Saturday, February 12, 2011

HUF and the caste system as a solution to proselytism

We shall continue to delve into Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer". In section 32, page 40, Hoffer discusses the attitude of mass movements to families. As India continues to Christianize, these will be some of the behavioral changes we should expect in Indian nature and learn to deal with it.:

"The attitude of rising mass movements towards the family is of considerable interest. Almost all our contemporary movements showed in their early stages a hostile attitude towards the family, and did all they could to discredit and disrupt it. They did it by undermining the authority of the parents; by facilitating divorce; by taking over the responsibility for feeding, educating and entertaining the children; and by encouraging illegitimacy. Crowded housing, exile, concentration camps and terror also helped to weaken and break up the family. Still, not one of our contemporary movements was so outspoken in its antagonism toward the family as was early Christianity. Jesus minced no words: " For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me" [1]. When He was told that His mother and brothers were outside desiring to speak with Him, He said: "Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother, and my brethren!" [2] When one of His disciples asked leave to go and bury his father, Jesus said to him: "Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead." [3] He seemed to sense the ugly family conflicts His movement was bound to provoke both by its proselytizing and by the fanatical hatred of its antagonists. " And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents , and cause them to be put to death." [4] It is strange but true that he who preaches brotherly love also preaches against love of mother, father, brother, sister, wife and children."

In the face of proselytism of any kind, especially evangelism, it is important to not fall in this trap of universal brotherhood. And what could be the obvious solution to this? A strong and united family is one of the best chances to survive against evangelism, a symbiotic system that can not only keep each member well nourished physically, mentally and socially, but can also provide more room to preserve the Hindu ethos. Today's nuclear and sub nuclear families will lose it in the long run and in the absence of the ethos, it is only a matter of a few generations that evangelical vultures will swoop down on us. A Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) is the ultimate barrier for these vultures.

Eric Hoffer warns us about this as well:

"As one would expect, a disruption of the family, whatever its causes, fosters automatically a collective spirit and creates a responsiveness to the appeal of mass movements."

While a case can be made against the HUF as being too large and with too much friction, at the bare minimum, we should strive to have one whole functioning unit of a family system for the sake of the culture, comprising of grandparents, parents and children. Being associated with a family can in itself provide a deterrent from walking over to the other side.

Unfortunately, Hoffer did not live in today's age of 'money for religion' and hasn't commented on it. In that scenario, there is a possibility of whole families being converted at a time to Christianity. In such a scenario, not only would families have to be created, but we need to have strong links of our families to other families in the neighborhood as well. Starting small scale neighborhood distress help groups on the scale of co-operative foundations to help the poor and needy as well as assisting people to get self employed will be a good move in this regard.

While India's cities might need an artificial construct like this, rural areas already have that set up in the pre existing caste system [5]. Not only does the caste system ensure heterogeneity and continuation of the decentralized Hindu ethos, but charities run by caste members makes it easier to run public services and reach the poor and the needy, a more stable counter to petrodollar muftis and the evangelizers and fractionation of families that might happen with the furthering of industrialization in India. Few things need to be cautiously tread on though while using the caste system to solve today's problems for instance, same standards of justice for all groups and giving everybody an equal chance to have a piece of the pie (of national resources).

Note: The word caste has only been used as a translation for the word jati and not in any derogatory sense.

[1]: Matthew 10:35-37.
[2]: ibid, 12:47-49.
[3]: ibid, 8:22
[4]: ibid, 10:21
[5]: R. Vaidyanathan. Three major conflicts and India's strategy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why proselytize?

Earlier, we had commented on proselytism from the perspective of imperialism and class warfare (link: (1) and (2) ). We had however, not attempted to understand the proselytizer. The following is an excerpt of proselytism from the psychological perspective from Eric Hoffer's book: "The True Believer". The objective of this post is to understand the mindset of the proselytizers. I request that this post be accepted as an addendum to our earlier two posts on this topic.

Whence comes the impulse to proselytize? [3]

Intensity of conviction is not the main factor which impels a movement to spread its faith to the four corners of the earth: "Religions of great intensity often confine themselves to contemning, destroying, or at best pitying what is not themselves." [1] . Nor is the impulse to proselytize an expression of an overabundance of power which as Bacon has it "is like a great flood, that will be sure to overflow. " [2]. The missionary zeal seems rather an expression of some deep misgiving, some pressing feeling of insufficiency at the center. Proselytizing is more a passionate search for something not yet found than a desire to bestow upon the world something we already have. It is a search for a final and irrefutable demonstration that our absolute truth is indeed the one and only truth. The proselytizing fanatic strengthens his own faith by converting others. The creed whose legitimacy is most easily challenged is likely to develop the strongest proselytizing impulse. It is doubtful whether a movement which does not profess some preposterous and patently irrational dogma can be possessed of that zealous drive which "must either win men or destroy the world." It is also plausible that those movements with the greatest inner contradiction between profession and practice - that is to say with a strong feeling of guilt - are likely to be the most fervent in imposing their faith on others. The more unworkable communism proves in Russia, and the more its leaders are compelled to compromise and adulterate the original creed, the more brazen and arrogant will be their attack on a non - believing world. The slaveholders of the South became the more aggressive in spreading their way of life the more it became patent that their position was untenable in a modern world. If free enterprise becomes a proselytizing holy cause, it will be a sign that its workability and advantages have ceased to be self - evident.

The passion for proselytizing and the passion for world dominion are both perhaps symptoms of some serious deficiency at the center. It is probably as true of a band of apostles or conquistadors as it is of a band of fugitives setting out for a distant land that they escape from on untenable situation at home. And how often indeed do the three meet, mingle and exchange their parts.

[1]: Jacob Burckhardt, "Force and freedom" ny: pantheon books, 1943 p. 129
[2]: Francis Bacon, "Of Vicissitude of Things," Bacon's Essays, Everyman's Library edition (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1932), p. 171.
[3]: Eric Hoffer, "The True Believer"New American Library edition p. 102-103