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The Ripening Outcast, with Mythologist Norland Tellez

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      I keep being assailed by the delight and depth of our conversation—truly worthy of the name of our forum! I only regret not being able to answer all the salient points that have been provoked by my little piece. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Stephen’s wonderful condensation of what was brought up by the term “archetypal psyche” and “collective unconscious”—the latter in particular, as Stephen mentioned, being rather out of touch with our present reality. Of course, to put it even stronger, one can say that this critique extends to the whole of Jungian psychology, which strikes most readers outside its sacred circle as right down reactionary or ideologically backwards.

      Although I don’t want to open a can of worms or get off topic, we can point to the existence of Jordan Peterson as a prime example of where you might end up if you were to swallow Jungianism whole, that is, without putting Jung himself in the alchemical fires of critical transformation: a staunch defender of Capitalism’s status quo and its grotesque hierarchies of power. I don’t want to develop this line too much further but only to answer aloberhoulser’s plea to anchor this piece to the historic NOW present—our current hierarchies, with their grotesque inequality and double standards, very much resemble the hierarchies of the ancient Indian caste system. THAT is the background of my essay in terms of its relevance TODAY. Of course, the lowest of the low today are unmistakably immigrants, especially brown-skinned immigrants, not just here in the USA, but also all over the world. Poor immigrants today have effectively become our very own “untouchables,” whereas the shudra are easily homologous to the African American community and the BLM movement, which Malcom X would have characterized as he did the Civil Rights movement: a kind of “slave revolt.” James Baldwin was fond of this redefinition of a protest movement by a group of the population not considered true citizens.

      There is no doubt to anybody with a clear sense of history that there is nothing “natural” or “biological” about the existence of such hierarchies, including our own, but that at each moment in history there have been powerful mythologies that have sanctified them to make us believe that they are “divinely ordained,” or ordained by “Nature” as apologists of the status quo would have us believe today—since Science plays the role of the “divinely ordained” for most modern people.

      This brings me back to Stephen’s wonderful paraphrase which I think is worth repeating:

      “If I understand correctly, you are saying that a living mythology isn’t something one believes in, like choosing a religion today, but is experienced simply as “what is” – part of the warp and woof of a culture – what a member of that culture knows to be true, perhaps akin to the way we experience gravity or know the world to be round.”

      This is exactly the way people have experienced the workings of the global capitalist system up to now. And of course, this mythology, which largely constitutes our true mythology, has held on for many decades, even centuries, at the price of untold violence and bloodshed—forms of violence which are now resurfacing within the continental USA as if they were familiar strangers.

      Nevertheless, today we are experiencing a tectonic shift in the collective psyche that is truly unprecedented. Such moments of “crisis,” when the system itself is made to feel, to realize once again, its own brittle ideological foundations—the fact that the divinely ordained itself is ordained by the human, all too human “nature”—we are at the same time witnessing the sign of a new mythology struggling to be born in freedom. Perceptible only when we dare to delve in the contradictions of what is, unafraid to sift through the rot of the system and to take a stand against it, can we speak of true mythology in the making. This is what gives me hope and keeps me going in the face of so much despair and suffering and literal bloodshed.

      It is important to underscore the fact that this sense of hope cannot stem from “what is” in the self-consciousness of our present age, that mode of apologetics that would have us “naturalize” the fatal contradictions of our global system, even as it tramples on the lives of the majority of the world population—a fact, once again, in spectacular display with this pandemic in the USA.

      The hope I’m speaking of is rather like a message in a bottle which has been sent from the future of what could be, from what is not-yet here: a new Rising Dawn illuminating a future form of collective consciousness.

      It is just as Marx put it in a wonderfully psychological way (a quote that has been ringing in my ears for the last few days):

      “Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production.” (Preface of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy)

      This may seem like an obvious insight but it is quite true that what a person thinks of himself or herself—our own “personal mythology,” or, as Stephen pointed out, the many idiosyncratic religions we might choose in a whim—that these “myths” are mostly false narratives we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel good, and to justify our actions—or to cover up what we truly believe in. (Imagine trying to understand the Trump phenomenon based on what Trump thinks of himself!)

