Okay, it was all there in the astro readings that I was likely to be misunderstood this week and there is no doubt that happened.
I have so often thought of the phrase, 'divided by a common language' when having conversations with people from other countries and cultures and never more so than when communication is via the internet where we do not have recourse to all the senses to help us decipher language and neither do we have, in the main, personal knowledge of the individual which helps us to assess more accurately that which was said.
But one of the good things about the internet is that it encourages communication, despite the mistakes, misunderstandings and mishandling of words which are offered. At the end of the day one of the Four Agreements, a wonderful little book by Don Miguel Ruiz - 'do not take anything personally' returns to mind once more as good advice. People so often take things personally, or read into general comments, something personal which then offends.
I found myself in a discussion about India with an American of Indian descent. She says she is American and yet it is clear, sees herself as Indian and took my comments about India to be a personal insult. I suspect that what happened is that she has grown up in the US which remains in very many ways a racist culture, where people tend to live and marry within their own group, far more so than in many other developed nations. The racism is albeit subtle and hidden but prevalent all the same and her visceral response to what I said is, I suspect, sourced in her own anger and woundedness.
Not that I am going to attempt to 'go there,' but it is a truth for me anyway that powerful reactions are always sourced in our own Self, our own experience, our own wounds and too easily projected onto the perceived 'source' of the pain. And I have seen enough of Indian culture to know that assimilation is something generally avoided. I know the Chinese do the same sort of thing - the 'separation' from the wider community being sourced both in a sense of one's own superiority and also in a fear of rejection by the greater society.
It is not particular to any group or any religion but is a common factor in minority groups of all kinds; some more so than others and some more so in some cultures than in others. I think there is greater acceptance and assimilation both in Britain and Australia than there is in the US - but that is of course just my perception. Religion makes it all much worse. Hinduism, or Jainism, like Judaism is strongly opposed to 'marrying out' and while of course there are exceptions to the rule, the pressure is so great that more often than not when emigrants marry, they do so within their own community, thereby continuing the isolation and often, the sense of victimhood and 'otherness' which permeates the culture.
I used to say when I lived there that India was at its best: in a photo, on television, at night or in a book. Those who have links to India, whether through birth or parents or grandparents have the ability to indulge in an India of their choice; all expatriates do this to lesser and greater degrees.
Anyone who feels a strong connection to somewhere else, for whatever reason, is likely to be less than rational about its reality. The Irish diaspora for instance did great harm to Ireland because of their fantasies, funding and supporting the violence which traumatised that country; as do the followers of Judaism in their support of the country founded in the name of their religion, Israel and the Indian diaspora is, I am sure, no different.
In many ways it is a reminder that 'dual nationality' is a disasterous concept, whether the 'nationality' be literal or metaphorical. How easy it is to sit safely in some other country and fantasise about the one which has been 'left behind.' But then it has always been harder for people to lose their dreams than their realities.
Am I unfair on India? Hmmm, possibly, but I am also realistic and believe in calling a 'spade a spade.' Having lived around the world I still see Indian culture as the most cruelly misogynistic and racist of any I have experienced. The misogyny and racism are entrenched in the religion for Hinduism teaches both that being born a woman means you were evil in your last life and the blacker your skin means you were evil in your last life.
Is it a reminder to 'not say' some things? I don't think so. There is a reality to India and there is a fantasy and never the twain shall meet. I suspect for many people, Indians and visitors alike, the only way to survive the horrors is to wallow in the fantasy; seeing with clear, sure eyes in places like India is painful if not traumatic.
I remember thinking when I lived there that of course I could do the 'spiritual thing' which so many people did and look upon the ghastly misery and injustice around me as 'their karma or the life they had chosen - which is the Indian Hindu view - or see within the horrors, the humanity and spirituality of all; perceive beauty in children picking through rotting waste; child beggars with suppurating wounds kept open by their pimps and parents to encourage the givers to part with more money out of pity; women sitting grief-stricken with a girl child in their arms as their husband and his family chastise them for their failing....
Horror is not particular to India but I have seen far more of them on that continent than in Africa and Africa does horror extremely well itself. The difference is that in Africa the horrors arise more out of war than anything whereas in India they are entrenched, if not enshrined in the culture and the religion.
But at the end of the day we all see the world through our own eyes and perception is all. Our discussion went like this:
In response to a comment I made about my time in India I got:
As to respect for the elderly, I got to know too many Indian women too well to believe this is a reality. Indians treat the elderly as badly as anyone in private.
I would agree with you on acceptance of aging and death but this is also a part of the teaching in Hindusim and Jainism (I knew a lot of Jains) - and again, it also fits with a culture that in the main has very little choice about anything. Women most of all. Indian families remain patriarchal and all power rests with the man who is head of the family - it always seemed to me this was a waste of intelligence and ability but it was the way it was and is even amongst some of the most educated and most travelled.
