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New fools for old wine in old bottles

August 31, 2010 2 comments

Using GDP numbers you can prove a lot of things. Using history, you can disprove the same economics. Duh!

PT Barnum’s maxim

There is a sucker born ever minute – (more on PT Barnum and on this quote.)

A significant number of Indians are fooled by the ‘achievement’ the West – especially those who are ‘educated’ in English. A few days ago, Mint, a business newspaper carried a post by Manas Chakravarty, who was using an old report by Angus Maddison to support absurd conclusions.

Transatlantic Slave Trade (Table Courtesy - http://www.nps.gov/ethnography/aah/aaheritage/histContextsD.htm)

Transatlantic Slave Trade (Table Courtesy - http://www.nps.gov/ethnography/aah/aaheritage/histContextsD.htm)

Writes Manas Chakravarty,

By 1600, the centre of Europe had shifted northwards and the golden age of Holland had begun. Dutch per capita income was $1,381 in 1600, while Britain in Shakespeare’s time had a per capita income of $974.Recall that 1600 was the year the East India Company was founded. In contrast, India’s per capita income continued to be $550, while China’s was $600. Note that even Ireland, one of the poorest of Western Europe’s countries, had a per capita income of $615, higher than India’s and China’s. In short, the per capita GDP numbers mirror the changes in power, prosperity and cultural and scientific achievement.It wasn’t till 1981 that India had a per capita income of $977, beating that of Britain in 1600. And it wasn’t until 1993 that India’s per capita income of $1,399 surpassed what the Dutch had achieved in 1600. Maddison’s calculations show that in 2008, India’s per capita GDP in 1990 dollars, PPP terms was $2,975, slightly more than one-third of the world average of $7,614. We have a long way to go. (via World history by per capita GDP – Columns – livemint.com).

Basically, Indians are such rotters! That is what Shri Manasbhai Chakravarty is saying, in simple English.

I know a little English, Shri Manasji!

In the light of day

Any reading of history will show how hollow and risible Manasbhai‘s conclusions are.

One problem with economics is the complete lack of ethics. Economists (like Manasji Chakravarty) cannot be bothered with ‘facts’. For them numbers must do the talking and walking. Some ‘good’ economists like Angus Maddisson can even put up a good strip-tease show with numbers. Admirers can view these ‘assets’ admiringly.

Like Manasji Chakravarty seems to be enjoying Angus Maddison’s strip-tease show.

Poster annoucing sale of slaves in the USA.

Poster annoucing sale of slaves in the USA.

General Julius and the Gauls

Take Italian GDP, of which Bhai Manas has a high opinion.

Sum and substance of the Italian Job? Julius Caesar, (he would be an Italian now), loots the Gauls.

What happens?

Economics (and Shri Manasji Chakravarty) will tell us that Italian GDP goes up. What great history and important economic conclusions can we draw from this loot?

Nothing, except that Romans were good at looting others. Let us forget, for now, that after Roman loot, French GDP goes down.

Cynical economists like Angus Maddisson  could point out that Julius Caesar also massacred hundreds of thousands of Gauls. Loss of lives and wealth will have no effect on GDP as both cancel each other out. Since fewer Gauls now have lesser wealth, per-capita GDP will remain static.

Right, Manasji?

The other thing that the Italians (called Romans then) did well, was kill slaves.

After using them.

Rome, the city alone, had a million slaves. Crassus, (full name Marcus Licinius Crassus) a Roman general, was very good at killing slaves. Crassus was himself, finally, killed at Indian borders – when he made the mistake of thinking that Indians would be easy targets for loot and enslavement.

Crassus, Julius Caesar’s patron-in-chief,  lined Rome’s highway, Via Appia with the bodies of 6,000 slaves. A lesson for revolting slaves. The French, Spanish and the Brits also learned their Roman lessons well, history tells us.

Too well, I say!

Learn your lessons

Soon, it was the turn of the French. The Spanish and the British also. To start the killing.

Increase productivity in Manasbhai’s words.

And time for Native Americans and Australian aborigines to die.

The West (the French, Spanish and the British were very good at this) ‘imported’ at least 10 million, maybe even 20 million slaves, from Africa into West-controlled territories. Economic output of the West goes up! (What else did you expect.).

The output of these slaves is included in Western GDP calculations. But slaves are excluded from census calculation! The lives of African slaves and the deaths of Native Americans are excluded from this economics. But Western GDP goes up. That is what the ‘numbers’ tell.

And good job says, Shri Manasji Chakravarty.

What can I say! Apart from pointing out that Manasji Chakravarty is wasting a lot of wood-pulp.

Most probably from modern Norway.

You can always get slaves! Why bother about people?

You can always get slaves! Why bother about people?

Optical illusion in economics

Norway! My favorite ‘case’ study in modern economics.

Modern Norway does two things very well.

One – they exploit nature very well. Dig up the earth to extract aluminum, cut down forests, and suck oil from the North Sea.

Two – all  Norwegians over-pay each other.

Over-paid taxi-drivers pay huge amounts for a haircut. Over-paid waiters fork out fancy amounts for a car-wash. And so on. Compared to, say Indians, Norwegians are paid some 10-20 times more.

A waiter in Mumbai earns between 125-200 dollars. A Norwegian waiter earns closer to US$1500-2000 per month. Both do the same job and the net economic output should not change. But it does. What Norway does is overstate Norwegian economic output – by over-paying everybody.

Democracy, you see!

This economic ‘trick’ creates a brilliant optical illusion. Of higher wages, profits, turnover, prices – and GDP. Now replace Norway, with any Western economy.

Same story and the plot does not change.

Old wine, old bottle … new fools

This great science of economics has another trick up its sleeve. Norway’s manufacturing out-put is a gargantuan, awesome, jaw-dropping 1 percent of Norway’s annual GDP.

