MC tells me how he hates America.There are also engaging discussions with Tarun Tejpal and others. At one point, Tarun observes that "Hinduism is very pliable. It rationalizes inequality: if that guy is poor it’s because he deserves it from his previous lives, and it’s not for me to sort out his accounts. Hinduism allows these guys to think that what they get is due to them, and they have absolutely no guilt about it".
‘Why should Wal-Mart come in here? I don’t mind Gucci and Louis Vuitton – they do nothing to disturb the social fabric. But keep Wal-Mart out of here. We were under slavery for seven hundred fucking years. We’ve only been free for sixty. Give us another thirty and we will buy Wal-Mart. I tell you, I was at a party the other day and I had my arms round two white people and I suddenly pushed them away and said, Why are you here? We don’t need you guys any more.’
Twenty-eight years old, well travelled and richer than most people on the planet, MC’s resentment towards white people is unexpectedly intense. I ask him how the world would be different if it were run by Indians.
‘It will be more spiritual,’ he says. But then he thinks for a moment and says, ‘No. It will be exactly the same.’
Actually, I think other religions are just as capable of rationalising inequality, though they might do it in vaguer terms (a simple "God knows best, there's a reason for everything He does" or "We mortals aren't capable of seeing the larger picture" would suffice). But Tarun's basic point holds: there's a self-righteous smugness that comes very easily to a certain type of religious mind. It's common for such people to look at a crippled beggar or a similarly disadvantaged person and say, “Bechara, must have done something really bad in his last life” - one gets the impression that they don't appreciate how immeasurably lucky they are, how easily the situations might have been reversed, and what an appalling, unjustifiable thing inequality really is. It's a roadblock to empathy, to being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Coincidentally I touched on this in a piece I wrote a few weeks ago about the intrusiveness and hegemony of religious tradition (the context was the recent death of my nani, and how my mother and I were harried for not going to Haridwar, etc). Will post that here once it's published.
And to lighten the mood, another link: Roger Ebert on the limited usefulness (but unlimited fun) of "greatest film" lists. Some fine clips, including one from Murnau's Sunrise, and lots of good stuff in the comments.