And yes India has rich spiritual traditions of music, dance, art and literature just like other nations. Sadly however the great bulk of Indians remain illiterate and poor and have no access to it. And interestingly it was in fact the British who 'gave' much of this tradition back to ordinary Indians through translations of Sanskrit. It was also the British who 'saved' much of India's archeological history and added to it.
And while I found life raw in India I would not say it is 'honest' - no more so than any other Third World country where poverty is endemic. I think what I found hard too was that India is not a poor country - it is a wealthy country - with a great deal of poor people. Millions living on the streets and India has a space programme, a nuclear weapons programme and an ever-growing military. I stepped over enough corpses and past enough lepers to question the priorities and the spirituality of India -
Yes, I visited temples but I also went to orphanages - the red light areas - the slums and I saw how people with education, money and intelligence treated those they considered beneath them.
And in reply:
I received the following:
And in response:
This is a racist comment: All Indians are misogynistic. This is not a racist comment: Misogyny is prevalent in Indian culture.
Ros, can you not understand that by saying the below you are implying all Indian men are misogynistic:
“And I can only think, after being reminded of India in my conversation with Kani that you can be grateful not to be Indian where I have seen the nicest, kindest, wisest, most educated and well travelled of men, literally mourn the birth of a grand-daughter.”
If that were the case, why would my father, husband, and uncles absolutely dote on my beautiful daughters? Why would I, my mother, and many of my aunts be doctors and between us have helped thousands of people? Not all Indians are misogynistic. There are many feminists and activists among us.
What also bothers me, Ros, is your lack of humility. You think by living four years in a country, you can say things like “you can be grateful not to be Indian.” India has existed for 5000 years and has 1.22 billion people, there are huge regional diversities. It is absurd to claim such authority after living there for only four years.
Saying misogyny is prevalent in Indian culture does not imply all Indian men are misogynistic. It states that misogyny is prevalent in the culture. Which it is.
I can say misogyny is prevalent in Christianity, which it is, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or Islam and even Buddhism, but that does not imply that all Christian (Jewish, etc.) men are misogynistic. Apart from which the presence of misogyny in a culture or a religion applies to women as well as men.
I really do think we are at cross-purposes here no doubt for many reasons but I shall try to explain to you what I was saying:
you can be grateful not to be Indian - this comment was made in the context of the posts I had made in regard to my experience of India - the post about daughters represented a 'connection' with those posts...
where I have seen the nicest, kindest, wisest, most educated and well travelled of men, literally mourn the birth of a grand-daughter.” ...This comment represents actual experiences I had and the emphais here is on nice, kind, wise, educated, travelled men (a dear friend actually) who literally mourned when his grand-daughters were born.
This shocked me and yet, at the same time, in observing his reaction I could only feel deep compassion for his plight and his suffering and question the religion and the culture which prevented most men and women (of course there are always exceptions) from rejoicing in the birth of a child, regardless of its sex.
You said: If that were the case, why would my father, husband, and uncles absolutely dote on my beautiful daughters?
Because the 'case' you perceive was not the case I made. I would make the point that you are American and I am presuming your husband is American and possibly also your father and uncles and I was and have been talking always about my experience of India.
You are also 'running with a ball' which was never thrown. Grieving the birth of a daughter does not actually prevent Indian men LIVING IN INDIA FROM enjoying and doting on daughters and grand-daughters; it simply means that they do not have the joy at the moment of birth which most others have.
I never said all Indians are misogynistic. I said misogyny is prevalent in the culture and the religions - Hinduism, Jainism and Islam being the main ones - actually it is also prevalent in the Parsees, and Christianity is the same - and it is. Of course there are feminists and activists and I knew quite a few when I lived there and admired them greatly.
I would say that you keep using the word 'us' when what I have been talking about is my experience of India and you have already said you are American. I am not talking about YOU as someone who has Indian ancestry but who is not Indian but who is American, I am talking about my experience of INDIAN CULTURE IN INDIA. I would like to make that very clear. A lot of your misunderstanding seems sourced in you making the general - personal.
I don't know what you mean by a lack of humility. I made comments sourced in my experience; I am not sure which bit is meant to be humble or in fact what humility or humble means to you.
as to the comment which seems to upset you - let me put it this way - first of all you have to assess it in context! The comment was made in regard to the plight of women which in India remains one of the worst in the world. Few Indian women - that is Indian women living in India - would deny this.
India may well has existed for 5,000 years but so what. Egypt has existed for longer and so too has China - it doesn't mean anything. China also has 1.2billion people - again, so what? The state of women in China is also bad with females aborted or killed at birth as in India - I am not sure what point you seek to make.
