Rejecting "Hinduism = Rightwing"

(RM forum thread from October 2014 on a topic that is as relevant today as it was then. emphasis ours).

Posted by Rajiv Malhotra:Many Hindu leaders refer to themselves as Rightwing in order to differentiate from the Left. The Left/Right categories need to be understood as an instance of Western Universalism not applicable to us.

After the French Revolution, in the new parliament it was possible for peasants also to get elected as MPs. Earlier the MPs were only feudal/landlords. However, the peasants and landlords elected did not like to sit together. For one thing, French people did not have the habit of bathing and hence their bodies would stink. The rich (landlords) had perfumes to cover up the bad odor. Perfume was expensive and used only by the rich. It was a sign of being rich. So the rich with perfume sat on one side, while the poor without perfume sat on the other side of the aisle in the parliament room.

They did not know each other by name and the atmosphere was not always friendly. People started referring to an opponent as "the person on the Right (of the aisle)", and conversely, the man on the right would refer to "the person on the Left". The journalists started reporting to the debates as positions from the Left or Right respectively. This is how the poor seeking economic equality became known as the voices on the Left, while the elitists representing wealth were the Right.

A foolish JNU student once asked me, "Sir I am confused whether you are Leftwing or Rightwing. Please clarify who you are."

I replied: My tradition is to bather my body daily. Hence no stink and no need for perfume to cover that up. So I cannot be classified either as some using perfume to cover up the odor, or as someone stinking because of the lack of perfume.

Jokes aside, the Left/Right categories are superficial, silly. In the West, Left/Right refer to two separate packages of values. But this simplification does not allow mixing and matching across these packages.

Right commonly means a religious (i.e. Judeo-Christian) person who supports pro-rich economic policy, and elitist social programs. The Leftist is for the poor, against religion, bigger government, etc.

Question: Was Mohandas Gandhi a Leftist or Rightist? He was championing the poor, making him a Leftist. But he was articulate about supporting his dharma, making him a Rightwing. Many Hindu organizations do a lot for the poor, contradicting this neat pair of categories. There are many "secular" elitists, billionaires, etc. - again not easy to put into a box.

Hindu economic thought reflected in itihas, dharmashastra, arthashastra, etc. cannot be classified as elitist. It just does not fit this strange classification system. The lifestyle mandated for a brahmin is very simple, hardly resembling the typical Rightwing American.

Hindus should not classify themselves as Rightwing. Many so-called champions of "the Hindu Right" have become sucked into WU and operate in this colonial framework.

However, I do refer to some of my opponents as Leftists, because THEY brand themselves proudly in this manner. I am simply calling them by the name they give themselves.

A White Hindu who attended my workshop yesterday in Washington did not understand why I criticized this Left/Right categorizing. I proposed that we abandon this way to classify ourselves, and classify behavior as dharmic/adharmic. Those ideas are better defined for us.

She falsely assumed that I meant: Right = dharma, and Left = adharma. Hence she felt my classification system of dharma/adharma was insulting. She has no clue what dharma/adharma means and yet she blogs as "White Hindu". Need for more education.

I am not merely changing words from English to Sanskrit. I am demolishing the framework in which Left/Right are ways of classifying all persons, my intention being to rescue Hindus from self-branding themselves as Rightwing.

As a Hindu I espouse many qualities of the American Left and yet many other qualities of the American Right. I am not limited by either. I disagree with many things on both sides. This grid does not capture who I am.

Rajiv Malhotra adds another post in the thread:

See below example of how Amercians are dissatisfied with the Left/Right dichotomy and are trying to build a new "synthetic unity". Why do we want to import this artificial divide in the first place? And then a decade later we will be borrowing American "Future Left" to cure the disease we imported. Instead we should develop new smritis using our frameworks.


A Virtual Caucus on the “Future Left"
Saturday, October 25, 2014,10:00 AM Pacific
Click here to register for the free call

We'll be explaining what we mean by the “Future Left”—and how you can recognize it in yourself and others, and why it represents the future of progressive politics. Elizabeth Debold will also be a panelist and together with Steve and Carter, we'll examine how progressive politics is changing and how you can play a role in that transformation.

Both Steve and Carter are close personal friends of mine and I have followed the development of their Institute for Cultural Evolution from its beginnings in 2012. Last April, their white paper, Depolarizing the American Mind, was released to the public on the same day as our Beyond Awakening dialogue, where Carter and Steve articulated their strategies for overcoming the "wicked" problem of political polarization in America by helping to evolve both the Left and the Right. Their thesis is that the political polarity of Left and Right is relatively permanent and existential, continuing to reappear in new forms as society changes and evolves. Their approach accordingly seeks to anticipate the future state of these existential political positions by describing the form that the “Future Left” and “Future Right” will likely take in the decades ahead.

According to Carter and Steve:

An evolutionary principle for working with positive-positive existential polarities, such as “liberal and conservative”, is that each pole needs the other for its own further and fuller development. If one pole dominates or vanquishes the other, pathology is the inevitable result. Applied to politics, this principle indicates that the most sound and politically effective liberal and progressive positions will be those that integrate legitimate conservative values, while still remaining true to their original progressive values. Conservative values can serve to improve liberal positions by challenging and moderating such positions in a way that makes them stronger. The same can be said about the role of liberal values in strengthening conservative positions.

By helping progressive politics move from a position of antithesis, which rejects many of the values of the rest of American society, to a more synthetic position that can better value what America has achieved, we hope to contribute to the emergence of progressive political positions that are able to overcome polarization and accomplish many of their laudable political goals. As described in "Depolarizing the American Mind", we are working to evolve the overall consciousness of the American electorate by increasing the quality and quantity of what people are able to value.

I invite you to join us on Saturday and help to define and develop a more evolved form of left wing politics. In this free conference call you will:
Better understand the deeper cultural and historical forces that explain how our nation has become increasingly polarized.
Take part in a “participatory caucus” where you can voice your opinion and vote for your priorities.
Develop a newfound hope and sense of potential in relation to the political, social, and environmental crises we currently face as a nation.
Discover how to view current issues through a developmental lens―which changes how we think about creating change.
Hear what pioneers of the “Future Left” have to say about the most important political issues of our time.
Develop a new understanding of what political leadership entails from an evolutionary perspective.
A Virtual Caucus on the “Future Left
Saturday, October 25, 2014,10:00 AM Pacific

Rajiv: BD explains the absence of the "middle" in western thought, hence tendency towards two mutually exclusive options.