So, Shri Manasji Chakravarty, before you massage numbers and get an ‘erection’ of fancy conclusions, like your ‘guru’ Angus Maddisson does, look behind those numbers.

Take a 2ndlook.

Reinvented narrative

After WWII (1939-1945), using favorable US-dollar  exchange rates, Europe climbed out of rubble and destruction. Recovering from 50 years of bloodshed, faced with the rise of USA and a certain liquidation of their colonial empires, Europe needed to reinvent their history.

One task for this new narrative was to explain the rise of the West. A plausible econo-metric modelling effort from the 1970’s was led by a British economist, Angus Maddison. This model explained away Europe’s economic growth to increased ‘productivity.’

Eyes closed, mouths agape

This study gained some following in India also. India, this analysis estimated, for the last 1000 years, accounted for 50% of the world economy and a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900. The real problem with this study was the trojans that came with this model.

40 years after this report first came out, Indians still cannot use this report critically.


U.K. cops arrest people ‘just for the DNA’

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

More than three-quarters of young black men aged between 18 and 35 are on the system, the report said. Set up in 1995, the database contains the DNA profiles of five million citizens, eight percent of the population, making it the world’s biggest in proportion to population size. “Parliament has never formally debated the establishment of the National DNA Database and safeguards around it,” commission chairman Professor Jonathan Montgomery said in a statement.

“It has developed through amendments to laws designed to regulate the taking of fingerprints and physical evidence before DNA profiling was developed.

“It is not clear how far holding DNA profiles on a central database improves police investigations.” (via U.K. cops arrest people ‘just for the DNA’ – Europe- msnbc.com).

Most people are today feel assured about Big Brother's watchful presenceBig brother is definitely here

As post-WW2 European society was taking shape, one man warned the world – Big Brother Is Watching You!

George Orwell’s 1984, a simple, dark and melancholic book warned the world of the specter of a looming police state looming. The book was portrayed as warning against the ‘impending’ threat of Communism. George Orwell himself joined the British Government in its propaganda effort, against the Germans during WW2.

Would George Orwell, a confused imperialist, have imagined that Britain, the citadel of freedom, itself would becoming the Mother Of Big Brother societies – with the largest number surveillance cameras and DNA data bank and a back-breaking prison population.

I wonder!

In the land of the free

The US prison population at more than 20 lakhs (2 million) is travesty of justice and humanity. The US competes with China and the erstwhile USSR, (the largest totalitarian regimes) in the world, with its rate of incarceration.

USA, with a population of 30 crores (300 million), has a criminal population of 70 lakhs (7 million) – behind bars, on probation or on parole. US Government estimates a figure of 20 lakhs (2 million) people serving prison sentences.

A concerned editorial in New York Times newspaper summed up the situation.

More than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. One in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men. Nationwide, the prison population … (of the US) surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.

Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry.

… the relationship between imprisonment and crime control is murky. States that lagged behind the national average in rising incarceration rates during the 1990’s actually experienced a steeper decline in crime rates than states above the national average … (ellipsis and bracketed text mine).

Feeling assuredAcross the pond

Some time back there was another report, on the state of prisons in UK.

There are almost 10,000 Muslims in Britain’s jails— with 90 of them serving time for terror offences … they fear more and more young lags are being converted and radicalised in prison. A … source said: “You are talking about rootless young men at the bottom of society. They’re in jail and someone gives them some purpose. ”

In top-security jails such as Whitemoor, Cambs, 35 per cent of inmates are Muslim—and they have converted numerous other prisoners to Islam. (via MI5 spy chiefs are putting undercover officers into Britain’s jails | News Of The World).

Slice and dice …

Britain has an estimated 1.6 million Muslims – a 2.8% of the British population. Of this a 10,000 are in prison – which means about 0.6% of the British Muslim population is in prison. India has 16 crore Muslims – which a 100 times higher population.

What if …

The British policy of imprisonment, if India were to follow, Indian Muslims inside prisons would be in 10 lakhs (or 1 million). India’s total prison population ranges between 2.5 lakhs to 3.5 lakhs – of all peoples, of all religions, races, crimes etc.

Of course, Indian society handles crime vastly differently. Technically, India could create a legal system which would ease the ability of the police to imprison people, or better still hang them – and hide its social problems.

Freedom, imprisonment, racism, development, genocide

What is the difference between a ‘banana republic’ where people disappear – and in the Anglo-Saxon Bloc which has the world largest prison population? Maybe, my being from a backward country, stops me from understanding this great ‘progress’ that these countries seemed to have made!

The sight of the West, strutting as a protector of freedom on the global stage is a hoax. How can the West have a problem with Native American tribes (aka Red Indians) and the Aborigines – if there are none left. The West which has the highest levels of prison populations in the world – raucously reminds the world of lessons in freedom.

What is assimilation and integration

The West speaks of protecting individual freedom, whereas the calls for ‘assimilation’ integration are nothing but refurbished implementation of the ‘settled’ principle in the Desert Bloc of Cuius regio, eius religio’ (meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) – the ruler decided his people’s religion.

The West can speak from both sides of the mouth. Nicholas Sarkozy can tell Indians (i.e.Manmohan Singh) to respect foreign missionaries, who want to convert Indians to their religion – while the West can continue with this demonization of Islam. Would Sarkozy like to mention any other country where such a large minority Muslim population, has greater freedom and opportunity, than in India? Would you like to suggest France instead?

This is freedom – from both sides. For the West.

Kids shipped from Britain to colonies

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment
Post colonial Governments in Kenya and India have ignored the cover-up of the millions killed by the colonial rulers
Demonize, Genocide - and apologize (Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, courtesy and source - carlosspicyweiner.net). Click for larger image.

Demonize, Genocide - and apologize (Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, courtesy and source - carlosspicyweiner.net). Click for larger image.

