India Uncut

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Action and reaction (and thinking in categories)

I can't help but think of Narendra Modi when I read what a local cop in Malegaon reportedly said to the BBC:
What goes around comes around.
Statements like that contain the same kind of anthropomorphism that I mentioned in this post. Some individuals in Malegaon get involved in terrorism, and some jokers blame the people of Malegaon as a whole. In much the same way, some Muslims commit terrorist acts, and 'Muslims', in general, are somehow held responsible. Some Muslims go on a rampage in Godhra, and as a 'reaction', as Mr Modi terms it, other Muslims are slaughtered throughout Gujarat.

These categories we create -- society, nation, Hindus, Muslims -- are just shorthands of convenience, and we should remember they are only that. It is monstrous to punish some individuals because of something others of their nationality or caste or religion might have done. And it is equally silly to reward or compensate them for what the group we identify them with might have done or gone through, which is one reason that I'm against reservations: they reinforce and encourage thinking in categories, and perpetuate the repugnant caste system. (Also, they haven't been shown to work, but to many of their proponents, intention matters more than outcome.)

(BBC link via email from Gautam John.)

Update (September 17): A doofusy example of thinking in categories: Steve Irwin's fans start killing stingrays.
amit varma, 7:44 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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