Friday, 25 January 2013

The global caste system endures (PO)

M D Nalapat

Friday, January 25, 2013 - Despite a millenia of rule by outside forces, beginning with the Mughals and ending with the British, the caste system has continued to endure in India, even though there is no genetic foundation to the division of the population into separate caste compartments. Over the millenia, there has been so much intermingling of diverse populations that a fusion has taken place which has the potential to create a genetic pool far more versatile than if there were not such mixing. Ultimately, efforts at separating people on a “vertical” basis, with some seen as “higher” than others, will fail. Far better to accept that society is best analysed in “horizontal” terms, where people are different but essentially equal. Unfortunately, the system of caste exists throughout the globe, where often a group of people see themselves as above the rest, and sometimes resort to the use of force to ensure that this is indeed the reality. In many countries, those following a specific faith or coming from a particular region get preference over the rest, whereas justice mandates that all should be given the same chance at success. Indeed, the more liberal the society, the greater the probability that it will outshine more conservative locations in intellectual advancement and material progress

The “caste system”, in the sense of a defined and mutually exclusive hierarchy, does not relate just to individuals. Globally, there is a caste system as well, where a group of powers consider themselves to have the right to enjoy privileges denied to the rest. Within the United Nations, for example, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council dominate internal processes and procedures. Because three of the five belong to NATO, that organisation has secured a commanding position even in segments of UN operations where it is least fitted to interfere in, such as peacekeeping. NATO’s record (although largely unrecorded) of inflicting civilian casualties through acts of war such as bombings and sanctions makes the organisation one of the most significant human rights violaters on the globe. Of course, because it in effect controls theinternational “human rights” mechanisms, the alliance has ensured zero accountability to itself of actions which has led to the loss of life or to human suffering on a significant scale. Rules are meant for others, and are not to be applied to those making them

There is, transparently, a global caste system that hews to the “vertical” logic of caste, and this is the same grouping which dominates the United Nations. Rather than see itself in a more universal and multi-civilisational way, the US has allowed itself to become the spearpoint of the drive by NATO member-states to continue to have a privileged existence within the internationalcommunity. Even in the 21st century, when it is clear that the world of 1945 has vanished into the dust of history, the institutions set up after the 1939-45 global war continue to be controlled by the powers which took control of the UN then, the US, the UK, France, Russia and China. The latter two have fallen behind, getting active only on occasion. Russia because of its weak economy and diminishing technological edge, and China because it clearly does not belong to the same “civilisational zone” as do France, the US and the UK. Of the three, France has been the beneficiary of Winston Churchill’s love of the country, in view of the fact that the contribution of Paris to the defeat of the Axis powers was minimal, far below that of India, which sent more than two million of its sons to fight in Europe and Africa on behalf of the Allies, and which became a major source of materiel for prosecuting the war. Of course, as India is seen as low down in the global caste ladder, this contribution has been ignored. Amusingly, in the celebrations in France which commemorated the Allied victory over the Axis, it wad as though Charles de Gaulle and his “radio warriors” were responsible for the recapture of France, rather than Allied armies assisted by Moscow’s comprehensive victory over Berlin.

Indeed, the defeat of German troops by soldiers in the Red Army once again illustrated the fact that human society is “horizontal” ie separate but equal. The German forces believed in the myths they were fed by Hitler, that they were intrinsically superior to Russians. It was a mindset which led to appalling cruelty during the 1939-45 war, this time on countries in Europe rather than in other parts of the world, as had been the case during previous centuries. However, from the winter of 1941 and the throwing back of German forces from the gates of Moscow, it became clear that the Russians were, if anything, even better soldiers than the Germans. Much later, in Vietnam, the forces mobilised by Nguyen Ai Quoc, otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh, would demonstrate their resilience when confronted with the US military, which threw more bombloads on that small country than had been tossed into the Axis powers during the 1939-45 war. And yet, despite this and other examples of the way in which human beings achieve superhuman feats if given the right leadership, some powers still seek to continue the system of privilege embodied in the global caste system, where NATO member-states are on top and others lower down.

Because politicians in India have usually focused their attention on making money for themselves and their friends, decision-making has been left to the bureaucracy, which is usually hesitant in challenging the global caste system. Repeatedly, India has denied itself the benefits of technological up gradation made possible by vibrant sectors of scientific achievement. An example is the ASAT system, or the capability of shooting down satellites in space. This capability was demonstrated by China in 2005 and the scientific community in India wanted an ASAT test to be done by India, which would destroy a satellite in space. Because of fear of the reaction that such a bold move would generate within the NATO member-states, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defense Minister A K Antony have been reluctant to order an ASAT test, preferring instead to rely oncomputer simulations, even though these are usually of limited value in perfecting a system. Not just in this, but in many other ways as well, successive governments in India have by their (lack of) action shown their obedience to an international caste hierarchy which puts India on a far lower level than some other states with far lower potential. The global caste system endures, but only because of the reluctance of its victims - India, Brazil, Indonesia (to name a few) to challenge it.

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