Seasons of apologies

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a … apology Monday to … British children shipped to Australia with the promise of a better life, only to suffer abuse and neglect thousands of miles from home.

At a ceremony … attended by tearful former child migrants, Rudd apologized for his country’s role in the migration and extended condolences to the 7,000 survivors of the program who still live in Australia.

“We are sorry,” Rudd said. “Sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused. Sorry for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care. Sorry for the tragedy – the absolute tragedy – of childhoods lost.” via (Apology for kids shipped from Britain to colonies).

The Daily Express adds: –

there is growing anger that the British government should have been the first to apologise … who sent the children there in the first place … aimed at relieving the burden on Britain’s children’s homes and filling Australia with “good white stock” … the children were sent to Australia without the knowledge or consent of their parents and were told – falsely – that their mothers and fathers were dead … many of them were institutionalised in religious or charitable organisations where they were subjected to neglect and abuse … Under pressure from those whose lives were ruined by child migration, Gordon Brown … said, “the time is now right” for the UK to apologise for the actions of previous governments. “It is important that we listen to the voices of the survivors and victims of these misguided policies.” (ellipsis mine).

Vatican wont see, if forced to see, will not admit. (Cartoonist Signe Wilkinson on 2010-03-29; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com). Click for larger image.

Vatican wont see, if forced to see, will not admit. (Cartoonist Signe Wilkinson on 2010-03-29; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com). Click for larger image.

The ‘real’ Roma Gypsy story

In Europe, kidnapping children was considered legal for most of 1500AD-1750AD. On one condition – you had to kidnap Roma Gypsy children! More than 25,000 children kidnapped. No problem. Everybody sleeps peacefully at night.

Switzerland was doing this till 1973!

The Romani Gypsies, Sinti have been a favored European target for the last 500 years – by the Vatican, by the Protestant Church, by monarchies and by Republican Governments. In war and and in peace.

Their crime. They civilized (?) Europe. No less.

Vatican resists

Vatican has been seeing a continuous drizzle of sexual-abuse cases against Catholic priests for the last nearly 40 years now – apart from USA, in Australia, Ireland, . While Belgium, Britain, France, Spain – have all apologized for some of their crimes. Vatican, has resisted.

Vatican, also a State, a Government, and till the recent past (before WWII) a powerful political voice. Vatican’s powers were taken away by Napoleon, when he ‘secularized’ and consolidated large swathes of Europe (1805) hundreds of Euro-lets into State-lets.

Instead of simple admission of truth, Vatican used PR, private investigators, expensive lawyers to protect its deviant priests. (Cartoon Mike Peters on 2010-03-24; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com). Click for larger image.

Instead of simple admission of truth, Vatican used PR, private investigators, expensive lawyers to protect its deviant priests. (Cartoon Mike Peters on 2010-03-24; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com). Click for larger image.

This made me think …

About, the ritual of regret and apology, about their role in the genocidal past. Since, the “Jewish Problem” was solved by Hitler (there are hardly 1 million Jews left in Europe and 5 million in USA), the West and USA has no problems, anymore with the Jews. Australia, Canada and France have tendered their ritualistic apologies – and start demonizing someone else.

Australia struggled for more than 5 years – before they agreed to apologize. I presume, US (to the Native Americans and the Blacks), Belgium (to Congo), Britain (to Kenya), France (to Vietnam), Spain (to the Native Americans), et al will all apologize. A book, The New Rulers of the World, examines the denial of the genocide.

Is this an aberration? Is this nightmare over?

Franz J. A. Romer, Duesseldorf, a 2ndlook blog reader informs us,

In Germany it is all about deduction (removal) of children from their family due to a local town system which is called Jugendamt (in other countries called youth welfare systeme). The Jugendamt is a local authority with no given functional control structure but a depending lawfull structure.It is absolutely easy for the Jugendamt to deduct the cildren into foster families or homes.

Vatican's support and protection to the abusive priests, left many shocked and flustered. (Cartoonist Mike Peters on 2004-04-14; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com).  Click for larger image.

Vatican's support and protection to the abusive priests, left many shocked and flustered. (Cartoonist Mike Peters on 2004-04-14; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com). Click for larger image.

Hitler was never alone

Hitler’s biggest mistake – he lost the war.

The genocide with which his regime was charged with was also carried out against the Native Americans in the USA, the Australian aborigines, in Congo by the Belgians.

Post colonial Governments in Kenya and India have ignored the cover-up of the millions killed by the colonial rulers – in the Mau Mau operations in Kenya or the 1857 War in India.

Looking at the Anglo Saxon Bloc

Linked to this is the fact at the end of WW2, the Anglo Saxon Bloc controlled 90% of gold production and reserves. The largest private gold reserve in the world, India was still a British colony. The Anglo Saxon bloc has 3 of the 4 largest countries of the world; wiped out native populations in these 3 countries, acquired these countries by force, sequestered the world’s natural resources and are united by their will to dominate and exploit the rest of humanity.

They control more than 67% of world gold production and more than 80%, if you include Anglo-Saxon countries, colonies and companies (like Anglo Gold, Barrick, BHP, Rio Tinto, etc).

The interesting question is why do Australia and Canada cling to British skirts?

Instead of admiiting guilt, Vatican lawyers tried using the Statute of Limitations - much to collective anger for this defence. (Cartoonist Signe Wilkinson on 2005-09-23; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com).Click for larger image.

Instead of admitting guilt, Vatican lawyers tried using the Statute of Limitations - much to collective anger for this defence. (Cartoonist Signe Wilkinson on 2005-09-23; source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com).Click for larger image.

Modern day demonization

The Western campaign aimed at the demonisation of Islam has replaced the Jewish demonisation (Shakespeare joined in with his anti-Semitic Merchant Of Venice).