      Our actions speak louder than our words, indeed, for these actions often speak of a set of ideas that are quite different from what we “officially” believe.  On the other hand, our true beliefs, the level of true mythology, is often far from our lips and their faithful service to our ego consciousness. And as Marx points out, the same is true for the entire collective and its prevailing mythologies.


      Someone “nudged” me in the direction of French philosopher & sociologist Maurice Halbwachs –

      Now I can’t “unsee” the idea of collective memory as a social contract.  Post modernists and especially deconstructivsts have made an impact on us today,  whether we like it or not.


      Does mythology suffer at the unsteady hand of modern social constructs? I feel like we are bombarded with so much information in this digital age that many are unsure of what to believe in anymore. Part of that could be rooted in how we use the term “myth” to illustrate falsehoods.


      Maybe I’m jumping off a cliff here somewhat, but how do we reconcile the power of myth with the modern notions of collective memory and the collective unconscious?



      Greetings Norland!

      Thank you for quite the thought provoking Mythblast! It is, indeed, difficult to grasp what myths are driving us today. I’m reminded of, “We are fish arguing over the existence of water.” But your use of the Hindu caste system is inspired, I daresay. We can only look at our own societal structure by analogy to see how deafening, but ultimately shallow, ‘that’s just the way things are” can be, especially given the nexus moment we seem to be in.

      Looking back over the past 70 years we can see how moments of significant societal unrest shifted the narrative toward some degree of progress, but never, seems to me, as much as you’d think the effort and energy should have inspired. That societal narrative, with its mythic elements, is a heavy stone to push along. (Allusions to Sisyphus aside! Though it can certainly feel like that.)

      There’s an effort-progress equation in there somewhere.

      But there is value in shining a light on the siren song of “that’s the way things are,” and how the economic, ethnic and overall societal narratives are, after all is said and done, outworn artifices with which we deceive ourselves. It’s revealed very clearly by the common reflex response here in the West to criticisms of capitalism or just the mention of Marx.  I’m reminded of my favorite quote from Campbell’s Creative Mythology:

      For even in the sphere of Waking Consciousness, the fixed and the set fast, there is nothing now that endures. The known myths cannot endure. The known God cannot endure. Whereas formerly, for generations, life so held to established norms that the lifetime of a deity could be reckoned in millenniums, today all norms are in flux, so that the individual is thrown, willy-nilly, back upon himself, into the inward sphere of his own becoming, his forest adventurous without way or path, to come through his own integrity in experience to his own intelligible Castle of the Grail—integrity and courage, in experience, in love, in loyalty, and in act. And to this end the guiding myths can no longer be of any ethnic norms. No sooner learned, these are outdated, out of place, washed away. There are today no horizons, no mythogenetic zones. Or rather, the mythogenetic zone is the individual heart. Individualism and spontaneous pluralism—the free association of men and women of like spirit, under protection of a secular, rational state with no pretensions to divinity—are in the modern world the only honest possibilities…

      In lieu of a cultural norm with THAT as it’s center of gravity, we will always be playing catch up, (Oh damn. There’s Sisyphus again. lol), striving against past norms turned into anchors with stagnation waiting for exhaustion to set in.

      Never before have I valued the certainty of death as much as I do now. Not from misanthropic despair, which does hide around the corner these days, but from the hope that arrives with each succeeding generation. During my 32 years as a secondary school teacher, I’ve watched, first, the Millennials and then the Zoomers  begin to tell themselves a story different than that of their Boomer and Xer parents, and you see this story being told on the streets right now. It’s all very encouraging. There is a shift occurring in this evolving narrative.

      I imagine that the pull of the caste system remains in India to some degree. But I don’t think it drives that society as it once did, although they are dealing with their own reactionary impulses as we are here in the States. But positive change is happening, even if we can’t define what’s too close to us to see.

      Warm regards,



      Thanks to everyone who contributed to this conversation – and especially Dr. Norland Tellez, for taking the time to directly engage your readers.

      Two takeaways from this exchange occur to me:

      One is the awareness that mythologizing is always going on, under the surface, both in our individual psyches as well as the collective psyche of the greater society – but these are unconscious processes: we are generally not aware of them. As Norland points out, in ancient India the caste system was shaped by and reinforced through that culture’s mythology, though those who lived inside that bubble didn’t think of their mythology as “myth,” but simply “what is.”

