A Call for Equipoise
Posted September 29, 2003
I want to join in with others voicing their disappointment in VNN for publishing articles like Srivatsa's "Repetition of History," which lacked coherency, was poorly supported, and above all displayed sentiments inappropriate to an assembly of Vaisnavas. As our Divine Master Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada noted when asked as how to identify a Vaisnava, "He will be a perfect gentleman." Anti-Semitic rhetoric has little place in a Krsna-conscious forum, save and except to be rectified by a more enlightened understanding. A previous article by Jan Brzezinski has already addressed those particular issues.
However, I want to express some of my own reservations on this topic. As a general principle, we should react in alarm to the degree of possible harm. We should know that anti-Semitism, like any form of racism or ethnic ill-will, comes in different shades of gray. The Columbia Encyclopedia (1968, p.86) defines anti-Semitism as "sentiment, ranging from antipathy to violent hatred, against Jews." Racism can range from benign ignorance to virulent animosity. However, it is a logical error to equate the lesser with its more extreme counterpart; the former, a na•ve bias, does not necessarily lead to the latter, future Holocaust scenarios. I am not trying to excuse any form of prejudice -- ignorance, though perhaps not openly malignant, is still ignorance. But before we become carried away by a sense of self-righteousness, let us take pause to recognize the differences and subtleties.
Allow me to contextualize this issue with another quandary of contemporary political-correctness -- prejudice against Afro-Americans in the United States. Studies show that the vast majority of white Americans characterize themselves as not being prejudiced. However, when those same people are asked whether they would live in a predominantly Black neighborhood, their core prejudices subsequently become revealed. And if we take a look at the national census statistics, we will see how more pronounced is the physical reality: American cities are more segregated today than they were back in 1970. Espousing some politically-correct ideology is one thing, how we vote with our feet is another. Before we begin to point the finger at others, we might introspect as to where those other three fingers are pointing first.
(I personally live in a neighborhood that is 80% Afro-American, but I would be the first one to admit that I am still affected by my past cultural racist indoctrination.)
The point is that there is more to combating anti-Semitism, racism, etc. than simply raising a loud hue-and cry. Furthermore, over-reacting may serve to disguise our own prejudices and ignorance. In recent years the Anti-Semitic 'race card' has been overplayed, especially in a deliberate attempt to mask the atrocities of Israel (a so-called Jewish State) against the Palestinian people. Any criticism of Israel, Zionism, or America's economic and military complicity with Israel has thus been construed as "anti-Semitism."
The fact is that the situation in Palestine has become so egregious that it is compared by international observers to a 'Warsaw Ghetto' in the making. Former South African President Nelson Mandela attested that the degree of apartheid and collective punishment in Palestine exceeds that ever experienced under his racist regime. Therefore, at least as far as the title of Srivatsa's article is concerned, it seems that history does indeed repeat itself - the persecuted in turn has become persecutor. This is the material law of karma unfolding itself once again.
Let's recognize and denounce evil wherever it raises its ugly head without regard to caste, culture or creed. As Canakya notes, "Where is that race or society that is free from faults?"
On this last point, where were the cries of outrage when VNN published articles that were blatantly anti-Islamic? Where was the condemnation when Hindu religious fanatics butchered more than 2000 Muslims in Gujarat last year with tacit government support? Why do we passively sit back and tolerate VNN's regular articles tooting Indian right-wing nationalism? (On these points, I submitted two articles of protest, but neither were published.)
One of the symptoms of Krsna consciousness or any bona fide spirituality is equanimity -- an absence of prejudice, partiality or animosity. Let's have more equipoise purported to this end.
Om tat sat.