Without taking responsibility for the destabilisation of the Islamic World by the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire after WW1 – perpetrated by Anglo Saxon countries and the French.

The insistence and resistance

Coming back to the apologies? I have always wondered, why this Western resistance to apologies? I also wonder what difference does an apology make to the victims, as though, the apology is worth anything.

Would an apology from Hitler or Churchill be worth anything?

Vatican uses short codes to blame Hinduism for Hitler’s Holocaust

August 13, 2009 6 comments
Are you forgetting these halcyon days?

The Vatican forgets these halcyon days?

the Vatican’s 1998 apology, “We Remember.” That long-awaited document expressed regret at Christian mistreatment of Jews over the centuries but pinned the fault on some of the church’s sinful “members” while holding blameless “the church as such.”

The Vatican’s champions say it had no choice: “the church as such” is ecclesiastical shorthand for the church as bride of Christ, which partakes of divinity and must thus be without blemish. “We Remember” further contended that the Holocaust was the product not of Christianity but of a “neo-pagan” regime that had renounced the faith, but Carroll portrays Hitler as the heir to such church-sanctioned haters as St. John Chrysostom and Torquemada. (via The Church as Sinner – TIME).

Deflect ... blame ... cover up ...

Deflect ... blame ... cover up ...


Hitler … Aryan .. Pagan …

Some few years ago, the Vatican came out with a much awaited ‘apology’ for its involvement in the Holocaust. Since Hitler, though technically a Catholic, was a staunch believer in his Aryan lineage.

This the Vatican uses as an escape hatch to pin the blame on ‘neo-pagan’ beliefs. Combine Hitler’s Aryan supremacy theory, India as the citadel of ‘pagans’ and non-believers, makes Vatican’s language a short hand for Hinduism and India.

Just how did the Church think, it could palm off Hitler’s genocide onto Hinduism – and India which is the citadel of ‘paganism’. Are they forgetting the Abbott of Citeaux?

Another red-wash

“Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” (Kill them all, God will know his own) instructed the Abbot of Citeaux to followers at the start of the Albigensian Crusade.

Did the Church look at its own history? The Ustashe killings, the Albigensian Crusades, at the Hussite Wars, at its blood soaked history, at the numerous humans who were burnt at the stake, torn apart – all in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Blame the victims

And after 1500 years, blame pagans for it. Pagans, if the popery forgets, were the victims of the Church’s expansionary zeal – and Hitler’s. Maybe the ghosts of the Native Americans will whisper the truth in Vatican’s ears – who were also annihilated by brave Christian soldiers?

Racism in Detective Fiction

Postcolonial postmortems By Christine Matzke, Susanne Muehleisen page 88

From the book "Postcolonial postmortems By Christine Matzke, Susanne Muehleisen page 88

How very true!

Monster fiction for children!

Monster fiction for children!

Whatta shot!

Ms.Christine and Susanne, you have hit the nail right in the centre of head! Your aim is truer than you imagine. Though I don’t know if you have hit the nail deep enough – deep into the heart of darkness in the Western heart, which gave rise to these genres of Western ‘literature’.

An Indian columnist laments how Indians lack literary talent and ability!

The Indian churail (or pisach or djinni) faces similar problems as the Scandinavian myling or the Er Gui of China: they don’t translate well outside of their culture.

India may have had local incidents, where an oppressive zamindar may have created a market for horror stories and monsters – but without genocide, slavery and massacres to fall back on, popular imagination simply does not have the fodder to create ghouls and monsters.

And that is reason for Indian churails being rare – not lack of literary ability in Indians.

A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India

June 26, 2009 4 comments

In 1895 an Indian pioneer flew what is said to be the first Indian plane in the air. The centenary year of the first successful flight, by the Wright brothers, was celebrated from December 17, 2003. But our own pioneer from Mumbai, Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, made an aircraft and had flown it eight years earlier. One of Talpade’s students, P Satwelkar, has chronicled that his craft called ‘Marutsakha'(Friend of the Winds) flew unmanned for a few minutes and came down. (via A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India).

Claims … and reality

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

Western claims to superiority over the Rest usually include their record in ‘innovation and invention’. This record is brandished as proof of Western superiority – of Western attitudes, institutions, society, polity, media and academia, values, et al.

Technology – a function of funding

What is usually never mentioned or understood is the funding of technology. Technology is a quantitative function of funding. Western funding of its technology quest was underwritten first by conquest (of the Native American by the Spaniards), followed by slavery (of the Native Americans and Africans) followed by colonialism.

It were these forms of exploitation which created a continuous flow of resources (funds, patrons, technology, raw materials) which enabled this technology output.

If …

As this news item points out: –

  1. The Indian pioneer could not obtain funds. Another newspaper report (reproduced elsewhere) points out how the British Raj influenced the Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad of Baroda from support to Talpade’s research.
  2. On the other hand, the Wright Brothers were supported by the US Army to the extent of US$25,000.

These reports are linked to an intriguing Sanskrit technical manual, the ‘Vymanika Shastra‘. Some level of critical examination has happened in the last few years. What makes this claim worth investigating is the fact that this manual in Sanskrit came out in India – from a man who had little exposure to technology being developed on the opposite side of the world. A copy of this manuscript landed at the Sayaji Rao Gaekwad’s Rajakiya Sanskrit Library, Baroda.

While original dating of this document is not yet done, its authenticity as a technical document in Sanskrit, within a few years of Kitty Hawk makes the ‘ripoff-theory’ baseless.

Some sources for this post

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

After the death of his wife, Talpade lost interest in the project. One book claims that “later his relatives sold the models and other things connected with his experiment to the firm of Rally Bros …”

Zombies versus churails

Could you have an equally successful version with churails and djinns? Perhaps, but Grahame-Smith’s success is also because of the public fascination with zombies, vampires and werewolves. Werewolves come from the Old Norse vargulf, and were feared as actual threats several centuries ago. Zombies originated in Haiti, but the idea of revenants—the walking dead—was very much part of Old English folklore. Vampires, especially the Transylvanian kind, reached the peak of their popularity in the 18th century.