      We can look back today and see the central role mythology played in their culture because we live outside that bubble; however, what we don’t see are the bubbles we inhabit: whether in our individual lives, or the culture-at-large, we remain generally unaware of the mythological dynamics driving our bus.

      One of Joseph Campbell’s most potent observations is that we don’t live in a culture shaped by one prevailing myth anymore – but that doesn’t mean there are no “living mythologies” in the world today. Islam, Catholicism and other Christian denominations, and even communism, all share qualities of a living mythology among their most devoted adherents (Communism? Well, Campbell made a compelling case that communism, as practiced in the old Soviet Union and Mao’s China, conformed to the pattern of a Levantine mythology – Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam – with its revelations and sacred scriptures, its prophets, it’s linear concept of time with a blissful global utopia at the end [the workers’ paradise] when the forces of Good finally triumph over the forces of Evil, etc.; the only function of living mythology this secular version misses is the first of the four Campbell posits: the mystical or metaphysical function).

      Norland subtly makes a compelling case that we, too, are subject to unconscious mythic forces shaping our culture. In the United States this includes the concepts of manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, and an unbridled faith in capitalism and the power of the free market (faith indeed, as we have never experienced a true free market), not to mention the unconscious racial myths that drive our behavior.

      Awareness – bringing what is unconscious into the light – is the first step in depotentiating the power of these unconscious forces to compel collective behaviors; alas, that is often a painful and revolutionary process. We experienced a bit of that late spring into summer in the United States in the wake of the George Floyd murder, which triggered a powerful confrontation with society’s collective shadow for so many who had ignored or stuffed these issues in the past.

      But that’s just a first step.

      My second takeaway from this conversation is the tension between the two poles of the Campbellian universe. There is an academic side to Joseph Campbell’s work, in the best sense (yes, Joe had his problems with the academy, but he also relied on the work of specialists when conducting his research, and did his best to document and reference what he had found: some of Campbell’s best academic work appears in several of the essays in The Flight of the Wild Gander).

      But his work also has broad popular appeal – especially in the areas of self-actualization and self-improvement (such as the embrace of the trajectory of the hero journey motif as a road map to life), not to mention in the woo-woo of things-that-go-bump-in-the-night.

      At the Joseph Campbell Foundation, that’s a fine line we walk, that delicate balance between the academic and the popular appeals of Campbell’s work. For Joseph Campbell it was not an either / or proposition – and so it is at JCF, where we inhabit that tension: no one side is allowed to capture the flag.

      I found a few of the exchanges over the course of this discussion reflecting that tension. That’s not to suggest that any individual post was either right or wrong – far from it – but rather an illustration that there is more than one way to approach myth.

      No doubt the conversation will continue, whether tomorrow, or next week, next month, or two years from now when someone new to the forums stumbles across this thread and revives it, adding her or his own thoughts. For now, though, I’d like to thank Norland for his generosity of time and spirit. I have no doubt we’ll see more ripples spreading out from the pebble he  has tossed into the pond.


      A past JCF Board member drew my attention to an article this morning that examines, in the wake of the choice of the Democratic presidential’s running mate, how the caste systems not just in India, but in the United States, still shape our public conversations, whether or not we are aware of them.

      Seemed relevant, so I’m parking a link here to Kamala and Caste: How the crushing hierarchies of India, the United States, and Nazi Germany echoed over a historic vice-presidential selection.


      Hi James, All

      Tonight while responding to another post or remark elsewhere in the forums, I stumbled across this Joseph Campbell quote about the hero from The Power of Myth.

      MOYERS: So if my private dreams are in accord with the public mythology, I’m more likely to live healthily in that society. But if my private dreams are out of step with the public –
      CAMPBELL: — you’ll be in trouble. If you’re forced to live in that system, you’ll be a neurotic.
      MOYERS: But aren’t many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism?
      CAMPBELL: Yes, they are.
      MOYERS: How do you explain that?
      CAMPBELL: They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience — that is the hero’s deed.”
      ― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

      Here are kind of some side questions:

      Do you think covid-19 challenges us all to be a hero of sorts and on the verge of neuroticism?

      Could that neuroticism, though, be partially what is responsible for so many people acting so odd in the face of this virus by getting in other people’s faces?

