Like a Tsurezuregusa for a philosophy grad student.
India is a country where we worship women as goddesses and yet burn them for dowry and kill girls in the womb. How many times have you heard such an observation? In my experience, almost as many times as that other hackneyed statement: India is the land of Kama Sutra and yet we are so repressed and prudish when it comes to sex. Neither of these oft-quoted insights has helped change anything. So, when I first read about the Abused Goddesses campaign against domestic violence on Facebook, even before seeing the pictures, I thought the concept was trite.
The pictures, in themselves, are striking. Shot in the style of popular calendar art, they depict Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati in traditional poses with cuts and bruises on their conventionally beautiful faces.
This campaign has caught the attention of the international media, and is being hailed as ‘powerful’ and ‘hard-hitting’. It has also triggered a debate in social media circles. While some are praising the ‘impact’ of the images, others are uncomfortable because it harks back to the old stereotype of women as ‘goddesses’ and uses the iconography of Hindu mythology to represent domestic violence survivors who cut across the lines of religion, caste and class in our country. […]
What is the underlying message this campaign is trying to convey anyway? Do not hit women because they are goddesses? Are women worthy of respect and humane treatment because goddesses are worshipped? What about the women who do not display the presumed qualities of a revered goddess?
Pedestalisation of women as goddesses is as damaging as portraying them as sex objects. Both dehumanise women. Both leave no space in between for women to exercise their will or have feelings and opinions and flaws and desires as human beings. Trapping women into images of a supposed ideal is one of the oldest strategies of patriarchy – and if we do not fit the image, it is deemed alright to ‘punish’ and violate us.
Abused or not, women are not goddesses by Praneta Jha [Hindustan Times] (via thisisnotindia)
A number of people have reblogged the Kant rant that I posted, and that’s awesome. It is important to know the presuppositions of the thinkers whose philosophy has held great sway over the trajectory of western culture and western intellectual thought, especially when the thesis of these thinkers are taken as fundamental to the practice of certain disciplines. We need to know the presuppositions behind people like Kant, Heidegger, Hume, and other “great men of philosophy” in order to discern the way in which racist, sexist, homophobic, and other modes of discrimination are supported and justified within the structure of their systems.
What I would like to caution against is the taking up of the critique to demonstrate or privilege a particular kind of oppressive view held by these thinkers. Put simply, I am cautioning against the tendency to read racism as functioning primarily in the mode of anti-black racism, or the systemic oppression of the people of the African diaspora, that has emerged as a result of the domination of academia by the US/American academy and the racial binary that comes with conversations about race from within the American context. Doing so, with reference to the “great thinkers” is to unintentionally diminish the breadth of the oppressive ideologies that these thinkers’ systems were designed to support.
Kant was anti-black, but he wasn’t just that: his anthropological account generates a hierarchy, a classification of humans according to race which argued that each non-white race had its own particular deficiency which prevented them from being fully rational, or as rational as Kant’s own white, european, male peers. For example, with regards to the totally of peoples generally located in the Indian sub-continent, which Kant generalized as “hindus,” he says they:
do have motivating forces but they have a strong degree of passivity (Gelassenheit) and all look like philosophers. Nevertheless they incline greatly towards anger and love. They thus can be educated to the highest degree but only in the arts and not in the sciences. They can never achieve the level of abstract concepts. A great hindustani man is one who has gone far in the art of deception and has much money. The Hindus always stay the way they are, they can never advance, although they began their education much earlier.
Similar commentary is made by Kant with regards to middle eastern, Asian, and NDN peoples. Each race has its own peculiar nature that makes it incapable of rising to the level of the European race. Further, Kant makes specific that not all Europeans are necessarily capable of ascending to the level of the archetypical European subject: the Romany peoples, for example, are excluded from Kant’s full rationality by virtue of the way that their rationality is expressed through their culture. Culture, then, is a predictor of rationality and the best culture is produced by the most rational subjects: Europeans.
To this end, critiques of thinkers like Kant must recognize the way in which all non-white cultures and races are taken to be less-than European derived cultures. As Kant was engaged in a project of scientific racism, a taxonomy of humanity, his project is not essentially reducible to mere anti-blackness, nor does it function in the same way as anti-black racism does in our present era. His comments on members of the African-diaspora, or the “negro,” should be viewed within the totality of his project of scientific racism, and not as a manifestation of a particular form of discrimination.
We have to realize that Kant is involved in the construction of a system, of the search for human morality and rationality. To this end, Kant needs to provide a structure, a distinction between the kinds of humans such that he can justify the way in which Europe has proceeded in its projects of imperialism and colonialism within his moral theory. Without the distinction between humans, and the privileging of the European subject, Kant’s system would immediately condemn the forwards march of European imperialism on the basis of its own moral theory. However, Kant’s anthropology enabled him to side-step this critique by offering a theory of why other cultures and races needed the European colonialist and imperialist project in order to become fully rational.
Publishing this as your daily reminder that these people are quite serious.
The burden of proof for “disproving” white-supremacist interpretations of histories and peoples is only on anti-racist scholars and workers in an environment where white-supremacist ideology is the implicit unquestioned norm. The very fact that one has to proved the existence of, and then defend the legitimacy of that proof and that existence demonstrates, at the very least, an implicit bias towards white-supremacy within the field. Put simply: were white-supremacy not an issue, there would be no burden of proof, no onus of proof, because the “historical consensus” would be amenable to change without attacking the source.
Additionally, it is the privilege of white-supremacy (and white people) to be able to declare themselves the authority on history. Coupled with the above, white-supremacy allows for the propagation of history as written and perceived through the gaze of the dominant power majority, which results in the situation above. It is the privilege of whiteness to be able to say “ours is the authoritative view on history” and to construct the institution of history (in whatever mode) to reinforce the authority of this view. If one looks closely at the way in which “history” is explored, it is of a certain group and from a certain perspective.
That the view of history from the position of whiteness remains unquestioned is testament to the way in which whiteness has managed to become the sole arbiter of truth. This is the project of philosophy, at least performed in the western canon, and it is also the province of most other institutions: the preservation and reinforcement of the dominant view of the world from whiteness in various forms. In response to the above, I would like to ask why Beethoven being black is a problem, what difference would it make to the overall culture, though I think I already know the answer to this question.
the Buddha (via rhonadin)
This quotation is not found in any Buddhist scripture. Actually, the closest thing that you will encounter is Buddhaghosa’s commentary on anger in the Visuddhimagga’s ninth chapter where Buddhaghosa is discussing the results of anger and resentment. Buddhaghosa says, with regards to the actions that arise from the karma of resentment and anger:
By doing this you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.
That is, the actions that would arise as a result of the karma of resentment or anger only produce more of the same. These actions, Buddhaghosa says, can lead to no position within the dharma nor awakening. The harmful attachments that give rise to the karma and the actions that one takes out of anger will continue to cause suffering during and long after the actions taken.
There is a Parable of the Poisoned Arrow which discusses poison, though it is in reference to endless speculation as to the metaphysical origins of things like Karma and the Wheel of Samsara. That is, asking after the origin of the conditions of suffering before taking action to escape them is like asking after the history of the archer and the poisoned arrow that is stuck in your ribcage before allowing a doctor to treat you.
People should check their sources before attributing things to thinkers.
Judge Suzanne Morris “The Good Wife: Battle of The Proxies”