True zombies, vampires and werewolves have not been feared for at least two centuries. But their place in the popular imagination has been maintained by horror movies and novels as well as several generations of gamers. Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series elevated the classic vampire love story to interspecies romance, with a werewolf vying for the hand of the beautiful Bella. (via Nilanjana S Roy: Zombies versus churails).

Why are Indians so bad at horror films …

Why does the largest film production culture, i.e. India not produce Jaws, Jurassic Park (animals as malevolent monsters; justifying the extermination of huge swathes of wild life, “good that we have exterminated them). Where is the Indian Dracula or Frankenstein? In all its 25 major languages and more than 500 plus dialects, Indians don’t have a national ‘monster’ culture? The writer of this column writes, almost complainingly, how

But few have carried on the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote some of the most chilling ghost stories of all time—Khudito Pashan (The Hungry Stones) being perhaps the best of them. It’s not for lack of talent—for instance, Tarun Tejpal and Ravi Shankar Etteth have both played around with the ghost story. Ravi Shankar wrote at least one classic, featuring a busload of highly unusual passengers in war-ravaged Kashmir. In 1914, a Mr S Mukerji compiled a set of Indian ghost stories

The Ramsay family tried keeping the ‘horror’ flag flying. But most of their ‘horror’ films finally turned out to be romantic comedies – with a token presence of the ‘horror’ element.

The Indic spread

Other Indian themes have crossed languages, geographies, cultures – and spread all over the world. Witness the spread of Ramayana or how Sanskrit defined most languages of the world. After more than 1000 years of aggression, the Desert Bloc has only half the world as its adherents – though they have 80% of the world’s geography. The Indic belief systems still accounts for half the world’s population.

Why indeed does India have a scarcity of ‘monsters’. Even Indian asuras are not really monsters or devils! This columnist speculates that

perhaps something of the belief that ghost stories are for the masses, not for the purveyors of high literature, has rubbed off on to our authors. That, given India’s rich heritage of dakinis, betaals, nishibhoots and other things that go bump in the night, is a sad mistake.

To understand this better, let us look at the world’s most fertile ground for ‘monsters’ …

Medieval – Renaissance Europe

16th century Europe – specifically, Spain and Portugal. The last of the Moors had been driven out of Spain. The Christian standard was flying high. The Papal Bull divided the Earth (for the Europeans) between Spain and Portugal. White Christian rulers of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand, set historic standards in persecution and extortion. More than a million Jews were killed, crucified, burnt alive; their properties confiscated and distributed. Columbus returned to enslave the American Natives – and subsequently, work them to death.

New chapters in bloodshed were being written by conquistadors like Vasco Nunez De Balboa, Francisco Pizarro, Juan Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto, Hernando Cortez, et al. Not to forget the search for El Dorado led by, “above all, that prince of monsters Lope de Aquirre, colour the pages with the darkest hues of bloody emprise.” In South American memory, Francisco de Carvajal, the “demon of the Andes” remains alive. These real-life monsters set new standards in brutality, slavery and genocide.

Europe in the sixteenth century was “obsessed with questions of language, and especially so in Spain and its recently conquered American Empire (emphasis mine). This was driven by

what Marshal McLuhan called “the hypertrophy of the unconscious,” a phenomenon he associated with periods of revolution in media technology: the advent of print in the 16th century created a great need for sensational materials to be broadcast, and this need caused ideas that formerly had been only lurking in the dark recesses of men’s minds to come floating to the surface.

One of the great bestsellers of the 16th century was the Histoires prodigieuses of Pierre Boaistuau (Paris, 1560), a sort of Renaissance Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not containing marvelous tales on everything … Seventeen of the Histoires forty tales are about monsters, a fact that may explain why the book was republished anywhere from ten to twenty two times and translated into Dutch, Spanish and English. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Spanish literature of the Renaissance

From this hotbed of ferment, a representative of this period was Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681), the Spanish writer. Growing up in a Spain, a 100 years after the Conquistadors, benefiting from the twin advantages of fresh memory and hindsight “a century of Janus, facing backward, towards the rise of the Spanish Empire … and forward, toward its decline.” His more than a 100 plays and writings represent 17th century Spain, significantly – and even Europe.

There is probably no word that is more characteristic of Calderon de la Barca’s art than monstruo, “monster.” Rare is the play in which the word does not appear several times … (from Celestina’s brood By Roberto González Echevarría).

Calderon’s play about Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire builder, showed her in a monster mode – her hybrid character the most masculine modes and the most feminine, a monster of destruction and creation”. And Calderon was not alone. The fertile growth of monsters gave birth to a new study – teratology, the study of monsters.

“Monster lore truly becomes “popular culture” only with the Renaissance … Fresh works on the subject of teratology are written by Italians, Germans, and Frenchmen. The foreruuner of the modern newspaper, the broadside were bought at street corners and at fairs by the barely literate masses. The great reformers Luther and Melanchthon used the broadside medium to popularize their propagandistic and anti-Catholic versions of two of the most famous monsters of the Renaissance, the Monk-calf of Freiburg and the Pope-ass of Rome. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Some of Calderon’s plays dealt with the proselytization of the Native Americans – like his play, La Aurora En Copacabana (Dawn in the Copacabana), described as a play about “the conquest and conversion of the Indians in Peru”

The success of the conquest, therefore, is attributed to (Christian) faith which is valued as mans greatest gift to the world … Thus (Christian) conquest becomes a form of colonisation with the purpose of imposing religion and culture on a land “que habitan inhumanos” (512) and is in need of redemption and education. Finally, the play tries to harmonise irreconcilable contradictions which lie at the bottom of colonial discourse. (texts in brackets and italics mine).