      Could it be we are called to the hero’s journey one and all now but how we react to the call will determine what kind of hero we will or will not be? Do we wear the mask or do we not wear the mask: as an answer to the hero with a thousand faces–who will don the mask? Who is illusional seeing windmills as dragons? Who will and who will not breathe fire? Will the vaccine help?–so what will and what will not breathe fire and covid and what and at what numbers will eventually not breathe?

      Could it possibly partially be a defiance against their own neuroticism rearing its head and not just defiance against the “rules” that they are thinking interferes with their freedom?

      Is it perhaps not that they do not want to admit their own possible physical weakness (mortality, for sure!) but also do not want to admit to their own emotional/mental weakness.?

      Also I am all for positive thinking but I do see in some instances where the positivist psychology is misinterpreted by many to think that if you think positive then absolutely nothing can go wrong or against our wishes. Have you ever noticed this in any individuals today and/or see it in the collective?


      I love this, what Stephen wrote: “One is the awareness that mythologizing is always going on, under the surface, both in our individual psyches as well as the collective psyche of the greater society – but these are unconscious processes: we are generally not aware of them.” This seems befitting for everything going on also with the “I Can’t Breathe” Mythblast.

      I want to include a mention and quote here and also in the reference section, if I may: a book by archetypal psychologist (and as I regard him, mythologist also) James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology. As for mythologizing, he calls it psychologizing, and wrote, “There are Gods in Our Ideas.” He states,

      Archetypal psychology the fundamental ideas of the psyche to be expressions of persons–Hero, Nymph, Mother, Senex, Child, Trickster, Amazon, Puer, and many other specific prototypes bearing the names and stories of the Gods. These are the root metaphors. They provide the patterns of our thinking as well as of our feeling and doing. They give all our psychic functions–whether thinking, feeling, perceiving, or remembering–their imaginal life, their internal coherence, their force, their necessity, and their ultimate intelligibility. These persons keep our persons in order, holding into significant patterns the segments and fragments of behavior we call emotions, memories, attitudes, and motives.When we lose sight of these archetypal figures, we become, in a sense, psychologically insane: that is, by not “keeping in mind” the metaphorical roots we go “out of our minds”–outside where ideas have become literalized into history, society, clinical psychopathology, or metaphysical truths. Then we attempt to understand what goes on inside by observing the outside, turning inside out, losing both the interiority of all events and our own interiority as well.

      Yet “psychologizing” is only 1/4 of a mythic/polytheistic psychology. For Hillman, the four stages of what he calls soul-making are: 1) Personifying or Imagining Things, 2) Pathologizing or Falling Apart, 3) Psychologizing or Seeing Through, and 4) Dehumanizing or Soul-making. Hillman also makes sure to tell us that a polytheistic psychology (that drives away from egocentric monotheistic ideology) is not a religion, but a psychology that stays with “the soul’s native polycentricity.”

      This idea of mythic psychology coincides with Campbell’s thought:

      I would say that all our sciences are the material that has to be mythologized. A mythology gives spiritual import – what one might call rather the psychological, inward import, of the world of nature round about us, as understood today.There’s no real conflict between science & religion … What is in conflict is the science of 2000 BC … and the science of the 20th century AD.

      –Joseph Campbell, from Thinking Allowed: Understanding                                                                                    Mythology, with Joseph Campbell (and host Jeffrey Mishlove)

      So, we “lose our minds” when we lose our myths, pretty much as Campbell said, as has been stated in the forum Mythblasts that in our day the myths are not commonly recognized or even known so much.



      What Norland responded above stands out to me:

      This brings me back to Stephen’s wonderful paraphrase which I think is worth repeating:

      ‘If I understand correctly, you are saying that a living mythology isn’t something one believes in, like choosing a religion today, but is experienced simply as “what is” – part of the warp and woof of a culture – what a member of that culture knows to be true, perhaps akin to the way we experience gravity or know the world to be round.’