And I claim no authority to speak on the matter except as I made very clear at the outset - I lived there for more than four years and I travelled and I researched and I read and I observed. Of course there are regional diversities - more between the south and the north than anything and of course places like Assam are not really Indian and should not be Indian but should be Burmese but then India was in fact created by the British who cobbled together dozens of small kingdoms when they took control of the country. But that is a historical digression and not the point here.
No, I am not an authority on India but I probably know more about it than many.
I could equally ask the source of your opinions and whether they are drawn from living in India for as many years.
And in reply:
Ros to clarify several of the points I made earlier:
1) India is a very diverse country with a long history and an enormous population. It is impossible to make broad generalizations about India. For example, Kerala is a southern Indian state with a matrilineal system (e.g., land ownership passes from mother to daughter), women have more rights than men there, Kerala’s literacy rate is 94%.
2) Your making such broad generalizations about India after living there only four years is absurd. I don’t think any of us are qualified to make such broad generalizations about India.
3) My grandfathers, fathers, uncles, cousins were born and raised in India and they were very happy to have daughters and love my daughters. They educated their daughters as physicians, engineers, computer programmers, teachers, etc.
4) To say that “you can be grateful not to be Indian,” is unkind and disrespectful. Do you hear the difference in tone between:
You can be grateful not to be Indian
I have sympathy for the misogyny Indian women face.
You are the moderator of this group. I would think part of your responsibility is to be welcoming to any person who wishes to participate. How do you think a potential Indian, Saudi-Arabian or Muslim member would feel after reading your recent posts? Do you think this would be a place they would feel comfortable sharing their poetry when it is clear the moderator feels their background is so inferior?
You asked what I meant by humility. I mean not to make arrogant claims about your cultural superiority, to claim other cultures are inferior, not to presume more than you know.
I mean to be kind, to be considerate, to choose your words carefully.
My profession rests on the premise that words can heal. You are very gifted with words, Ros. I hope you will choose healing words versus shaming ones.
I think we can agree to disagree on this one. I made general comments about Indians living in India based on my personal experience and extensive reading. You took those comments to apply to all Indians and all those with Indian ancestry living anywhere in the world including yourself; in other words you took what I said out of context.
My broad generalisations as you refer to them are acknowledged fact about Hinduism in general and Indian culture (In India) in particular. Yes, I know about Kerala and the matrilineal situation - the South historically was matrilineal - and yes, owing to the influence of Christianity (which also proves my point about Hinduism - there is a high literaracy rate.
I think anyone who lives anywhere is entitled to an opinion particularly when that opinion is substantiated in fact by people who live there. If you have not researched the situation of women in India perhaps you might do so.
There is nothing surprising about the men in your family welcoming daughters - there is no doubt some Indian men and women do - but the majority do not. That is also a reality.
As to my comment, which you repeat out of context again, in regard to 'fortune' or lack of it where one is born - I made the point the same thing could be said about many Muslim countries and about China but my experience was India, hence my reference was to India. 'I have sympathy for the misogyny Indian women face' did not fit the comment I made, in the context it was made and is not another version of what I did say - you having printed here a truncated version of it.
And I am not the moderator of this group - no-one is. I am simply, for the sake of convenience an administrator - nuts and bolts. We are a group of people who gather together to share writing and thoughts and there is no moderator and I don't think anyone would want to see one.
How do I think potential Indian, Muslim or Saudi Arabians would feel reading my posts? Absolutely fine if they are aware of the reality of the limitations women face in their religions and cultures as I suspect any woman appearing here would be - because it signifies she has both the wealth and the time and the language skills, therefore an education, to participate. I know my friends in India would not have a problem with anything I said given that they would say similar things themselves.
And I believe if you go back through what I said and read it carefully you will not find the word inferior and nor will you find it termed with culture. What I said was, that the lot of women in India is amongst the worst in the world given the levels of misogyny and sexism in the culture and the religion.
And I have never stated cultural superiority for my country so once again, you are misquoting. Although there is no doubt cultures which welcome babies of either sex would be considered more enlightened by me and by you. My words may have triggered a sense of shame but they are not shaming words - they are words of truth, unfortunately as anyone who lives in India or who researches it knows. I look forward to the day it changes.
As an American with Indian ancestry you have taken it upon yourself to defend India, a country in which you do not live and probably have never lived while others who are members and who do live in India have made no comment. That is your choice and I repeat yet again, I am sorry that you have taken offence but it was never meant and you clearly have neither understood nor taken in context what I did say.
Let's agree to disagree. However, in regard to India, given your passion I am sure there is much you can do to help. You might start by reading Disappearing Daughters: The Tragedy of Female Foeticide, by Gita Aravamudan. There is no doubt the women of India need all the help they can get.... which was the core point I was trying to make.