With this idea, must be seen something important. That is the important element of “the escape of the monster.” In the … Monster Theory, Joel Cohen has remarked that the monster always escapes. Now combine the three elements – the newly acquired colonies of America, the proselytization (or otheriwse, the genocide) and the escape of the monster. These were the ‘monsters’ of colonialism.

A very interesting play by Calderon was La vida es sueño (Life is a dream). It tells the story of Segismundo, the Prince Of Poland, who was destined to be a monster. To forestall the prophecy, Segismundo was imprisoned by his father from the time of his birth. In adulthood, released from prison to test the prediction, Segismundo fulfills the prophecy. As a analyst of Calderon’s work summarizes,

Affirming a “better reality,” Segismundo’s message speaks as well to all of Europe: the “new European man” is the real monster. (from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

200 years after Calderon, HG Wells, in the The Island of Doctor Moreau, foretold Joseph Menegle’s experiments rather well.

Onshore genocide – The Roma Gypsies

Apart from the Jewish persecution, less known is the the persecution of the Roma Gypsy, which continues till date. In Europe, kidnapping children was considered legal for most of 1500AD-1750AD. On one condition – you had to kidnap Roma Gypsy children! More than 25,000 children kidnapped. No problem. Everybody sleeps peacefully at night. Switzerland was doing this till 1973!

Roughly, between 1500 to 1750, it was legal in Europe to hunt human beings. Yes! Just like hunting for deer in India, or hunting buffalo in Africa or fox-hunting in Britain. Yes! You could hunt human beings. As long as the humans you hunted were Roma Gypsies. In Europe you could be hung to death if you committed the crime of being born – between 1500AD-1750AD! Born as a Roma Gypsy!

Europeans, in the their age of Enlightenment and Renaissance, (1500-1750) could just pick up human slaves – yes, own them like cattle and furniture, if you found one! As long as they were Roma Gypsies. Later you could also sell them for profit!

Ship owners and captains in Europe’s Golden age, (1500-1750) could arrange galley slaves for free. No wages, no salary. You just had to feed them. Use them, abuse them, flog them, kill them, drown them. You could do anything – as long as they were Roma Gypsies.

What set off the Roma Gypsy Genocide

In 1420, a 60 year old man, blind in one eye took charge – and took on the might of the Roman Church and Roman Emperors.

Jan Zizka.

Over the next 12 months, he became completely blind. In the next 15 years, Zizka (and other Czech generals) defeated, many times, the combined armies of Germany, The Roman Church and others. His military strategy was studied for the next 500 years. Thereafter, the myth of military might of the Church was broken forever.

Jan Zizka allied himself with the Taborites (the radical Hussite wing). Zizka made Tábor in Bohemia into an armored and mobile fortress – the Wagenburgs.

Interestingly, a 100 years after the Hussite Wars, the European persecution of the Roma Gypsies began in full earnest. And during WW2, the Vatican joined with the Nazi collaborators, the Ustashe,  to extort gold and the genocide against the Roma Gyspises.

Military success

Zizka ranks with the great military innovators of all time. Zizka’s army was made up of untrained peasants and burghers (townspeople). He did not have the time or resources to train these fighters in armament and tactics of the time. Instead they used weapons like iron-tipped pikes and flails, armored farm wagons, mounted with small, howitzer type cannons.

His armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior forces into pieces. For defense, the wagons were arranged into a tight, impregnable barrier surrounding the foot soldiers – the Wagenburg (the wagon fort), as they came to be known. The wagons also served to transport his men. Zizka thus fully initiated modern tank warfare. Zizka’s experience under various commanders was useful. At the Battle of Tannenberg (1410), Zizka fought on the Polish side , in which the famed German Teutonic Knights were defeated.

Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan

Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan

Coming back …

Who were the major users of the wagons in Europe then (and now?) Answer – The Roma Gypsies.

Who were the people who could pose spiritual and ecclesiastical questions to the Vatican? Answer – The Gypsies, with their Indian heritage, were not not new to spiritual dialectics (contests, discourse and debates). For instance, Mani, and his adherents, an Indic teacher of Buddhist thought, known to Christians as Manichean thought, were the nightmare for Christianity till the 15th century. When Mani called for overthrow of slavery, the Vatican at the Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. European minds were occupied with the questions raised by the Hussite reformers.

Some think they (the Waldensians) had held them for centuries; some think they had learned them recently from the Taborites. If scholars insist on this latter view, we are forced back on the further question: Where did the Taborites get their advanced opinions? If the Taborites taught the Waldenses, who taught the Taborites?

Who were the people who could help the persecuted Waldensians, the Bogomils, the Cathars to escape persecution and spread out across the Europe? Answer – The Roma Gypsies – in their wagons. The same Gypsies, had earlier pioneered the Troubadour culture in the Provence Region, which provoked the Albigensian Crusade by the Vatican.

Prokop Coat Of ArmsProkop Coat Of Arms

And who was the King of the Taborites? Answer – An entire clan of leaders who called themselves as Prokop (The Shaven /Bald; The Little and The Great) were the military leaders of the Taborites.

The word and name Prokop have no meaning in any European language – except in Sanskrit, where it means vengeance, retribution, violent justice.

Mythology as History

Jan Hus initiated the Reformation in the Vatican Church. It was Jan Zizka who broke the back of Papal authority. On the back of these Czech successes, was laid the foundation of 95 Theses by Martin Luther in 1517. The British break (1533-34) with the Holy Roman Church happened due to favors by the Papal office to the Iberian Empires – in matters of trade and colonial expansion, and the impediments to divorce of Henry-VIII at the behest of the Spanish rulers.