      I am thinking now about religion, how being a child raised in a religion is then simply a “what is” to that child who accepts that religion because they are told that their religion is true. Many people grow up believing in the religion they were taught/raised to believe in, whatever that religion just so happens to be. So I am thinking about how the “what is” to so many people is a matter of happenstance–until they get older and begin to question things, if  they indeed begin to question things and get to wherever that may lead. We often accept the happenstances of our culture–its beliefs and conditionings. Also, I am now reminded of a book on the reading list for a class I took in Complex Theory called The Cultural Complex: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives on Psyche and Society Edited by Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles that I can highly recommend for this topic in this thread. Below are some key phrases, ideas, and quotes from the book in reference to mythology and living myths:

      • […] the inner world of trauma, [and] the outer domain where myth, psyche, and politics intersect”
      • […] to illustrate the reality of the collective psyche and the power of collective emotion to generate living myths [or more appropriately here to Norland’s terminology “archetypal psyche”]
      • Thomas Singer wrote about how Donald Kalshed (1966) had published his book, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit and how there are not only archetypal defenses of the personal spirit but also archetypal defenses that protect the collective spirit or any traumatized “group soul.”
      • These protective archetypal agents are, he says, the daimons.
      • These archetypal daimons can be individual, collective, or both; Singer wrote that, “Perhaps they even found their earliest historical expression in group life rather than that of the single person, when the psychology of the individual was less developed and the survival of the group more in the forefront.”  The group as the collective might apply here nicely to Norland’s theme here because this quote can help describe how the archetypal psyche can be both individual and collective and not belong to just the individual or a group–it helps demonstrate (for me, anyway–it might not speak to each person here the same way, of course)  a difference between what might be regarded as the archetypal psyche as opposed to the collective.  As Kevin Lu has said/written, we are all born into a group, implying that the group psyche is already in motion from our earliest days and that thus our cultural complexes have in that sense already begun when we are born into a family that is within a cultural group in the then larger societal culture. This too can apply as Norland says into the types of caste systems of other cultures besides Indian culture. (The paraphrasing I provided of Kevin Lu is taken from an article of his article on a response to Singer and in personal communication–I would need to find that article in order to cite it and my home office is pretty much all packed up at the moment as I am still in transit to my new house.)

      Singer also wrote, which is in lieu of this Mythblast,

      Jung’s earliest work at the Burgholzli led to the development of his theory of compelxes which even now forms the foundations of day-to-day clinical work of analytical psychology., In fact, there was a time when the founders of the Jungian tradition considered calling it “complex psychology.” Later, Joseph Henderson created a much needed theoretical space between the personal and archetypal levels of the psyche which he called “the cultural level of the psyche.” This cultural level of the psyche exists in both the conscious and unconscious.

      • This chapter in the book is chapter one and is written with this description to introduce the purpose of the chapter to to then, elaborate upon Jung’s theory of complexes as it manifests itself in the cultural level of the psyche. There are several examples of this archetypal level of the psyche as pertains to groups in this chapter such as political upheavals and hatred against various cultural groups and even the split between Freud and Jung to help illustrate cultural complexes in which the archetypal defenses (part of archetypal psyche–defenses would be survival instincts and instincts as archetypal) in regards to groups or individuals, since individuals ‘belong in’ or at least live within a group.
      • With all the group protectiveness currently operative in group psyches and in individual psyches in our current times (including Stephen’s “I can’t breathe!” Mythblast, I kept thinking of this material that it may be a good read at this time, this book on the cultural complex and how it relates (or seems to, to me) to both Norland’s and Stephen’s recent Mythblasts.

      The more I think on this Mythblast and do close reading, closer and closer each time, the more I am getting out of it. It is so rich and layered like the many “levels” or strata of the psyche (for illustrative purposes only, not actual floors of a skyscraper!)



      In today’s entry on MythBlasts in the “30 Days Celebrating 30 Years of JCF,” MythBlast series editor Bradley Olson, Ph.D., provides a shout-out to Norland Tellez (I’m copying-and-pasting that here rather than providing a link, as these daily offerings disappear into the ether after 24 hours):

      In conversations with JCF President, Bob Walter, and a few other colleagues at JCF, we’ve come to believe that the MythBlast series may be capable of functioning something like a digital Eranos, offering a space for thinking and speculative analyses at the edges of critical Campbell texts, as well as the important intellectual, scholarly, and cultural influences that shaped him. The MythBlast series can become a home to creative, intellectually rigorous, and novel explorations of Campbell and mythology by authors attempting to reach beyond the safe, established, often derivative, confines of traditional scholarship (Dr. Norland Tellez is a good example of a MythBlast contributor who is currently working at these edges, and you can find his MythBlasts archived at JCF).

