be because they know they do not belong there. One more point if Tibet was never occupied there was no need for sending in the chinese army. You could have simply lived with the status quo. Anyway this is not a discussion forum and I won’t post more on this here even if you reply. Lets hope that some of the people your government has slammed in to jails that I know are released soon just because they were protesting for their freedom.

  43. September 11, 2008 8:46 am

    42 comments and some v long ones!!! sigh! this is what happens when one leads a dual life. Now starting my comment, “What is tragic is that ordinary people fall victims to it, not just the bigots. The bigots just lead the pack.” very very true. Religion and labels are just a tool for political manipulation.Recently in my city a Ganesh pandal was burnt and automatically some Muslim guys were suspected. No matter how much solidarity we show on front, within all of us lies a teeny weeny bit of habit of stereotyping and as u said acting upon it. But all are entitled to their own opinions. What is really important is that one must not express/act upon each and every opinion and one must not be led by some brain washed bigot to perpetrate violence.

  44. September 11, 2008 9:00 am

    Gugin, your comment is not addressed to me, but I hope you don’t mind if I refer to one aspect of it…about the misinformation by western media about China. It is the same about India. A kind of selective reporting about India happens in the western media and also a lot of misinformation. I had mentioned this in one of my comments (on another post) and I also believe that many people of Indian origin (but those who have not been educated here and/or have not lived in India for long) are taken by these foreign agencies to write “authentic” versions but unfortunately what is written is a biased piece. I don’t have proof of it, and therefore had to take back my comment, but I believe it nonetheless. I see it in a lot of writing about India, but mine is a subjective judgment for which I cannot offer proof.

    Reema, thanks. coming late to a post doesn’t matter at all. Your life is more important! And yes as you said, we all fall victims to these prejudices, but main thing is to be conscious of it.

  45. September 11, 2008 10:03 am

    I think we should think about having a garbage free day. Here is a link to what I was talking about.

    http://joyeetamajumdar.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/a-loadfull-of-garbage/

  46. September 11, 2008 12:34 pm

    alright. i give up.🙂
    lets knock out the label.

  47. Guqin permalink
    September 11, 2008 1:06 pm

    To Odzer,
    Since you are not going to reply as you have declared and neither I want to lead this disscussion off topic, so I am going to point out a few things briefly. You have your own defintion of “Chinese” though China has over 50 minorities. And I hope you can tell the differences between political (mostly historical) independence and cultural independence. As well Tibet’s culture does reflect a great deal of Han culture since the Tang princess Wen Cheng. She was the wife of the Tibetan king (don’t know his name in English.).

    To Nita,
    With west’s media, India is still lucky since at least they don’t make up “genocide” stories… Only a short while back, I was still angery when I saw this, but no more, since like I said, they are looking into China like looking into a mirror and see themselves.

    //many people of Indian origin (but those who have not been educated here and/or have not lived in India for long) are taken by these foreign agencies to write “authentic” versions but unfortunately what is written is a biased piece. //

    Same in the Chinese case, or worse with some Hollywood actors of Chinese origin. And they got used too, such as the PBS case I included above, they used a Chinese-American to trap a Han truck driver in Xinjiang to make that “pig” comment about Muslims.

    Yet there is an other case that you pointed out: some authors of Indian/Chinese origin are honest, they just don’t know what they are doing. I recall a book I read a while back. The tiltle was “India, A Wounded Civilization” by Naipaul (a Nobel price writer). I couldn’t decide if the book was one of those pseudo-authentic ones you mentioned. However, his perspectives and analysis just didn’t seem right to me. Also, he only stayed in India for a year before he penned his book…This unusual confidence worried me too. I wonder if you or other Indian commentators if read this book can share what you think of it.

    Naipaul is a brilliant man. Yes I have read that book and one more by him too. You see, it’s not possible to dismiss his book and nor accept it in its entirety. India is too complex for that. And always, these “judgments” as subjective and I cannot call Naipaul “pseudo.” He is indeed an amazing observer of human nature. Also I read his book more than a decade ago, and I remember the feeling I had after reading it, rather than details of the book itself. I remember some things made me angry, but not everything. It’s always how you see things…for example if there is a flaw in India, the minute you understand the reasons, go deep into it, you understand it, not condemn it. – nita.

  48. Guqin permalink
    September 11, 2008 10:38 pm

    Thank you, Nita!

  49. September 18, 2008 4:15 am

    “Recently I heard someone say something similarly sick about the devastation caused in Bihar due to the river Kosi changing course. Hundreds and thousands of people have lost their homes and many have died…it is a colossal tragedy but people feel indifferent because it is poor Bihar!”
    Damn that person ! I had a feeling that there must be a lot of people who would be happy to know that millions from Bihar were suffering . And you proved me right . I was hoping that the Bihar Floods would be treated like the Gujerat Earthquakes or the Tsunami , but I have my doubts . People shelling out bucks for biharis, famous all over India for the wrong reasons, seems hard to believe . I hope I am wrong .

  50. September 21, 2008 11:57 am

    There’s something for you on my blog🙂

  51. September 21, 2008 9:30 pm

    It’s unfortunate, but what you say is true.
    I agree that people take vicarious pleasure out of dirty deeds done by others.

    I’ve seen defendants of Modi-cide saying stuff like ‘ but it’s true.. Muslims ARE terrorists after all..!’

    And these are everyday, urban middle class folks talking..

    Sad.

  52. September 22, 2008 7:12 pm

    Absolutely right.
    If we start stereotyping people based on the recent events in Singur (Nano), Maharashtra (Raj-Jaya), Kashmir (Land), Karnataka-Orissa (Christians), etc then I guess Indians as a whole will look like a backward,partisan,fanatic,partisan Race.

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