Today, the Germans and the British are loath to be reminded about the Czech Church Reform initiatives and the defeats at the hands of the Poles and Czechs. Western historiography about the Enlightenment and Renaissance, in Britain, France and Germany, leading to the reformation is ‘mythology as history’.

Of course, the role of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Byzantine Empire in the entire Czech saga is also worth re-examining. Were the Hussite Wars, a proxy war waged by the Eastern Church against the Vatican?

Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr.Hyde

In the 19th century came the monster story was dubbed as Gothic – and this form of story-telling matured as a craft.

A significant array of Gothic writers emerged from Ireland (from Charles Maturin, Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde to the contemporary writer Patrick McGrath), in a colonial situation where a Protestant minority was the colonial occupier. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851), wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley started writing Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, at the age of 18, and completed it one year later. First published in London, anonymously, in 1818 by small London publishing house of Harding, Mavor & Jones – after previous rejections by bigger publishers like Charles Ollier (Percy Bysshe Shelley’s publisher), and John Murray (by Byron’s publisher). The writer’s name started appearing from the second edition of 1823 onwards. The interesting aspect, lost in popular usge, is that the monster is not named – and Frankenstein was the scientist, who brought the monster to life.

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde was first published. This explored how ‘normal’ (Dr.Jekyll) human beings could become ‘evil’ (Mr.Hyde).

And in 1887, Bram Stoker, an Irish writer published his Dracula. The character of Dracula is based on Emperor Sigismund and his Order of the Dragon, who waged war against the Hussites – led by Jan Zizka. Infamous for his betrayal of Jan Hus, he sparked of the Hussite Wars, in which the Taborites (the Roma Gypsies) used wagons and gun powder for the first time in Europe. He founded a secret sect,  the “Dracul” called the Order of the Dragon.

Of course, these three are the most famous – but not the only ones. Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 “Carmilla“, about a lesbian vampire was another monster book of its time. An associate of Mary Shelley, John Polidori created the character of the “The Vampyre” in 1819 – on which possibly Dracula was based.

Most significantly, in 1896, was HG Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, which presaged Joseph Mengele – when Joseph Mengele had not even started on his higher education. A good 50 years before Joseph Mengele’s experiments were discovered by a shocked world.

The wellspring of these works is H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. In this 1896 novel, a vivisectionist attempts to transform animals into men until the misshapen creatures revert and kill him, the forces of nature overcoming man’s civilizing artifices. From The Boys From Brazil (Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, alive and well and cloning Hitlers at a secret lab in the Brazilian Amazon) to Jurassic Park (Richard Attenborough alive and well and cloning velociraptors), Wells’ basic formula has become familiar: an island; a Frankensteinian experiment; a Faustian scientist; something gone terribly, terribly wrong. (from Requiem for the Mad Scientist

From the 1700-1800, while Spain was in decline, for about a 100 years, Western literary field did not see too much action on the monster front. The main action was in Haiti, where zombies, the ex-murderers, the living dead became a part of the voodoo cult.

The late Victorian era was one of the most expansive phases of the empire. Britain annexed some thirty-nine separate areas around the world between 1870-1900, in competition with newly aggressive America in the Pacific or the European powers in the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’ after the continent was divided up at the Berlin conference of 1885. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

The last of the true great monster in popular culture came from the East. Soon after WW2, as tales of Japanese atrocities started coming out and as American atrocities in Vietnam started, Godzilla came out of Japan. But a different pressure head was building up, which gave rise to a new genre – detective fiction.

Euro-Pessimism

Between 1800-1950, Western powers killed (directly or otherwise) more than 50 million people in America (the Native Americans), Africa (the Native Africans), Asia (Indians, Chinese, Arabs). This led to a situation that every other person in the West had participated in murder or massacre – unlike the few Conquistadors. Western ambiguity towards Soviet Russia on one side, Hitler on the other was itself a concern. To that add, Gandhiji’s resolute opposition to colonialism and you have a inflammable moral situation.

The deluge of blood and murder caused moral anxiety and was a matter of ethical dilemma amongst common folks. The pressure valve for this was popular fiction. Identifying murderers became a form of proxy, vicarious entertainment for ordinary folks. Enter the super detectives, who pick out the murderer from a room full of ordinary people. Enter detectives like Auguste Dupin, of ‘The Purloined Letter‘ fame, who “investigates an apparently motiveless and unsolvable double murder in the Rue Morgue.”

Murder in Popular Image

The racist imagery in Tintin.

The 'racist' imagery in Tintin.

A trend started by Edgar Allan Poe, whose first detective novel, Murders In Rue Morgue (1841) soon became an avalanche. Writers like Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple solving murders happening by the second), Georges Simenon (and his Inspector Maigret investigating brutal crimes), Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn), GK Chesterton (Father Brown), Raymond Chandler (Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe) dealt with murder. Alfred Hitchcock made horror thrillers in similar themes.

In 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock series made its debut. Many of Conan Doyle’s characters came from the colonies. Many victims lived in isolated communities. Past (mis)deeds caught up. Crime, murder and malevolence hung in the air like thick smoke. Some of the stories addressed the colour prejudice. The status of England as a super-power was apparent. The intrigue and bloodshed in the India was palpable in stories like the The Sign of Four at the Pondicherry Lodge.

Tintin in Congo

Tintin in Congo

Agatha Christie’s book, filmed as Ten Little Indians, based on the book, initially released (the book) in Britain as Ten Little Niggers (later renamed as Then There None) gives the game away. Agatha Christie probably unconsciously verbalized the White desire to ensure that there should be none of the Red Indians left to tell the tale. The overt racism in Herge’s ‘Tintin in Congo’ made the world sit-up and note the pervasiveness of racism in detective fiction.