      I have to agree with Dr. Olson’s assessment. And not only do Dr. Tellez’ writings push the boundaries, but his willingness to pioneer discussions about those essays here in Conversations of a Higher Order, and the thought-provoking discussions that ensured, helped play a part in the decision to invite a variety of  innovative, often nontraditional scholars to participate. As the expansion of the MythBlast series into a sort of “digital Eranos” takes shape, we are exploring how best to encourage follow-up discussions with those authors here.

      Thanks to all who have participated in these conversations, and especially to Norland Tellez for going above and beyond.


      Rather late to the party, and commenting without reading the other comments in detail – so please, I may be repeating a point which someone else may have raised.

      One: I have come to the conclusion that the caste system is endemic to India. It’s not an aberration; it’s what defines society. And it’s spread across all religions – a Dalit is a Dalit, whether Hindu, Christian or Muslim.

      Two: Manusmriti is a law book. It’s connection to myth is very tenuous, just the mention of the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda at the beginning. It’s a toxic, casteist and misogynist document, which often contradicts itself. It’s also horrendously boring. (I read the whole thing in the original Sanskrit. My Sanskrit is pretty rusty, so it took me six months.)

      However, I seriously doubt whether castes delineated in the document were ever seriously practised. The permutations and combinations are too numerous. What it does is, lay down the laws for the four castes – it talks about outcasts only incidentally.

      Three: Even more than the Manusmriti, it is the moral justification given to caste in the Bhagavad Gita which is more revealing. Unlike the Manusmriti, this text is considered as revealed scripture by most Hindus, and it reinforces the caste model of Manusmriti (especially Chapter 12). However, the Gita is very uneven in its structure – lofty philosophy and evocative poetry mixed with didactic preaching – that one feels justified in thinking it has been bowdlerised at some point of time.


      Nandu writes:

      I have come to the conclusion that the caste system is endemic to India. It’s not an aberration; it’s what defines society. And it’s spread across all religions – a Dalit is a Dalit, whether Hindu, Christian or Muslim.

      Joseph Campbell observes, “in the old agrarian societies there were primarily four classes of human beings: four social strata” – but only in India has this solidified into so rigid a structure. He believes this might be related to the concept of reincarnation. However, as you note, Nandu, the caste system is not confined to any one religion, but is how society is organized.

      What do you think is the difference between the Indian subcontinent and the civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, and so many others that shared essentially the same social divisions?


      Hello Nandu, Stephen, Marianne and Everyone else on this thread,

      I am intrigued by Nandu’s comment, “caste system is endemic to India. It’s not an aberration; it’s what defines society. ” I agree. Indian society, its traditions, its folktales, its rituals, its rankings and gradings all point to a hard-core caste system. Nehru tried desperately to rid the Indian society from this endemic lore, but he could not. What would  (Nehru)  say, were he to  look at the conditions of the Dalits now? And, as you and Nandu suggest, Stephen, ” the caste system is not confined to any one religion, but is how society is organized.”  Yes, the entire legal, political, socio-economic model  is organized to keep Dalits, as the lowest of the lowest in the rankings of the Indian caste system.

      I had written a paper on the Daalits, and their treatment by the law enforcement, by the media, by the Indian Parliament. If you don’t mind, I’ll post excerpts here.



      Stephen and Shaheda,

      The difference between the Indian caste system and other such systems is that caste the identity on which India is built. Dismantle it: and the country and the culture disappear.

      Like all left-wing liberals, Nehru was anti-caste and at the same time, tolerant towards religion. This does not help. To rid India of caste, one will have to jettison a huge part of the mythos that makes the country tick.

      It will be like an operation which would remove the tumour and kill the patient.

      We need to find a different way.




      With India’s eco-socio-political machinery operating in a rigid caste structure, what sort of operation, do you propose?

      Consider the ’Dalits ’of India’

      Excerpted from “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”:  “Saddam Hussain was his chosen name, not his real name. His real name was Dayachand. He was born into a family of Chamars— skinners— in a village called Badshahpur ……One day, in answer to a phone call, he and his father, along with three other men, hired a Tempo to drive out to a nearby village to collect the carcass of a cow that had died on someone’s farm….…We found the dead cow easily.  It’s always easy, you just have to know the art of walking straight into the stink.” [2]  They loaded the carcass on to the Tempo and set off for home. On the way they stopped at the Dulina police station to pay the Station House Officer his cut, a previously-agreed-upon sum, a per-cow rate. But that day the officer wanted more not just more but three times the amount.

      And this inability to pay ended three lives. What is bone-chilling is the manner of ending these lives. The Station House Officer arrested them on a charge of ‘cow-slaughter’ and placed them in the police lock-up. Two hours went by — A few men went into the police station and brought out Saddam’s father and his three friends.  Then began the beatings, at first just with fists, and then with shoes. But then someone brought a crowbar, another a car jack and with the first blow, Saddam heard their cries. He had never heard such a sound before. It was a strange, high sound, it wasn’t human. [3] This is not one isolated or fictional event. Human Rights Watch reports that these incidents happen every day, of every year, to countless ‘Dalits’.

      The daily beatings, beltings, floggings and final disposition of the ’Dalits’ are generally not covered by regular news channels, but propelled by the coverage on social media,  stories of Dalit-atrocities are pouring fuel on dying ambers.  On July 21, 2016, “The Hindu” a very respected Indian newspaper,  reported: “For the last three days, Gujarat’s Dalit community has been seething with anger over the public flogging of a group of ‘Dalits’ who were skinning a dead cow in Mota Samadhiyala, a village near Una town in Saurashtra region.

      “The four men were brutally beaten with steel pipes and iron-rods, they were later stripped, tied to a SUV and dragged through the main market near the local police station in Una.  The flogging was filmed, posted on Facebook as a warning to other Dalits.” [4]

      While ‘Dalits’, together with other tribes, make up nearly 25 percent of the country’s population, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found that the media “provides negligible space to their plight/problems.” Instead, these communities mostly receive attention when the discussion is focused on backwardness, population growth, lack of entrepreneurship and productivity. [5]

      Could Rawls’ “democratic equality” – the combination of fair equality opportunity principle with the difference principle be a good first step for the Dalits?

      [2] Roy, Arundhati. 2017. The  Ministry of Utmost Happiness. [S.l.]: Penguin books India.
      [3] Ibid (1362 of 6459 – Kindle Book)
      [5] National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) NHRC Report, Section VI, p. 134


      Nandu,  Stephen and all,

      Continuing with our previous few threads on the caste system in India, and why it’s endemic? I’d like to ask a question, once again.

      Joseph Campbell said, “In  America we have people from all kinds of backgrounds, all in a cluster, together, and consequently law has become very important in this country. Lawyers and law are what hold us together. There is no ethos.”  I think it’s the same situation in India, so many groups and clusters. This particular Indian song comes to my mind,

      “chhaliya mera naam
      chhaliya mera naam, chhaliya mera naam
      hindu muslim sikh isaai sabko mera salam
      hindu muslim sikh isaai sabko mera salam”

      (Chhalia is a 1960 Indian Bollywood drama film directed by Manmohan Desai.[3] It stars Raj Kapoor, Nutan, Pran,[4] Rehman[5] and Shobhna Samarth. The story is loosely based on the 1848 short story “White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but is focused on the issue of estranged wives and children in the aftermath of Partition.[6][7][8][9] ) Source Wikie

      Based on the above premise that India has a hundred or more groups, religions, races, languages, customs, and to hold them together, we need laws, and lawyers. Therefore,  I question India’s legislative and  law enforcement agencies and their power over the people in discussing the caste system.

      My question, “Could resetting priorities in legal settings improve the situation? Would the ’Dalits’ be better off if the laws were restructured and reordered?  Instead of granting equal rights or some “reservation” status to the ‘Dalits’, there would be a restructuring of laws that would forbid the higher caste Hindus from trampling the rights of the ‘Dalits’ or for that matter all citizens.  That forbidding the higher caste Hindus from violating the rights of all citizens, would take precedence and weight over all other rights. Nations that are void of strong civil institutions and ethos and lack a sense of ‘do no harm’ to others, need to adopt this one basic moral principle. The law must apply  to all citizens, including the judiciary and the law enforcement. ”   ( Essay on Dalits by Shaheda )


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