Media and academia

Jerome Delamater, Ruth Prigozy, in an essay compilation, ‘Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction’, observe that Jane Marple, along with Hercule “Poirot becomes an equal opportunity detective who really believes that anyone might commit murder”. Dismissing the jaundiced view of human nature,” the writers of this book, while commenting about the detective fiction genre, do not mention slavery at all – and mention colonialism and racism once each.

One writer, Franco Moretti did half the job in book Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms By Franco Moretti. He writes,

“The perfect crime – the nightmare of detective fiction – is the feature-less, deindividualized crime that anyone could have committed because at this point everyone is the same.” He further writes,“Yet, if we turn to Agatha Christie, the situation is reversed.Her hundred-odd books have only one message: the criminal can be anyone …”

Detective FictionIn his entire book he does not use the words like slavery, racism, genocide, bigotry even once. The 19th century, which was based on Western bigotry, White racism, African slavery, and assorted genocides is unrecognised in Moretti’s books.

Running or hiding? Or it a case of feeling squeamish? Perhaps, a case of queasy stomach, Franco?

Another book, The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, by Ray Broadus Browne, Lawrence A. Kreiser does a better job. This book examines, the detective fiction genre, with some references to slavery and child prostitution.

How was this explained away

As the monsters increased, both in real life and literature, rationalizations were required. A person no less than Immanuel Kant, was pressed into service to deconstruct the ‘monster’, re-invent it and give it a positive spin.

The monster taken up by Kant in an aesthetic sense to refer to those things that exceed representation considers that the monstrous describes an entity whose life force is greater than the matter in which in which it is contained. Thus rather than something that malfunctions during the course of its production, monstrosity is associated during romanticism with “over-exuberant living matter” that extends itself beyond its natural borders in order to affect a much wider sphere. ((from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

In the twentieth century, Kant’s hypothesis finds an echo when Lord Randolph William Churchill, the ‘Bulldog’ declared

I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race has come in and taken their place. (from Minorities, peoples, and self-determination By Nazila Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila Ghanea, Alexandra Xanthaki, Patrick Thornberry)

In another instance, Churchill wrote how superior’ Arabs, imposed on the ‘inferior’ negroes.

The stronger race imposed its customs and language on the negroes. The vigour of their blood sensibly altered the facial appearance … (from The River War By Winston Churchill).

The Mystery of the Dying Detective

After de-colonisation, as mass murder went underground, the detective-murder mystery books genre faded. This category was replaced by a new theme – the axis of Corporation-Government-International Conspiracy.

The new category of popular fiction are represented by Ian Fleming, Arthur Hailey, Frederick Forsyth, Irving Wallace, Robert Ludlum, Graham Greene, John Le Carre, et al. More and more contrived, each conspiracy theory writer has been ‘inspired’ by real life incidents.

While Ludlum’s international-conspiracy-plot-CIA-FBI-KGB series have worn thin, the spookiness of Le Carre’s Absolute Friends and Constant Gardner still work as novels representing the West.

Western Twins – Anxiety and Paranoia

To develop this understanding further, there are two classes of films that I wish to draw attention to.

Malignant Nature

Jaws (the shark that eats humans), Jurassic Park (mad scientists, conspiring technicians let loose man eating dinos) Gremlins and Poltergiest (things that go bump in the night). This paranoid fear of nature (and natural laws) seems to be a result of the subterranean knowledge of the way in which ecological damage and pollution is happening. These films produced /directed by Steven Spielberg (who is incomparable because as Time Magazine says, “No one else has put together a more popular body of work”)

Illegal AliensVindictive Humans

The other is the thinly disguised hate and prejudice films against the poor and the victimised. ‘Aliens’ needs just one small change for the films idea to become clear. Instead of LV-426, Nostromo the space ship, receives a distress call from some country in South America or Africa (or India, if you prefer). The meaning is clear when you see the movie while conscious of the fact that alien is is the word the US Government uses for people from other countries.

As for the Indian churails

Coming to India, a writer notes how

Francesca Orsini identifies the detective  novel as one of the genres that ‘was brought into India ‘ready-made’ without the intellectual and historical substratus that had generated it in Europe’ This total lack of any indigenous roots, one could argue, makes detective  fiction a colonial imposition, and its adoption by Indian writers, clearly a case of copy-cat reproduction wherein ‘black-pens’ write ‘white-texts’ that have no identity of their own. (from Postcolonial postmortems – crime fiction from a transcultural perspective By Christine Matzke, Susanne Muehleisen, page 88).

How very true!

Ms.Christine and Susanne, you have hit the nail right in the centre of head! Your aim is truer than you imagine. Whatta shot! Though I dont know if you have hit the nail deep enough – deep into the heart of the darkness, which gave rise to these genres of Western ‘literature’.

The Indian churail (or pisach or djinni) faces similar problems as the Scandinavian myling or the Er Gui of China: they don’t translate well outside of their culture.

India may have had local incidents, where an oppressive zamindar may have created a market for horror stories and monsters – but without genocide, slavery and massacres to fall back on, popular imagination simply does not have the fodder to create ghouls and monsters.

And that is reason for Indian churails being rare – not lack of literary ability in Indians.

Military success

Zizka ranks with the great military innovators of all time. Zizka’s army was made up of untrained peasants and burghers (townspeople). He did not have the time or resources to train these fighters in armament and tactics of the time. Instead they used weapons like iron-tipped pikes and flails, armored farm wagons, mounted with small, howitzer type cannons.

His armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior forces into pieces. For defense, the wagons were arranged into a tight, impregnable barrier surrounding the foot soldiers – the Wagenburg (the wagon fort), as they came to be known. The wagons also served to transport his men. Zizka thus fully initiated modern tank warfare. Zizka’s experience under various commanders was useful. At the battle of Tannenberg (1410), Zizka fought on the Polish side , in which the famed German Teutonic Knights were defeated.

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